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Great Marketing Doesn't Need Private Data

Brennan White
June 14, 2018

Now that GDPR is in full swing and the hellstorm of UPDATED OUR PRIVACY POLICY emails has ended its starting to sink in that data privacy is here to stay. Now marketers are starting to reflect on what exactly that means for us and how we practice our craft.

But before we can do that, it’s worth recapping how we got here because honestly, we did it to ourselves.
Let's Get Started

How did we get here

GDPR came about because we looked at data as a way to make targeting more effective. After all, the case study of Target figuring out a teenage girl was pregnant before her family did is now the stuff of marketing lore. Everyone figured that:

More data -> Hyper personalized targeting -> More conversion

The epitome of “the right message, at the right time” amiright?

Wrong.

Turns out, instead of always giving the customer what they were looking for - when they wanted it, what we did is create retargeting ads so those headphones you just bought on Amazon can follow you around the internet for the next 3 weeks. That’s a “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters” moment if there ever was one (thanks, Peter Thiel).

Facepalm

So where did everything go so wrong? After all, great marketing still requires the same 2 things it always did:

  1. Great content
  2. Delivered when the customer wants it

Great content comes from understanding consumers. This is where the obsession with consumer data came from.“ If we know what you had for breakfast, we know what to sell you for lunch.” This mindset is not only flawed, it was taken to the extreme.

Striking the balance

The fact is, personalization doesn’t really work that well. Well, it does. But there’s a limit to its effectiveness. According to Neil Patel, things like names and relevant suggestions may work because we think we are treating customers like humans they are, but the fact is any increase tops out at about 1% - 2% but more often than not using names actually decreases conversions.

Why? Because even though we think we are treating customers like they’re human, they know damn well that email is part of a blast to a list or the first in a line of drip campaigns.

Is This Marketing?

Neil (rightly) makes the point that depersonalizing marketing actually makes it more effective because a personalization token is no replacement for honest and authentic communication. People can smell that b.s from a mile away and they trust you less for being disingenuous.

That's right, what people want is to be spoken to in a voice that resonates with them. Not an automated email that uses their name with a 50/50 shot at getting the capitalization right depending on how it got added to the CRM.

Content is what makes the difference

While targeting is an important piece of good marketing, we believe it’s a small piece. What matters so much more is communicating with people on their terms. And believe it or not, that doesn’t require their Social Security Number, mother’s maiden name, favorite pet, internet history, or *gasp* contact information with affirmative consent or legal basis for contacting them.

In fact, you don’t need any personal data at all. What you need is to be observant and look into what your audience as a whole responds to. When you begin to tune into what your audience actually likes and build content around that, shockingly, they respond to it. A lot.

Instead of your 1% (maybe) personalization token lift, our clients like St. Regis are seeing a 72X increase in their social media engagement. And they are far from alone. On average when our new clients begin consistently implementing content insights into their marketing they see a 6.5X increase in their social media engagement metrics and click-through rate. Others are able to identify new opportunities for their content all together, or tailor their content strategies to new markets that have different tastes than their current customers.

And all of that requires exactly zero personally identifiable data.

That's why we've always believed the future of marketing looks like customers engaging with content from brands they legitimately love and getting products that add real value without getting sold out in the process. It’s better for customers, better for brands, and better for the marketers that get to make things their audience likes without having to work in a coffee powered content sweatshop.

If you want to know more about our vision for the future of marketing or have questions about the way Cortex is built, feel free to reach out to me directly at b@meetcotex.com.

- Brennan White, Co-founder and CEO of Cortex

See How St. Regis Grew Engagement on Facebook by 72X

Click on the download link and discover how Cortex AI enables St. Regis to identify consumer preferences and create better content.

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