In the small town in Maine where I’m from, there is a local bookstore owner, in his sixties, with a Gandalf-grey beard, who doesn’t own a credit card—because, well, Big Brother, you know?
Not all Mainers are as authority adverse (some are, this is Maine after all), but he’s not the only Baby Boomer I know, Mainer or not, who is wary of companies mining data from their lives. For many, digital privacy is still sacred, whether they can control it or not.
There’s no denying that perception of digital privacy differs from generation to generation. My parents are offended if a company offers to collect their data in turn for logging in; I’m offended if I can’t sign in with Facebook. Friends of mine who are in their twenties wear their passwords like jewelry. According to a 2015 study by the American Press Institute, only 20 percent of Millennials say they worry a good deal or all of the time about their information being available online. If privacy isn’t a core value, what is?
Digital natives are concerned with convenience—easy sign up, sign in—and relevancy—targeted ads and content. A 2014 study by Accenture found that 49 percent of consumers aged 20-40 in the United States and the United Kingdom would not object to having their buying behavior tracked if it would result in relevant offers from brands and suppliers. Digital natives want more of what they want, and faster.
Marketers’ success is driven in large part by knowing our target audiences better than their mothers do. Digital natives are happy to oblige, but older generations aren’t as willing. Marketers must take into account the wants and worries of all generations and provide the best user experience to each. Just as brand content is customized for target personas, so too must we make privacy personal, addressing the values of each generation and each individual. Marketers have to think of new ways to alert users of what data they are collecting, or give them the option to opt out.
Through personalizing privacy, brands are able to build consumer trust.
A 2015 Pew Research Center study found that just 9 percent of Americans feel they have “a lot” of control over how much information is collected about them. While the FTC controls some aspects of online data collection regulations, the evolving nature of the Web is such that companies are constantly finding new (and shady) ways to collect and utilize user data. Remember when Target wanted to find out which of its customers were pregnant?
Brands know how much consumer trust counts. Without solid public brand perception, brands don’t have much to stand on. Imagine what type of relationships brands could build with their audiences if they not only delivered timely, relevant content, but also were transparent about the data they collected. Through transparency, brands and marketers can cross generational lines and not risk infringing on anyone’s values—unless of course you don’t own a credit card and Big Brother’s voice echoes in your brain. Then, there’s not much hope.
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