Workshop: The Role of Marketing in the Personal Information Economy

The Role of Marketing in the Personal Information Economy

In two weeks, on April 26th, PDNYC (the Personal Data New York City Meetup) and PDEC (Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium) are hosting a workshop produced and presented by the Connected Marketer Institute, in association with Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business. The Role of Marketing in the Personal Information Economy. It will be at the Manhattan campus of Fordham in the McNally Amphitheater, adjacent to Manhattan’s Lincoln Center.

Personal Data, one’s own information, is the emerging high value currency of the 21st Century. Personal Data is a new asset class, which some refer to as, “the new oil.” And like oil, it is gathered (as crude data), refined (turned into sortable and classifiable metadata), processed, distributed and resold in many forms.

When there’s an oil spill, it causes great environmental problems, multiple ecosystems (land, water, air) may suffer the ramifications of such an incident. When personal data is breached, it, too, wreaks havoc. But in this case it wreaks personal havoc, affecting people’s digital lives, their financial and other data, even so far as to enter the realm of identity theft.

Unlike oil, there is no price-fixing OPEC at play, and there is an unlimited supply of data. As long as there are people, there will be personal data. In a society of ubiquitous connectivity and devices, the greater the vast amounts of personal data, of information communicated over the web and other electronic services. What services? Think Internet of Things and wearables, and the household or lifestyle or health/medical data being generated, stored, transmitted and added to databases every day. Or every hour. Or minute.

This new asset class presents a new set of circumstances for marketers.

It is a dynamic and rapidly changing moment for personal data. For quite some time this data was the subject of consumer profiling. From that came feedback, collaborative filtering (“if you liked that, then you might like this”) and automated technology in the digital economy. This gave way to a multitude of processes to categorize data, monitor consumer behavior, and automatically collect, store, and cross-reference personal information. Online purchases and browsing activity were recorded, stored, and deployed to forecast future behavior. But there was more! Other types of personal data were collected for other purposes, to the point where total personal data profiles emerged, available in databanks.

Suddenly personal data became Big Data. And thus, the Personal Information Economy (PIE)

Showing prescience in a story featured in the online issue of March 12, 2014, Marketing Week had a blurb, How brands can be part of the ‘personal information economy’ as part of a larger story, Taking back control: the personal data economy. The blurb was true then, and true now:

The personal data economy aims to turn around conversations about data. It is no longer about how much information brands can collect on customers, but customers managing the data that brands have and the information they are willing to share.

With many types of personal data services, the opportunities are apparent for brands to provide a better service for consumers and, more importantly, gain their trust.

Services range from data storage and management, where documents can be uploaded, tagged, searched and updated, privacy awareness tools to help people understand the data collected by companies, and permissions management for data sharing.  

Data access is arguably where brands will see a fundamental shift in relationships with consumers with regard to data collection.

That blurb represents the evolution of scattered digital personal data to the overwhelming abundance of lifestyle, location, health, financial and consumer habits and preferences now collected and codified.

With this evolution came consumer awareness.

Collaborative filtering, common on Amazon, became apparent to end users. Retargeting became apparent, often to the point of being annoying to users. Retargeting is online targeted advertising in which online advertising is targeted to consumers based on their previous Internet (or browsing) actions. This led to web users asking questions such as, “How come I looked at toaster ovens for a wedding gift for a friend last month, and now I see ads for toaster ovens on Facebook and Amazon ads for toaster ovens in sites I visit? What’s that all about? Are there spies in my computer?” Public awareness of tracking brought about a series in the Wall Street Journal, What They Know. This series covered tracking and how sites acquire user information by remembering clicks, and, even more exposure to monitoring beyond the browsing session. This and the 2015-2016 FCC Broadband Net Neutrality legislation raised awareness of tracking, access to information, and how much control and access ISPs have over their customers.

The backlash to this was overwhelming. The FCC never before received so much response in the open Public Comment period. Lobbying by internet content providers, anger among users and also by major online companies with e-Commerce prompted the FCC to uphold and strengthen Net Neutrality. Now, under the new President and the FCC Commissioner he installed as Chairman, this legislation is under review for repeal. Already major companies (Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook) have met with FCC Chairman Pai to express their displeasure and concern should the administration follow through on its threat to dismantle the Broadband Privacy Act, thus killing Net Neutrality.

Ad blocking software has mushroomed over the years. Estimates have it in the tens of millions of users worldwide having installed adblockers on their browsers, for desktops, mobile and tablet devices. Newly created browser software includes adblocking as a feature. This may be as much due to the annoyance of ads as it is because of the retargeting and the “tracking pixels” that some ads deploy to track website activity or activity in general. Some pixel code can provide snooping access that follows the user’s every keystroke and monitors all computer (or device) usage. This takes the concept of cookies far more than one step further.

As issues of this sort become discussed in mainstream media, ad blockers and anti-tracking software such as Ghostery, plus those found in many anti virus/anti malware programs, have gained popularity.

This means there is not only a new asset class of personal data out there. There is also a new class of consumers. Connected consumers. Not just connected, as we are living in an age of ubiquitous connectivity, but hyper-aware, as well. The connected consumer has digital awareness.

For marketers this creates a new dynamic, a new challenge, a complete new set of circumstances. Message delivery, message structure, management of messaging, and how to create campaigns and communication platforms in this new day is a burgeoning arena.

These are the topic areas that will be delved into deeply during the workshop on April 26th in New York City at Fordham University’s Manhattan Campus, right alongside Lincoln Center. PDNYC and PDEC members and Fordham University students and professors may attend for free. Students and professors from other schools can attend with a 75% discount. Otherwise the tickets are priced at a reasonable rate of $49.50

Registration information can be found here. Workshop information can be found here. We look forward to seeing you at the workshop, and to your participation. It will be a very exciting and informative event.