Duane Schulz speaking during his “Don’t Be Evil: A Framework for Lean Surveillance Marketing” at MarTech East in Boston on Sept. 18.

Data collection is rising in the consumer consciousness. With privacy regulations coming into effect around the globe, and stories of data breaches and fines continually hitting the headlines, themes such as informed consent, customer data ownership and the right to be forgotten are becoming the focus of the conversation.

This inevitably shines a spotlight on the tracking tools used in the martech and adtech ecosystems. These industries provide services that rely on tracking, with technology geared up to gather data, profile users, and improve ad targeting. At the root of the issue is the revenue model of the major platforms where advertising funds free access. With click-through-rates (CTR) declining and the use of ad blockers rising, there is increased pressure to extract more value from the remaining inventory of users. Countering that pressure is ongoing privacy regulation and competition from tech giants, such as Apple and Google, putting privacy at the core of their business. 

Marketers clearly need to reconcile the demands of commerce with the privacy pressures in the market and, at the recent MarTech East Conference, Duane Schulz, Principal of Schulz Advisors LLC, presented the concept of lean surveillance marketing as a possible solution.

Lean surveillance marketing is based on a number of core principles, the most important of which is that marketers exist to serve their visitors. They must, therefore, use marketing technologies for the user, not against them, and consider how they can best use tech to improve customer experiences. This focus on the user will naturally lead to stronger customer relationships and increased brand value through trust.

Prioritize privacy experience design 

The lean surveillance framework sets out practical actions marketers can take in five key areas to uphold its principles. One vital area is privacy experience design, with the framework recommending that marketers build privacy into the development of all customer interactions from web experiences and social to email and apps. Rather than letting privacy be a lawyer’s issue, steered by different priorities, marketers can take ownership of privacy and consent to bring it into the heart of customer experience.

Marketers can incorporate best practices from customer experience and human-centered design to create optimized consent experiences that fully explain the value exchange and provide real choices. These experiences should align with the brand’s voice and image, and fit seamlessly into customer interactions. This approach enables brands to build trust and earn the right to use customer information for legitimate purposes from the beginning, providing a competitive advantage as competitors lose data to lack of credibility, ad blocking, and opting-out.

Review data, tracking, diversion and content   

In addition to privacy experience design, the lean surveillance framework sets out practices around data, tracking, diversion and content. It suggests marketers minimize data collection, gathering just the elements specifically needed to fulfil the visitor’s request, and only accepting data with explicit consent where the user is given a clear choice to agree or disagree. It also advises marketers to make a firm decision around whether or not they are going to buy or share data, or whether they could reduce risk and increase trust by considering a first-party data only policy.       

The framework recommends marketers contain tracking technologies, potentially creating a tracking policy alongside their privacy policy. Marketers are often unaware of all the elements of the marketing stack that are tracking consumer behavior on their behalf. They need to pay more attention at the internals of cookies and tracking pixels and make mindful decisions on what to track, rather than relying on marketing tools’ default settings. They must ensure they respect do-not-track signals and give users a clear option to proceed without cookies.   

Similarly, diversion tactics and dark patterns should be avoided. This includes practices such as making the accept button visually compelling and easy to see, while the decline button is barely visible. The framework suggests avoiding misdirection and experience hijacking, letting the user make their own choices and take control of their own journey.

Finally, the framework promotes prioritizing value-add content, building the martech stack around quality content delivered organically and valued by the sharing options provided. This means focussing on the earned and owned elements of marketing practice, not just the paid aspect, and providing real value for customers in exchange for consent to use their data.

Awareness of data collection is only increasing, putting more pressure on marketers to address tracking and other data-driven tactics. The practices outlined in the lean surveillance framework help marketers simplify their martech stack, get ahead of the privacy conversation and strengthen customer relationships through enhanced brand trust. While effective marketing depends largely on tracking by implementing the recommendations of this framework, marketers can transform surveillance from mean to lean.

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About The Author

Ian leads Crownpeak’s marketing and communications department and is responsible for generating demand and creating awareness. He’s a marketing executive with 20 years of marketing and technology experience, with most of the last 10 years in the web content management space.