Gartner, the technological research consultancy, conducted a study into the opinions of CMOs in Europe, the UK and the US over November and December 2022. The headlines coming out of that research suggest a slightly gloomy picture for marketers trying to improve their customer’s engagement with their marketing activities.

Marketers want to engage their brand in a conversation with their customers and prospects and to do this they need data. They know what anyone who’s ever been on a Tinder date knows – you can’t engage someone in a conversation by telling them how great you are. The first stage is always to show an interest in them. Ask some questions! All just common sense you may say.

The trouble is when you’re doing that at scale on behalf of a brand, you have to think about whether you really need all that data, where you’re going to store it, how long you’re going to keep it for, what you’re going to do with it and what happens if it gets leaked. You’ve also got to tell people the answers to all these questions and explain carefully how they can object.

Hence the alarming headlines. But dig into those headlines a bit and I think the truth is a bit more nuanced. I think they reflect that the legislative environment might just be doing its job. On both sides of the pond. So headline number one:

Sixty-percent of marketing leaders believe collecting first-party customer data with an appropriate balance of customer value exchange and privacy will become more challenging in 2023.

Good! Many marketers and brands have been relying on data gathered without genuine consent from individuals for some time. But the prospect of a cookie-less future is now ushering in a period where brands have to collect their own first-party data directly from individuals and with their agreement. Hence the value exchange. This should be a good thing.

And headline number two:

Almost a third of survey respondents said they have abandoned an agency or channel partner over the last year due to customer trust or privacy concerns.

About time! Many channel partners and agencies devote vast resource in terms of people, software, hardware and most importantly thinking time, to make sure they do these things correctly. They apply the correct levels of compliance in data collection, which invariably adds cost. On the flip side, there are other agencies continuing to adopt a more care-free approach to keep costs down and steal a competitive advantage. The reputational damage from non-compliance or data privacy issues is simply not worth it so if that’s driving CMOs to abandon care-free agencies, all power to their elbow.

Recently a large toy brand wanted me to capture email consent from individuals with children so they can promote their toys. No problem. They also wanted me to capture the children’s dates of birth so they could market to their parents near their child’s birthday. Honestly, I don’t understand why parents are happy to give that stuff away, but I wasn’t about to ask for it. The full dates of birth are non-negotiable they said, and other suppliers are doing it. Sheesh. There’s too much to unpack here but its enough to say we didn’t help with their campaign.

Signs that some marketers are thinking harder about the first party data they collect, what they do with it and how they can make a reasonable value exchange are in fact signs that things are getting better. Better yet, if individuals understand why you want their data and what you’re going to do with it, they are far more likely to share it with you. The value exchange is often more to do with an individual getting the best outcome than it is about trinkets.

And that toy making brand? Well I can’t imagine we’ll be having a conversation any time soon.