Your mass consumer data collection is destroying consumer trust

These are dark days for trust. Darkest of all for marketers and advertisers.

Only 3% of people trust marketing and advertising, the lowest of any industry or practice, and that trust is falling fastest among millennials, an ominous sign for the future.

We have no one to blame but ourselves.

Like everyone else, we’ve been blinded by the promise of tech’s false promise of “Big Data Solves Everything.” Martech is driving the dialog in our industry right now, and they’re telling us that collecting as much consumer data as possible — regardless of the actual value of that data, and regardless of our consumer’s best interests — will reveal a magic growth formula.

That’s a farce. There is no magic growth formula, and tech won’t do your job for you. Believing that amassing data will save your business instead of focusing on fundamentals has only led to lazy marketing, plummeting consumer trust and a two-fold increase in the number of expensive martech solutions over the last two years.

Public awareness of the surveillance economy is sharpening. The press is increasingly paying attention to business AND advertising practices. Consumers are voting with their wallets and choosing to walk away from companies that don’t practice the values they preach. This is a trend that will speed up, not slow down. The skepticism that has recently emerged around Amazon’s new Alexa announcements is just the most recent example of this.

How soon before marketers and advertisers end up on The New York Times naughty list? How much longer will consumers tolerate the hypocrisy of brands claiming to care for them while they vacuum up their personal data? Is it worth the risk to your brand and your business?

Doing what’s right for your business means doing what’s right for your consumers.

If you are a marketer reading this: You can do better.

Being a lean data company doesn’t mean being a martyr — just the opposite. The top 10 U.S. most trustworthy S&P 500 companies outperform the market by 25-50%.

But it does mean doing something counterintuitive for many marketers in the era of big tech and adtech. It means striving to collect only the consumer data that you really need to give equal or greater value back to your customer — and protecting it. It means no more selling, sharing and buying user data. It means being transparent about your marketing practices.

Doing so will take your focus off data collection for the sake of data collection and put that focus where it belongs — on understanding your customer’s needs, delivering them more and more value and regaining their trust and respect.

This isn’t just empty talk.

At Mozilla we’re backing up this lean data commitment with action. In the spirit of truly putting our users’ interests first, the latest release of the Firefox browser blocks third-party cookies by default. Frankly, we had anticipated some pushback from publishers, but instead they’ve told us they haven’t experienced the impact they expected, which is pushing them to question the actual value of the data they’d been collecting and revisit their own practices.

A lean data movement is growing. Others have taken action too, and there are many more who believe that doing what’s right for your business means doing what’s right for your consumers.

So whatever your own lean data commitment looks like, make it now, before it’s too late. As marketers and advertisers, we’ve survived some seismic shifts over the last few years, but no one can survive 0% trust.