Marketing, Monetization and Privacy, oh my!

WAP’s and apps seem to be top of mind for clients, marketers and industry experts alike for the last 6 or 12 months.  This sort of focus tends to cause us to rush into mobile development without a clear strategy and solid privacy policy.  Earlier this month, I was able to attend the Digiday Mobile Summit in order to ensure we weren’t blindly following this trend just because.

One speaker really stuck out to me because of his candid views on mobile and its current role in marketing.  Matt Szymczyk of Zugara stated that marketers tend to only think as marketers and gloss over the needs of the consumer.  His exact statement was “Think like a consumer, not a marketer.”  While it seems like a pretty obvious statement, I think we, as marketers, are always chasing that next big idea that’s going to wow our clients or the industry.  This blind ambition comes at the expense of catering to our consumers.  The main question we need to ask ourselves is “What problem does this ‘next big thing’ solve for the consumer?”

QR codes are a perfect example.  In their infancy, I prepared a deck that discussed what they were and how we could utilize them to help tie the online experience to the offline world, dragging metrics and analytics behind it.  In my excitement I had failed to consider that the consumer wasn’t educated on this new technology and assumed adoption would be as inevitable as the demise of feature phones.  My mistake was solving for a marketing need, not a consumer need.  To this day, QR codes aren’t widely used or even understood by the vast majority of the population (except for young affluent males, according to ComScore) because they don’t solve a problem or enhance the consumers’ lives in any significant way.

One company that has enhanced consumers’ lives is Kiip.me.  Brian Wong (CEO of Kiip) sat on a panel discussing what publishers could learn from gaming.  Contrary to what his young age would imply, he had some unique insights into marketing that I found interesting.  If you’re unaware, Kiip (pronounced ‘keep’) goes beyond standard banner ads to provide consumers tangible rewards in a virtual environment.  For example, if I’m able to clear an Angry Birds level with 3 stars, I could be shown a voucher for a small order of fries at Carl’s Jr. (Hardee’s for you Midwest folks), where I’d simply have to provide my email address to obtain.  As Mr. Wong put it, the moment you reach the achievement is euphoric and Kiip monetizes that moment.

As a gamer, I can appreciate the moment you unlock an achievement and the feeling associated with it.  While the achievement itself is intangible, everything leading up to that achievement makes it a sensational moment.  Whether you’ve battled your way through a dungeon for 15 hours or you were finally able to make the cement block fall on top of the little green pig, the accomplishment makes all the effort and frustration worth it.  Adding to the elation by giving me something I can actually use?  That’s absolutely amazing and I will likely always have a positive perception of the advertiser, despite having to provide a small bit of personal information.

I must caveat that by saying that I’m in the minority when it comes to privacy and personal information.  To me, providing a bit of personal information in return for free content is a tradeoff I’m willing and able to accept.  I’m even fine with companies tracking my behavior online to help target ads that they think I’d be more inclined to be interested in.  However, the discussion by Chris Babel (CEO of TRUSTe) and Leslie Dunal (VP of Privacy, Policy and Trust at Yahoo) really make me question my previously held beliefs (a discussion with my director about privacy and worst-cast-scenarios afterwards didn’t help).

What has caused me pause, both personally and professionally, was the realization that the vast majority of mobile applications (and even some websites) don’t have a privacy policy and those that do have more holes than Swiss cheese.  Take that and compound it by the ability for nefarious types to hack into databases on a whim (not even government databases are safe) and I’m taking my online privacy a lot more seriously.  I will actually read through privacy policies now, looking not only for how they’ll use my information, but how long they intend to keep my information on file – which is the bigger threat, in my opinion.  Marketers need to also ensure the companies they are working with and the applications/websites they may represent have a solid privacy policy.  If you’re considering building your own application and/or mobile site, I encourage you to visit www.truste.com/mobile for more information on privacy.