With hostile consumer attitudes towards tracking and data collection and increasing government scrutiny, it’s imperative that brands rethink how they engage consumers. WARC's Asia Editor, Gabey Goh, introduces a deep-dive into the insights you need to know.

According to recent research by Pureprofile, Australian consumers are adamant that organisations should not track their behaviour without getting explicit permission first. The government has made moves in response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s digital platform inquiry report to police digital platforms and reform media regulation.

Further, the newly-released supplementary Edelman Trust Barometer report shows that Australians do not trust any of the four institutions measured: government, business, media and NGOs.

These are the conditions of play that the nation’s marketers now find themselves in the middle of. Paired with a turbulent economic outlook for the Australian market in 2020, ensuring that there’s trust in the brand and in how engagement efforts are managed is now a critical consideration.

This edition of WARC’s Spotlight series tackles the now-fraught relationship between brand, consumer and technology. How can brands recalibrate technology operations and reliance on tracking tools while faced with growing consumer distrust and closer regulatory scrutiny?

Firstly, Edelman CEO Michelle Hutton points out that all is not lost. Despite operating in a world where a crisis of trust is taking hold, there’s an unmissable opportunity for brands to really step up and be seen to be doing the right thing when it comes to technology and data.

“Australians understand that the tracking of data is not inherently the issue. It’s what comes next that can be problematic and they’ve been exposed to enough unethical and systematic manipulations of data to justifiably have a permanently raised eyebrow when it comes to the issue,” she writes.

This distrust in “what comes next” means that the question Suzanne Croxford is asked most often in her role as partner at Wunderman Thompson is, “So you’re the reason why I get spam?”

“What people don’t see is that protecting data from theft, misuse and abuse is something that most brands care about deeply, and they work tirelessly to put in measures to safeguard their customers. Many digital businesses are now focusing on customer perception over regulatory compliance,” she argues.

In fact, she claims that brands are focusing less on privacy compliance and more on “delivering an experience that will make a customer feel safe”, in recognition of the simple truth that profitability comes through building trust with customers. It is the gateway to loyalty.

The shifting sands of the digital advertising landscape can make even the savviest marketer feel like they’re grasping at straws. And, as the cookie (finally) crumbles in 2020, so too will the promise of hyper-targeting.

Cory Nicely, R/GA Australia’s associate director of marketing sciences, believes brands that focus on smart, narrow and less invasive, owned data for marketing will have an edge over those that have relied on third-party audiences for efficient buys.

“For consumers, a future world might well be people-owned and brokered data based on your digital footprint, making a new stream of ‘zero party data’, which could be like a personally self-managed bank account,” she writes. “For brands, a future in digital means being comfortable with reduced precision, finding alternative forms of measurement and a focus on bold, salient creativity that cuts through.”

It is this narrower focus that Andrew Hill advocates for, pointing out that consumer brands should be devoting time and resources to high-value touchpoints rather than “chas[ing] them around the internet”, and running the risk turning consumers off. In short, creating a compelling shopper experience through eRetailers and the pages where shoppers decide to buy your product.

“While tech plays a critical role and search results are perhaps the future of targeted advertising, I think it’s the combination of tech-based efforts and traditional marketing that will elevate brands in a time of uncertainly in this space,” writes Hill, client director at Edge (owned by WARC parent company Ascential).

This overreliance on technology to the blind exclusion of other considerations in the marketing toolkit is a topic that Mindshare Australia’s CSO Joe Lunn tackles.

“Marketing technology should ultimately serve just two distinct roles: to elevate emotion and eliminate effort. By ensuring emotional investment in the brand outweighs barriers to purchase, we can accelerate long-term business growth,” he writes.

In his piece, Lunn uses the example of work for client Tourism New Zealand to outline how the “Emotion > Effort = Effectiveness” approach was applied to the creation and launch of its ‘100% Pure Welcome’ platform.

“Technology is key to eliminating effort, streamlining the consumer’s journey to purchase by linking brand to demand,” he explains. “In order for marketing technology to live up to expectations and address the systemic decline in long-term brand and business health, we must transform the way we apply technology.”