Respecting data dignity: why CMOs should care about how they use data


Russell Howe is the VP EMEA at Ketch.

‘Data Dignity’ might sound like yet another buzz-phrase, but the simple reality is that it represents a tidal wave of digital change that will fundamentally alter the way that enterprises can operate from a data perspective.

This should not just be on the radar of all CMOs, but the trigger for a sea change in attitudes towards data, as well as a reassessment of the opportunities it brings. 

The initial stage is set, with consumer awareness of privacy at an all time high, especially among crucial younger demographics. Indeed, a recent analysis by Gartner predicts that by 2023, 65% of the world’s population will have personal data that’s covered by modern privacy laws, a fact made even more astonishing by the fact that just 10% were covered in 2020.  

It’s worth bearing in mind that these privacy drivers might be aligned, but pose particular challenges for businesses, and a genuine headache for CMOs. Not only is there regulatory risk here, but also reputational and brand risk for those top marketers who drop the ball – an increasingly likely occurrence as the changes to the familiar status quo mount. 

Big tech is ringing the changes

Those ‘privacy first’ changes to data flows are considerable even when viewed from a distance. Google has taken a leading position, introducing the Privacy Sandbox, Data Safety and Analytics 4 – a combination that will have a massive impact on the way digital businesses can operate. The Privacy Sandbox, the root of many a slightly hysterical ‘death of cookies’ story, does indeed target third party cookies, and will see Google’s Chrome Browser block them – inline with Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla. As Chrome browsers account for around 65% of browsers on the internet, this will be a significant change. Third party cookies are those that allow users to be tracked across sites, as opposed to ‘first party’ cookies, which are created by the owner or publisher of a site, but not transferred to other parties. 

As Google recently put it in a blog post: “There’s no denying the impact that third-party cookies have had on advertising. They’ve been foundational to improving user experience and relevant ads, and to providing marketers with useful information about customer activity across websites. But third-party cookies also make it difficult for people to control how their data is collected and used. And as consumers’ expectations for privacy rise, the costs of cookies increasingly outweigh their benefits.”

The deprecation of third party cookies leaves marketers scrambling to reassess their data strategy. It will lead to a greater focus on higher quality, ‘first party’ data – making their data relationship with their consumer highly visible. 

Mobile tracking clampdown

Apple has been at the vanguard of privacy first messaging, with the other 800 lb tech gorillas following suit.. Apple’s App Tracking Transparency gives you control over what apps are allowed to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites, and caused similar consternation when it launched as part of iOS 14. The Google Data Safety feature will force app developers and owners to give people more information about how apps collect, share and secure users’ data – it will be mandatory from July 20 2022.

Sunsets over Universal Analytics – data disaster?

Arguably an even deeper change is Google Analytics 4, which is already beginning to roll out. GA4 uses a new data model that focuses on first party cookies and event tags, rather than third party cookies and session-based monitoring. This alone will not only change the data available to marketers in the future, but also creates a simple challenge – the numbers from Universal Analytics (UA) and GA4 simply won’t match, From July 1, 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data, effectively a reset button on how brands view and understand the carefully curated digital journeys of their customers. 

Opportunity knocks

So what can CMOs do about it? Fortunately, there are opportunities at nearly every level here. Of course the overriding challenge here is to gain full visibility of and fully understand the data you already hold, as well as the data you will process in the new world that respects people’s data dignity. This process offers significant benefit, not least in minimising compliance and regulatory risk concerning legacy data or data that is no longer fit for purpose. It also allows an overhaul of compliance processes, so that everything from cookie notifications to subject access request processes can be audited and streamlined if need be. 

Another key motivator for CMOs is to ensure that any existing first party data collection is on point, both today and in the future. For example, the move towards onsite event tracking and tag-based user journey mapping should be at the very top of the priority lists, as it will inevitably impact on goal tracking at an increasingly exponential rate. 

The reality is that CMOs can deliver material ROI by using data responsibly, and can get on the front foot (and gain market advantage) by acting proactively in this regard. A recent study shows brands with responsible data practices drive 28% more purchase intent, demonstrating that there is opportunity in privacy for brands that do it well. The businesses and CMOs that act first will establish deeper and more trusting relationships with consumers, a fact that will impact their bottom line, as well as minimise business risk in the process.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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