Data Collection Means Consumers Clam Up

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In March our Millennial Think Tank focused on Committed Communities and whether they actually shift some responsibility from a brand to other members of the community. During that episode, our panelist Kiernan McGinnis said something that I cannot stop thinking about:

I’m skeptical. I don’t want to go out there and give a brand free advice. I don’t want them to get my opinions unless they’re paying me for it. I’m not going to go out and speak so passionately about a brand to the actual brand itself. I’m going to make them come to me. I’m going to make them spy on me and see what I’m doing. I’m not going to make it that easy for them.

This view was backed up by fellow panelist Samantha Estoesta, who is very engaged in the Sephora community, but not because of the brand itself.

What Kiernan told us is that not only are many consumers acutely aware of the amount of ‘spying’ (listening) brands are doing online, they are resentful to a degree – resentful enough to make a statement like Kiernan’s. We know that consumers are not shy about sticking a finger in a brand’s eye when their customer service fails, but many more of them refuse to give positive feedback in any way.

We are all familiar with the concept that consumers are more than willing to complain, and less likely to give praise. However, Keirnan takes this philosophy one step further, and very intentionally refuses to tell a brand ANYTHING. He is intent on not helping them because of how much he already gives up in regards to privacy. We are certain that Kiernan is not alone.

Consumers Know You’re Listening

I’ve had this conversation again and again with fellow marketers: do consumers know how much data is being collected? Many of my marketing colleagues and I disagree because I think that the general populace does get it. Perhaps not to the degree that the extremely tech savvy do, but with Edward Snowden and the NSA story, the world became much more aware of how much technology allows anyone to hear.

Kiernan is a super bright young college student who is suspect of corporations. Is he smarter than most people? I’d say yes, however, I can tell you that ALL 57 members of our Millennial Think Tank are just as aware of how much of their data is being collected. It’s one reason SnapChat grew so quickly with GenY and younger – it held out the promise (false, we know) of disappearing information.

Data Can’t Be Ignored

The marketing world is obsessed with data; how many times a week do you read the words “Big Data?” Enough to make you sick, I’m sure. It’s like the game where you say a word repeatedly until it loses all meaning.  But data does mean something; data means EVERYTHING when it comes to creating effective strategies. Because data is the truth. It is fact.

Furthermore, the data that ArCompany collects is by listening to conversations on social, in blog forums, and input into search that people provide is in a pure format; it is the anti focus group (where all sorts of factors and rewards can skew the feedback). The data smart companies are listening to is given freely by consumers who have opinions.

If you ignore that data, you are for all intents and purposes sticking your head in the sand and refusing to listen to your customers.

What About Companies that Aren’t Listening?

Data collection means consumers expect a brand to find out how they feel by listening to them where they’re at… by seeking out the criticisms and praise… wherever the consumer places it. This comes back to Kiernan’s original statement and the inspiration for this post.

What about companies that aren’t listening? Where does that leave them?

It leaves them out in the cold, and falling farther behind where consumers expect them to be.

It can all be distilled down to the key insight we gathered from Kiernan on that Millennial Think Tank episode:

Brands are expected to find and listen to consumers; the idea that a consumer will be inspired to give unprompted feedback other than raging at terrible customer service is a myth created by marketers trying to sell brands on the value of community building. There is a tremendous need for listening and understanding consumer behavior online, and this information is not something that will be fed solely through a brand built community.

At ArCompany we  analyze data gathered from social media, websites, forums and search. This research helps inform and guide the communication efforts of many brands. If you want to learn more about implementing meaningful insights, we’re here to help.

Photo credit: (Self) Censored via photopin (license).

VP of Content & Strategy at ArCompany. She has an extensive background in Sales, and focuses on generational marketing and content. With Hessie Jones she founded ArCompany's Millnnnial, GenX and Boomer Think Tanks and writes and speaks on those topics from an insights/strategy perspective.

One thought on “Data Collection Means Consumers Clam Up

  1. Joe Cardillo says:

    I’ve read this a few times and keep coming back to —> “…the idea that a consumer will be inspired to give unprompted feedback other than raging at terrible customer service is a myth created by marketers trying to sell brands on the value of community building.”

    I think it’s a critical point for brands when it comes to sifting through forums, search, and social channels to understand how people truly feel about the brand or market the brand is within. It has to do with the fact that good marketing is about research, not just acquiring fans, or one-time customers. Research allows you to tune your messaging, but it also enables you to tune your product, explore new ones, and develop the market(s) you are in or want to be in.

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