Prantik Mazumdar

Managing Director, CXM Group, dentsu Singapore

Marketing has been transformed by the massive power and ubiquitous spread of technology, giving customers a plethora of choices, while allowing organisations to do so much more in developing better products, and reaching their customers in more sophisticated ways. However, at the heart of marketing, is the relationship between an organisation and their customers, and the key to nurturing this relationship is through responsible marketing.

What is the core purpose of the field of marketing?

As an art, marketing exists, and has existed, to help brands connect with their right target audience, while the science of marketing discerns the effectiveness of campaigns using data and analytics. Yet, by definition, marketing should be responsible.

Marketing sits at the intersection of production and consumption, and between brands and consumers. It is in a critical position and carries the right capabilities, resources and influence to help brands to make meaningful actions that serve society.

To meet this purpose, the first step for a marketer who is thinking about connecting with their customers or business-to-business (B2B) prospects, is to be responsible and law-abiding. Across the world, there are different jurisdictions that have similar ideals but different nuances when it comes to what is considered legally right, specifically when it comes to two elements: privacy and data protection.

Understanding privacy laws and respecting consumer consent

When it comes to privacy, for example, in Singapore, the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal data by “organisations”. This is similar to other international data protection laws, such as the PDPA in Malaysia, and the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Law in Indonesia.

It is also important to take note of the nuances of each, for example, in Indonesia, the PDP Law typically imposes tighter requirements on controllers for record-keeping obligations for processing activities, and has unique provisions on the use of facial recognition technology. Special categories of data also include children’s data and personal financial data.

Therefore, as a marketer, it is important to understand what these laws cover: how are organisations allowed to collect data, how long they can store data, who can they share data with, and the whole consent mechanism. At the core of being a responsible marketer is placing your customer at the centre of what you do, and understanding whether you have their permission to connect with them.

Transparency and consent in data protection and collection

Today, data is not just the new oil, it is something that powers the whole economy. Organisations collect data with permission, but also sometimes purely collect data, without people even knowing. To practice data transparency, you need to let your customers know when you are collecting data, in what format, and what are you going to use it for, which builds trust at the same time. This is an ongoing process that does not just happen at the start of the customer relationship. If customer data is later shared across different teams in your organisation, the customer should be kept informed.

At the end of the day, it is all about consent when it comes to respecting the customer, as well as privacy and data collection laws. If marketers want to connect, influence, market to, and sell to a customer, they will need to build a relationship with them. Just like human relationships, digital relationships are also forged when there is respect and consent. Customers need to be made aware that their data is being collected, and they should provide consent on a timely basis to receiving marketing materials.

The core of responsible marketing

When customers share their private information with organisations, 71% of them expect to receive personalised interactions, and 76% of them become frustrated when this does not happen.1

Marketers out there should remember that regardless of the channel – email marketing, social media marketing, display ads – there is no value in just chasing numbers blindly. Simply sending out spam messages, with or without the laws of your land, would not help in driving sales and conversions. It is not just irresponsible, but it is also ineffective and erodes any trust consumers hold for the brand.

Data can be extremely valuable for personalising communications with your customers, as long as you stay ahead of compliance and regulatory changes. Being a responsible marketer starts with recognising the critical role you play in bridging the brand and consumer gap, and it is grounded on trust, consent, and ensuring that you are playing by the laws of the land that you operate in.

1 McKinsey’s Next in Personalisation 2021 Report

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