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BLOGTransparency and Risks with Segment-of-One Marketing

by Randall CraigFiled in: Make It Happen Tipsheet, Blog, Data, Marketing, TrustTagged as: , , , ,

Where are you on the marketing spectrum? Do you decide based on gut? Or have you segmented your market, and perhaps even use personas? Or maybe you’ve actually figured out how to use big data to drive your marketing, and now everyone is a “segment of one”.

Transparency and Risks with Segment-of-One Marketing

The conventional wisdom is that segment-of-one marketing is the logical outcome of big data, and that the gains (more relevant targeting, more effective ad buys, lower costs, higher sales, etc.) far outweigh the risks.

But have they?

As organizations move to more sophisticated data-oriented marketing, it is all too easy to forget that the data itself is sometimes procured in a way that many prospective buyers and clients would find horrifying. Location-based tracking data, creepy data-sharing deals with third-party data brokers and data enhancement services, and lax internal data access controls are all part of the seedy underbelly of this strategy.

But do they have to be? Is there a way to mitigate any potential risk?

The first question to be answered is the most important: what are these risks? Here are three:

  • Regulatory oversight that will make certain big data practices illegal, or impose a too-heavy burden.
  • Lost client trust when clients discover data practices they see as creepy.
  • Competitors who use an oppositional marketing strategy to differentiate themselves by positioning your brand as untrustworthy.

To mitigate these risks, consider the following strategy:

  1. Internal data first: Before going outside to data brokers and other third parties, ensure that all of the information that you have on your clients is fully integrated and available to your marketing team. You may find that this is all you need for a segment-of-one marketing strategy.
  2. Transparency: Let your clients know, specifically, what you are doing with their information, how it will be shared, and whether any external data will be used to “enhance” their data. Notice the word “their”: while you may be the custodian of the data, the underlying premise is that the data about a person or entity is actually theirs, not yours.
  3. Full access to data: On demand, your clients should be able to see their entire data record, in a human-readable form. There should also be a mechanism to correct any inaccuracies.
  4. Transparency and Privacy should be baked deeply into the brand, not just painted onto the skin of an ad campaign. Not only is this good policy as it prevents “creepy” practices from continuing unchecked, but if the market wakes up to this issue—and when regulators ultimately do—it will be a net positive for your brand.


We can learn quite a bit from the field of PR: Don’t say anything that you would be embarrassed to read about in the press. Here’s where to start: this week, dig into the data that is used by your marketing team, and if there is something that you think may blow up in your face, you should do something about it. And specifically, ask your marketing team how they may be able to achieve a similar outcome, but at far lower risk.

Tech insight: Most IT groups understand risk very well, but not every IT group understands marketing. Having these two groups work together on this topic can surface some very interesting opportunities.

Related post: Targeting: From Gut to Segmentation to Individual Targeting14 Digital Trust Killers

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