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Prepare Yourself for a Fundamental Shift in Marketing: From Permission Based Marketing to Informed Access Based Marketing

In the excellent documentary “Terms & Conditions May Apply” the film makers confirmed what most us could have guessed at or already knew: people tend to not read the Terms & Conditions for any product or service they engage with.

The documentary is well worth seeking out on Netflix or elsewhere, if only to laugh at those who (spoiler alert) signed away their “mortal souls” as part of one fake set of T’s &C’s. The joke wears off pretty quickly, however, when one realizes that it could just have easily been “me” that agreed to those terms.

None of the global brands chased down by the film makers regarding their terms of services comes out of it very well.

The movie serves to highlight a fundamental problem with much of today’s marketing. So much of today’s marketing is built on a myth, the myth that permission marketing, a concept first introduced by Seth Godin in 1999, is still applicable in a world where marketing enhanced by big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning rules the day. 

Seth Godin is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages.Click To Tweet

The concept of permission-based marketing is sound — a marketer must get permission from an individual before marketing to an individual. The concept presumes that an individual is informed when opting into a marketer’s programs or when buying a marketer’s products and services, and that the individual is giving “informed consent” for future engagements. 

Unfortunately, true informed consent is no longer practical; it’s a myth.

True informed consent means that an individual knows exactly what they’re opting for, not just about understanding the details of the products or services they intend to use but also what will happen with the data that is generated from their use of products and services or from their interactions with a marketing campaign. 

Moreover, it presumes that an individual knows exactly what data may be collected about them, what will be done with the data, and when and who else the data might be shared with. 

Some reading this article might argue that individuals understand very well the value exchange they are participating in when they buy a product or service or get access to something for ‘free’, like a social media account, a game, like Pokémon Go, or are able to conduct a search or use applications like Google Maps.

I’ll attest, on the surface, they may have a rudimentary understanding, but I’ll also argue that the vast majority of people do not understand the long-term social, professional or economic implications of what it means to have their personal data captured over extended periods of time and overseen by countless commercial actors. 

No one can know what the long-term implications of these data practices are because it has never happened in history before on such a global scale.

The fact of the matter is, in modern era of marketing, the primary assumption behind permission marketing no long holds true.

It has become antiquated.  The permission marketing model assumes that people are informed, that they read and understand terms and conditions or terms of service for the products, services and programs they interact with. 

The reality is, however, we know that the vast majority of people do not read or understand the terms they agree too.

Moreover, when marketing is driven by large, unstructured data sets that are being pulled together from a myriad of sources, it is nearly impossible for an individual to be informed about what will happen with their data or what new insights, correlations or predictions may be “derived” about them and how these “derived data” may be used in the future.

The primary assumption behind permission marketing no long holds true.Click To Tweet

There is no doubt that personal and derived data is necessary if marketers are going to deliver the personalized services that individuals want, and there are countless studies that show that people don’t have a problem sharing their data.   

However, there are also an increasing number of studies that show that people don’t like being treated like ‘the product’, that they want control, and that they believe the trade-off of personal data and access to online services or apps is an uneven one.

In the coming months and years, how marketers gain access to the data they need to service individuals at scale will change. 

As we enter 2017, we encourage marketers to begin to recognize and prepare for a shift in the practice of marketing, a shift from “informed consent” to “informed access” marketing.

Unknown to many marketers, after nearly 75 years, personal information management services (PIMS) and the Personal Information Economy are coming of age.

PIMS are online software services that make it possible for individuals to collect, manage, ultimately monetize their personal information through the burgeoning Personal Information Marketplace, a marketplace where individuals can join in and actively participate in the value exchange of their personal information. 

PIMS are online software services that make it possible for individuals to collect, manage, ultimately monetize their personal information.Click To Tweet

In this new market model, people do not give marketers consent to take and use their data, rather they share access to their data via a PIMS.  As along as the individual believes a marketer is providing value, then the marketer will continue to have access to the individual and as soon as the individual believes that this is not the case, then the individual will restrict or block the marketer’s access.

In the not too distant future, we believe we’ll soon find ourselves in an era where the connected individual has complete control over his or her data. In this world, individuals will give informed access to their data, rather than informed consent for it to be taken from them.

I am going to be exploring the changes that informed access will have on brands in further blog posts and in an eBook series that my colleagues and I will complete this month. In addition, we will be sharing what it means for brands to be of service to individuals and to create value for and with people, not from them, at the TCM Institute Summit & Awards Ceremony on Jan. 23-24 in San Francisco.

About the author: Michael Becker is the co-founder & managing partner of mCordis & The Connected Marketer Institute.

Michael Becker is a passionate international marketing entrepreneur and evangelist who previously served as manager director of North America for the Mobile Marketing Association. As a co-founder and managing partner of mCordis, Michael advises marketers, agencies, and technology vendors on marketing, positioning and strategy as it relates to their overall mobile and digital marketing efforts.

  • I’m very skeptical that PIMS will go mainstream in the “not too distant future.” The human race is highly skilled at being lazy. Facebook has provided a myriad of privacy and security tools that many people overlook or don’t take the time to understand. The Google Play Store shows people the permissions apps require. Users may have examined the first few apps they downloaded when that feature was first released, but then they got tired of the work involved, found the apps couldn’t be installed without granting those permissions, or simply didn’t understand what was happening and just ignored it, clicking OK.

    The average person won’t take the time–or have the necessary knowledge and skill–to manage their profile and who has access to it. They’ll just grant access and forget about it. Or they’ll be forced into providing access because there’s no other way to get what they want.

    PIMS might be desired and used by people wearing tinfoil hats, but I just don’t see my parents understanding or using them.

    • As always, you make some really interesting points, Ty. Thanks for stopping by. I’m going to ask Michael Becker (the author) to weigh in on this — I’m sure he’ll have some thoughts.

    • Michael Becker

      Ty, I understand your skepticism, it is warranted. However, lets keep in mind that more has changed in our lives in the last 10 years than it has in the last 100. As we introduce AI, machine learning, and other feats of magic into society, more will change in the next three years than it has in the last 10. There are hundreds of companies working on this problem. The key to their success will be in offering solutions that serve the individual, not burden them and add friction. I’ve seen them, and they are coming.

  • “Moreover, it presumes that an individual knows exactly what data may be collected about them, what will be done with the data, and when and who else the data might be shared with.”

    A lot of people don’t understand that Facebook is keeping track of their online activities. Sign in to Facebook on your computer (so they know it’s use) and then every site with Facebook’s sharing buttons is silently telling FB that were at that site. And your FB profile grows larger.

    This creates a lot of privacy issues.

    If you’re a drug and alcohol counselor doing research into how people buy drugs on the street, those sites are being recorded by Facebook. Maybe you’re looking up treatment programs for your clients. Or affordable housing options. All that data is getting fed into your Facebook profile, and who knows how that information will be used in the future.

    The same thing happens with Amazon and Google. Search for a new camera and visit a few camera websites and then ads for cameras will start appearing everywhere.

    Time to get some extra tinfoil now. Amazon probably already sent me an email with suggestions of different foil I can buy and have delivered tomorrow. 🙂

    • Michael Becker

      Hi Ty, thanks for taking the time to comment on my article. I think we all have to be very concerned on what this is going. In fact, on day we’ll look back and consider Orwell and optimist. However, let’s be clear, the use of our data is not inherently a bad thing. It will create many benefits for our society. What I want us all to focus on, however, is what it will take to ensure our individual digital sovereignty; more on this later.