The Issue of Privacy and How to Handle It
So let’s take a look at this topic from two angles. First, from the consumer angle. I hate to tell you that every trace you leave behind you will not just be there, it will stay there forever for your entire life. And I think we tend to forget about that. I think we sometimes become somewhat greedy and lazy, so we leave those trails behind. We forget about things, we just want to do something which is very quick and dirty, and guess what happens? We certainly have a trail out there.
I think it is important for you as a consumer to create your own guidelines for what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. If you do that right now, you will not be upset. But if you forget about it, there’s an issue.
A good friend of mine, a good kid actually working in an organization, was a photo model before he started to work for an organization. And he did all these Italian photos and they’re just all over the place. Now, he didn’t think about it because he was 18-19 years of age, and even though they’re fashion photos, they are kind of interesting fashion photos if you are working at a corporate in a corporation and suddenly you pick up these photos from this guy thirty years later and they send a sign. And I think a lot of people are just thinking about once you’re done it, that that means it’s gone. I think the most important thing you can do is be incredibly aware of it.
Now from a corporation point of view the story starts to differ. My rule of thumb is you should never do to children what you wouldn’t do to you. Meaning, you shouldn’t do to consumers what you wouldn’t do to your own friends. And if you follow that as guidelines eternally, I think you’re pretty safe.
But beside that, I think you should allow the consumer or the customer to be involved in the process of uncovering data you have about them. Now, for example, let’s say you’re collecting a lot of information about the consumer. What I would do it, involve the consumer about it, and allow them access to your database of everything you know about them. And tell them, “hey, if you approve all the data we have, these are the benefits you get – maybe it’s a discount, no waiting time involved, whatever it is – and by the way if you want to delete all this data you’ll be last in line because we don’t know who you are and by the way the discount won’t be that high because we don’t know if you are a regular customer.” And then it’s up to the consumer to make the choices. But I think the most important thing is that you don’t make the decision on their behalf. They make it on your behalf instead.
The average consumer is very concerned about the privacy issue, but when it comes to the final end they don’t care. And that’s so ironic, because here’s the issue… When we’re busy, we’re lazy. When we’re tired or when we want to save some money, we are willing to do a shortcut. Unfortunately that shortcut is to give a little bit of that privacy away to someone without controlling it. Here’s the issue, the consumer is very well aware that they’re doing it, but they’re not thinking about the consequences at that very moment and it’s first later on when they see the consequences and they will start to hate the brand for it. Personally, what I would say for the consumer to do is to think about consequences and you as an organization should try to fast forward as well and tell the consumer what the consequences are. Does it mean I’ll receive fifteen emails a year? Does it mean I’ll get special offers when I’m walking down the street on my smartphone which are correlating the weather and if I’m in a good or bad mood? Tell them about what this will mean so you’ll be transparent. You see, here’s the issue… brands which are willing to share the small print with big letters in front of the consumer will gain so much more respect than the opposite because it is the opposite. People feel cheated if they are not informed up front.