Data Trust, CX, & the Edginess in Cutting-Edge Marketing

16th March 2022

“Imagine a world where data is turned off for a single day. What would that look like. How random and irrelevant would that feel?”

Acxiom is a marketing technology company that helps brands understand their customers so that they can market better. Acxiom has been in data management and ethical data use since 1969. CMO Jed Mole has 25 years of experience there, and has worked previously with brands including Virgin Media and Vodafone. Here he talks about delivering digital experiences that matter.

What’s one thing that you want to get across about data?

It has a bad rap. Everything from CX, to service point of view, to relevant content depends on data. And yet, it’s more likely to be associated with data horror stories of privacy breaches, perhaps because this type of content is more likely to receive online engagement.

Yes, there is a baseline needed for data privacy and regulations that we have to honour. But if we don’t recognise the relationship between data and an incredible customer experience, then we’re selling ourselves short.

So there’s an imperative to understand that data and customer experience are directly connected. I don’t think it’s widely understood that data enables better customer service, more relevant content, and a smoother journey.

So how do we change this data narrative?

I think we need to build people’s trust in data by creating more of a link between the experiences that they get and data’s role in these experiences. This could look like thanking the customer for the use of their data- ‘this is why we’re able to offer you a special rate or remember your customer journey so it’s easier to finish booking a holiday you were interested in.’ It’s about being more transparent in that moment of interaction.

Some companies are already beginning to reinforce that link. These businesses are stating outright that the benefits of an incredible CX is data dependent. And that’s a crucial message.

Because if you deny data, then things get worse. There’s a potential to blame bad data on a poor user experience when often the poor experience is due to a lack of data access. Imagine a world where data is turned off for a single day. What would that look like? How random and irrelevant would that feel?

The truth is, to make things better you need more data. But to get more data you need people to trust that you’re using it for the right reasons. That’s why I like to talk about the concept of data trust. Because it’s not a widely held conversation and it needs to be.

How invested is Acxiom in data integrity?

Acxiom has been around for five decades. It was the first company to launch a Privacy Officer role and we spend a small fortune on research. Some of the research going on right now is into what consumers really think about data. We’re very active in improving industry standards around data privacy.

And there are a lot of misconceptions around data. In the wake of Google’s announcement that they’ll phase out support for third-party cookies, there’s the implication that cookies are part of the problem. They’re also part of the solution.

When you describe what a cookie does, tracking you across websites, that can sound really scary. But it can also be really convenient if you’ve ever tired of filling out fields repeatedly or want to return to a shopping cart. Customers within a particular store may want to know what the top deals are of the day. If it’s raining, you may need an umbrella. These are just a few examples.

What’s some non-intuitive marketing advice you would offer?

It’s the most human aspects of a campaign that excite us most, whether in B2B or B2C. So don’t underestimate the power of emotion.

We often have a lot of technical people in the room, such as engineers and developers, who want to talk about the platform or the integration capabilities. But we also have to talk about what the product means to people, because that trumps everything. The more human you make marketing, the better.

If you go to the website now you’ll see the tagline ‘People who love brands love Acxiom’. Most people would have preferred to say ‘we build better customer experiences’ or ‘the leaders in data driven marketing’. Instead, we take a stance that’s far more emotional, and describe the essence of what we do and why we’re of value to our clients.

Yes, it can feel a little uncomfortable to use the word ‘love’ when talking about a data or tech company, but that’s what change feels like. Cutting edge marketing has to involve a little bit of edginess. As marketing is one of the most visible aspects of the business, everyone will naturally have an opinion about marketing decisions. My advice would be to ask yourself, ‘What is at the heart of your business?’ and to communicate that message in your marketing.