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The level of insight into consumers’ decisions, desires and lives that marketers have come to demand can be summed up by how one brand steward put it: “I want to be able to look into a customer’s mouth and down their throat, and see all the way to their toes.”

In other words, a level of invasiveness no reasonable person would want or tolerate.

And yet, this has been the highly consistent game plan for marketers over the past decade or so—that is, adopting a large-scale data-intensive paid media strategy that leverages highly personal information about prospects and consumers, and employs what to a casual observer would appear to be an almost creepy level of targeting.

That way of doing business is over, having been turned upside down by pushback from consumers demanding more control of their personal information, by the rollout of governmental regulations and hearings, and the large tech platforms’ moves toward more consumer-friendly data compliance.

And yet in all this, marketers are still left wondering: If the old rules no longer apply, then what does the new playbook look like?

Rewriting the rules of engagement
As third-party data is being subsumed by first-party data and creating and nurturing customer relationships evolves, the question becomes how might marketers rewrite the rules of engagement in a way that maximizes opportunity for both parties?

One might say that this is marketing mindfulness, with the awareness that consumers don’t want brands peering down their throats, but they definitely do want brands to be plugged into the causes, experiences and aspirations that define their own lives. These might include environmental, social and governance matters.

This new world is one where marketer and consumer interaction is not adversarial but collaborative and mutually beneficial, built on a foundation of data consent and a more natural approach to recognizing relationship.

Much has been written about the rise of zero-party data, with some even questioning whether it actually exists or is merely a marketing buzzword. Zero party builds on the baseline information marketers already know about their customers, such as email addresses and purchasing behavior, combined with deeper data provided by the consumer experience. This represents a budding connection between progressive marketing organizations and their product counterparts, harnessing the data created through earned interactions that smart product managers have used for years to inform product development and roadmaps.

The smartest marketers are moving beyond old concepts, to a more trusted understanding of how consumers see and use brands. For example, while the fitness brand Peloton does not employ a classic customer loyalty program they have been highly successful building a multi-modal ecosystem that creates loyalty among all different types of riders. From awarding badges for performance, sending out T-shirts on members’ 100th ride to leveraging social listening and active engagement to celebrate activity milestones and life moments of their riders. This authentic approach to engagement and recognition lets Peloton play a deeper role in their customers’ lives.

Meanwhile, luxury automaker Rolls-Royce has achieved success with a program called Whispers, which offers not only curated experiences available only to their customers, but has built a social network intended to connect Rolls-Royce owners together, turning the purchase of a vehicle into more of a club membership.

Creative incentives and interactions through games are another opportunity for creating a memorable, end-to-end experience. This is seen with metaverse experiences, where marketers like Gucci and Givenchy have built dynamic, highly interactive and personalized connections with customers, leveraging new technologies and channels to supplement their traditional loyalty strategies.

Relevant personalization prompts data-sharing
One survey found that 80% of consumers are willing to share data with a marketer in exchange for more value or a better experience. Another study found a two-fold surge in consumers wanting brands to “understand me as an individual.” Such personalization is a driving factor in consumers’ willingness to share information.

Consumers do not appear to be tiring of customer loyalty programs. Rather, they have become a more valuable part of their daily lives, with one survey revealing that 72% of adults in the U.S. belong to at least one such program.

Offering consumers more control of their information, making them aware of how it’s being used, and placing it within the context of data privacy and knowledge-sharing all telegraph transparency to consumers. Transparency is reinforced even further when a brand is able to show it’s taking action based on consumer input.

For marketers turning to this new playbook, the opportunity is vast, making the customer experience a more relevant and useful one that will potentially make and keep that consumer loyal to the brand forever.

It surely works better than looking down their throat ever could.