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Your Customer is Not a Spreadsheet

2 min read2023-04-04Grant Hendricks

In 2021, we begin to leave behind a turbulent era in marketing.

David Ogilvy famously wrote, ‘The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife.’ He meant that we don’t need to shout slogans and loudly exaggerate the benefits of our products to succeed in advertising. As marketers, we need to understand people so we can speak with them the right way. Believe it or not, this was revolutionary thinking.

When we entered the digital age, methods for understanding our audience became more complex. We, the small and medium businesses of the world, were able to explore our own customer data and run our own data-driven ad campaigns on search engines, and later on social media.

This is the data age. The sheer volume and depth of data that marketers can access via Google, Facebook, and other platforms is immensely powerful. We use that data to determine the best fit for ads and content. People who look like this purchase from us, so let’s plan with them in mind.

Users have come to understand the value of their data — and the transaction they make when they join social media or sign up for Gmail. My soul in data points exchanged for convenience and cat pics. Many people — more each day — no longer feel this is a fair trade.

Regulators around the globe press for changes to the Wild West that is internet marketing. Platforms look for ways to continue to provide robust data without all the creepiness — Google’s ill-received FLOC proposal is one attempt. Device manufacturers like Apple butt head with platforms like Facebook by restricting the ability to track marketing details through their apps. GDPR regulations make data collection more visible to a privacy-conscious public.

We can’t put the data genie back in the bottle. Marketers have collected and leveraged data since marketing existed. But we cannot treat our customers as calculations. That is all digital marketing is for many people. If and when this stream of rich data slows to a trickle, marketers overleveraging user data will find themselves with a void where their success once was.

Advertisers fear a return to shallow data. Instead, they should embrace the opportunity to unplug from data and reconnect with people. When we focus on the facts and figures for too long, we start selling to spreadsheets instead of communicating with customers.

In 2021 and beyond, we need to return data to its rightful place as a supplement to our strategy instead of the focus. Our customers aren’t morons, and they certainly aren’t spreadsheets.

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