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Are We Trading Privacy For Personalisation?

The privacy debate gets more heated every day. In a world where the consumer is constantly sharing data, what are the boundaries and how can they be drawn

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Personalisation in marketing or the ultimate one-on-one conversation between a brand and a consumer has been high on a marketer’s agenda for some time now. The access to data created the possibility of a more intimate relationship between marketer and consumer but it also led to the situation of compromised privacy.

This intersection of privacy and personalisation was tabled at the Adobe Think Tank that preceded the Adobe Summit 2018 in Las Vegas. The Think Tank discussed some of the areas that are important to navigate for ‘experience makers’ of today.

Anticipate, Not Predict

“In the last five years, the personalisation space has moved from interesting to ‘must do to compete and win’. It reflected the shift in marketing from a one-dimensional view to digital conversations. But the need of the hour asks for a shift from prediction to anticipation,” commented Jeriad Zoghby, Global Personalization Lead & Southwest Agency Lead, Accenture Interactive.

He explained that prediction can borderline on being “creepy”. People don’t want a cab outside their home before they ask for it. Instead they anticipate that a brand would be available on their terms. Predicting signifies the brand being in control, whereas anticipating means the consumer is in control.

Elaborating on this point, he said, “If a brand collects customer data, it should be transparent, customers should have control over it and it should service them. When you create a revenue stream from data, the relationship begins to diminish. Brands need to use data to drive relationships. It cannot just be a way to monetise.”


The Think Tank deliberated on whether the industry was moving to a reality where consumers would look to monetise their own data. There have been examples in the past that align on this pattern. For instance, the advent of digital saw people move from the ‘home economy’ to see themselves as brands. This led to the genesis of social media influencers and micro influencers.

This lens of monetisation could also converge with the discussion on privacy because it would mean more control to people on the personal data they were willing to share.

An interesting point made in the conversation was about flipping the customer relationship model (CRM) on its head. By design, CRM comes from a company’s point of view in developing a relationship and hence has the company’s intents, objectives and biases built in it. If it is flipped, it leads to VRM or vendor relationship management, which then changes the conversation to the customer’s point of view, and the customer is dictating the terms of the relationship.

Any shift in this direction however is still a couple of decades away, and the privacy debate continues to loom large in the meanwhile.

The Privacy Trade Off

People have historically shared their personal data because it either enabled access to a service or allowed a better experience or saved time or helped in reaching an end result faster. Apathy has been part of this picture too. In most instances, people don’t know what is happening with their data and in market such as India, they do not even care.

We have to ask ourselves if privacy is a human right. Consumers are most often not fully aware of what they are giving up. Younger generation is even lesser aware of what is at stake as they give up their privacy,” observed Cecilia Farooqi, Digital Design Lead, Equinox Fitness.

The right for data privacy does not exist yet but the panellists advocated for brands to consider creating boundaries for data sharing, giving customers the control.

The conversation of privacy however does not take away from the demand for more personalisation. As customer experience becomes a dominant differentiator for companies, the budgets for personalisation will increase. “We can see AI coming in the picture now and making a difference, and there is so much more to do in the space in terms of creating the content to support personalisation that we will see more budgets allocated to personalisation,” commented Kelly Soligon, GM of Digital Stores Marketing at Microsoft.

The privacy-personalisation trade off is likely to continue but as consumers become more aware, the expectation is to see significant changes in this space.

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marketing and advertising