Has the era of Big Data ushered in the need for sweeping changes to data collection? A vast New Deal, as ambitious as the American project that coined this phrase? MIT professor Sandy Pentland thinks so. In this article, he presents the idea of the New Deal on Data, which is defined as, “…a rebalancing of the ownership of data in favor of the individual whose data is collected. People would have the same rights they now have over their physical bodies and their money.” Such a revolutionary idea could certainly impact some companies and businesses, and probably change the face even of some industries, especially those with strict data regulation, such as healthcare.
Pentland goes on to explain that transparency is critical, and that if there is an exchange of value, people are actually more likely to share their data than when they are not aware their data is being collected. In terms of marketing, this is certainly what Acxiom has seen in the US with the launch of AboutTheData.com, which allows consumers to access the core data we have about them. The vast majority of visitors have not opted out of our marketing data, with many actually adding or correcting data. The result? Improved marketing for those consumers.
We marketers often take a lot of flak for (perceived) hyperactive data collection, and there may be some companies with questionable practices. But I believe that the bottom line is that if we’re good at what we do and truly do create value for consumers, then whatever (r)evolution occurs with who owns what data, marketing as a whole can only benefit. If some practices or business models are forced to cease and desist, they probably needed to anyway. As one fellow marketer recently told me when asked about his company’s data collection strategy, “It’s not a grey area. It’s actually a pretty bright line. People know what feels right – and what doesn’t.”
Perhaps the real lesson is that, despite all the challenges big data brings or the newness of the Internet of Things, marketing always comes down to creating value for the prospect or customer. Without that all the data in the world won’t make any difference.