I had recently blogged about the rumblings coming out of Washington and the general public regarding advertisers and search engines tracking people’s online habits. Browsers are feeling pressure to add a feature that allows individuals to tell advertisers, including Google and Microsoft, not to track their online behaviors. This idea is getting traction. The Wall Street Journal has a video discussing this very issue. Mozzila, the creators of Firefox, is adding a “Do not track” button to their browser. This is one of the first proactive moves made by a company to address privacy issues before government forces upon the industry their regulation.
Mozzila’s effort may not go far enough for the FCC. The way it works is it alerts advertisers and search engines not to track you, but it doesn’t prevent them from it. So, it’s on the honor system. That is a very flimsy effort if you ask me. Just be cause I click the setting to not to track me, it’s still up to the advertiser and search engine companies to honor my request. I don’t think the government will buy that and I don’t think the general public will either.
It’s ironic that at Google’s beginning, Larry Page and Sergey Brin announced that advertising is a form of “hucksterism”. Now Google is one of the largest “advertisers” in the world and using tracking systems that follow your every online move without you knowing it or agreeing to it. Being in the marketing and advertising field, I know how important the data is to gain access to the right audience. As an individual, I know I want to choose who and when someone can collect my data. Where I personally draw the line is I’m a fan of having to opt in instead of opting out. By making the opt out button hidden or difficult to get to seems like trickery to me. At least email campaigns are forced to have you opt in before receiving them. Or at least, the legitimate ones do. As a marketer, it makes me have to be more compelling and creative in my message and execution as well as knowing much better who my real customer is and how they want to hear from me.
Though I do believe in getting as much data as possible via the web, I also subscribe to the military tactic of “feet on the ground”. Yes, good old fashion get in the streets and stores and actually talk to humans and connect with them face to face. You can read emotional content from a human contact level than you could ever get from online data. It’s the difference between sending an email of thanks to a hand written letter of gratitude.
I think this shows how far we’ve gone the other way in terms of trying to automate everything. Too many think human contact is unnecessary. Even more alarming, many believe that machines can, and should, take our place in making customer connections. I believe companies that rely so much on computers, data, and hardcore numbers will be missing out on the human element that makes purchase decisions. We humans don’t buy on logic. We use logic to justify our emotional purchases. And no algorithm can figure out the human emotion.