A conversation with marketing technology pioneer Duane Schulz
What’s the way forward for digital marketing in an era of growing privacy concerns? Duane Schulz, former Chief Marketing Technologist at Xerox, has some ideas. With his Lean Surveillance framework, he’s developed a set of principles for collecting and deploying customer data that put the long-term interest of the customer and brand over short-term marketing considerations. We recently sat down with Duane to talk about it.
What burning issue does Lean Surveillance address?
Trust in institutions is declining. For companies, trust has a balance sheet component – the goodwill a company enjoys goes above and beyond their hard assets and investments. A lot of marketing is short-term, demand-generation focused, but the truly long-term financial asset of marketing is the brand’s contribution to goodwill.
One group seeing a deep decline in trust is Big Tech. Consumers are not happy with the extent to which these companies have captured and used consumers’ data for their own purposes. For example, Meta captures up to 52,000 data elements on each person.
Marketing organizations have integrated their digital customer experience and tech stack with these Big Tech platforms, often without thinking through the potential reputational risk and loss of long-term value.
When did you realize marketers needed to change their approach to consumer privacy and data?
A couple of things happened. I was Chief Marketing Technologist at Xerox and very involved in that MarTech community. When the European privacy law [GDPR] hit, I was a bit taken aback by the reaction of almost that entire community, which found it very disruptive and negative: “This is going to mess with my MarTech stack. It’s going to hurt my leads. I don’t need to spend time fixing legal things.”
I also managed the Xerox brand. And from a brand perspective, I realized this could be an opportunity. You could flip it around, like Steve Jobs did at Apple with privacy, and use it to demonstrate your company is different – that you really get trust and privacy.
You call your framework Lean Surveillance. Why “surveillance”?
The term is clearly meant to be provocative. Surveillance is keeping a close watch over someone without their awareness. And if you think of the words marketers use to describe what they do – target prospects, gather data, capture leads, profile visitors, track conversions, resolve identity – those are all surveillance practices.
The MarTech stack is built on third-party tracking and data collection. I want us marketers to think about what we’re doing, and the risks of the technologies we use. It’s the unknown, unseen practices that get us in trouble – where, all of a sudden, we’ve got a data breach; it turns out we have data we shouldn’t; and then we’re in The New York Times. Let’s be more intentional about the choices we make in collecting and using data.
So what are the key principles of your Lean Surveillance Framework?
There are six. The first is, we’re here to serve our visitors (customers or prospects). It’s their digital journey, not ours.
Lean Surveillance principles
1 We are here to serve our visitors. It’s their journey and data.
2 Engage on their terms, according to their interest.
3 Visitors are the first party and would prefer privacy.
4 The digital world should mirror the physical world.
5 Marketing should illustrate organizational values.
6 Brand value is the long-term measure of marketing.
Second, we should serve them information based on their interest. Not what we want to push them.
Third, and it’s related, think of the customer as the first party in the relationship. So, when you’re a seller, you recognize they’ve got the power. And they’d prefer privacy.
Fourth, think about mirroring the physical world with your digital experience. Say a website drops a couple of pixel tags and 19 cookies on somebody’s computer, and that person doesn’t know that. In the physical world, that would be like someone coming into your home and putting sensors and bugs in your bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen. Makes you start thinking differently about how you design UX.
Fifth, marketing should practice the core values of the company. Are our demand gen practices walking the talk of what the CEO says are our core values?
Finally, recognize that brand value is the long-term measure of marketing.
What do you see as the relationship between brand value and these lean surveillance principles?
At every touch point with the customer, the company is essentially creating a micropayment – either a debit or credit – to brand value and goodwill. By sticking to these principles, you’re going to minimize the number of micro-debits to the brand value, ensuring the good things you do for customers every day are fully credited to the brand.
So how can marketers live up to these principles?
In addition to the six principles, the framework introduces a number of
practices. For example:
- Don’t gather data you don’t need to complete the visitor’s request.
- Contain tracking technology. And offer a clear “no cookies” option.
- Don’t disrupt the visitor’s journey with something they didn’t request. No retargeting. No pop-ups. No dark patterns. No lead scoring.
- Prioritize high-value content. Marketers should invest at least as much in content as their MarTech stack.
- And build privacy-by-design principles into your development processes for web experience, stack design, content and communications.
Last question, what’s one thing every marketer should start doing today?
Adopt a customer-first point of view. Take a page from Jeff Bezos. Be obsessed with the experience of the customer and what the customer is looking for.