It’s been hard to miss the recent media hoopla over generative artificial intelligence (AI). And we have all heard of the different variations — ChatGPT, ChatSonic, YouChat, Bard, Bing AI Chat, etc. The question becomes — what will be the long-term impact of generative AI on the marketing profession? How can our use of generative AI and other emerging tech affect our customer experience (CX) strategy?

Using tech responsibly is just one facet of responsible marketing so let’s explore responsible marketing and its potential impact on CX.

First, let’s start with an agreed-upon definition of “responsible marketing.” For me, responsible marketing has three main components:

  1. Responsibly marketing and engaging via the proper use of data.
  2. Using marketing technologies responsibly.
  3. Being responsible stewards of marketing resources.

Being Responsible With Data

Being transparent and responsible with consumer data has long been a topic of concern, but has taken mainstage over the past seven-to-10 years, with the inception of the general data protection regulation (GDPR). Many country and regional data protection laws have followed that have ushered a greater emphasis on the privacy, security and protection of consumer data. Failure to comply with GDPR regulations has resulted in massive fines for brands like Amazon, Meta and Google. While I think both brands and consumers alike will agree that data protection is a basic human right, the question becomes what are the customer experience impacts of responsible consumer data usage?  Here are just a few:

  • Loyalty and Trust Creation. When customers know that organizations are collecting their personal data and deriving insight (analytics) from it in a responsible and protective manner, a level of relational (not transactional) trust is created. Many brands desire a relational exchange with their customers, but only ever attain transactional status. Relational trust impacts customer metrics such as customer lifetime value, Net Promoter Score (NPS) and other customer satisfaction scores.
  • Personalization vs. Privacy. Brands must responsibly collect and manage customer data and communication preferences. By doing this, brands can strike a balance between personalization and privacy. For instance, I want my communications from brands personalized, however, I don’t want them so personalized that I feel my privacy is being invaded. Balancing the two results in the ability to personalize engagement activities while respecting the collected and preferred individual privacy requirements. 
  • Remaining Legally and Ethically Compliant. As briefly mentioned above, there are legal implications for not responsibly using customer data. Responsible marketing means engaging with audiences in compliance with local and regional laws and regulations that safeguard consumers from aggressive or intrusive marketing (and advertising) tactics. Brands that market responsibly from a compliance perspective adhere to these laws and regulations while respecting customer data contact policies.
  • Protect Vulnerable Audiences. Using marketing data responsibly means that your brand is safeguarding certain audiences. This is perhaps one of the most important tenets of responsible marketing — as a brand’s customer experience isn’t relegated to any certain type of person. Protecting these audiences means ensuring that data policies, regulations and criteria are put in place at the brand level to avoid improper engagement with vulnerable audiences — whether the vulnerability is based on age, race, gender, cognitive ability or some other qualifying factor.
  • Create Competitive Differentiation. Using data responsibly is a competitive differentiator. Think about the brands that have had data breaches or fines levied against them for improper data usage.  What is your perception of those brands? Mine is skepticism, resulting in limited engagement. Brands that communicate how customer data is used in a transparent manner create a sentiment of trust, respect and equity. This can be done via a simple message over email, via social or even up front on their web properties. Doing this helps brands to differentiate from competitors and message that they act ethically and responsibly — and can back it up. The result is the creation of long-term brand value.

Related Article: What Sustainable Marketing Means for the Conscious Marketer

Being Responsible With Technology

Marketing technology, whether it’s a social app, email tool, chatbot or a full customer engagement platform — requires some level of customer data to function. Therefore, I see the responsible use of marketing technology as an extension of the responsible use of consumer data. Where things start to go wrong is when marketing technology takes consumer data, combines it with other data (like inferred profiling information sourced from a larger consumer behavior pool) and produces an output that is irresponsible. If a brand infers that a consumer should behave a certain way or prefer a certain product, service, or style of communication and that consumer doesn’t — it can result in an offensive reaction that could even pose legal consequences.

Learning Opportunities

As new technologies emerge, brands should demonstrate and then communicate how they are using them. For instance, as brands start to use generative AI technologies for marketing purposes, they should use these technologies with a few key factors in mind:

  • Accuracy. Are the marketing technologies your brand is using delivering offers, messages and interactions that are factually accurate?
  • Safety. Can these technologies mitigate bias and toxicity when it is detected?
  • Honesty. Operating in an honest fashion means having consent (via cookies or other value exchanges) to use consumer data for the purposes desired.
  • Empowerment. Using technology to empower employees and augment human work is the best stance brands can take when working with new and emerging technologies.
  • Sustainability. Consider technologies that are created and distributed with global sustainability and global carbon footprint reduction in mind.

Related Article: Generative AI: Opportunities and Challenges for Marketing

Being Responsible With Marketing Resources

While this isn’t the first angle of responsible marketing that comes to mind for most, it’s one that is increasingly critical given the current state of the global economy.  Marketing organizations that demonstrate to their customers that they are responsible with the resources that they steward for customer engagement realize a variety of significant benefits:

  • Optimization of Marketing Assets (and Engagements). When a marketing organization acts responsibly, they use all assets — including time, money and employees — in an efficient manner on behalf of the broader brand. Additionally, creating unnecessary market noise without a relevant message is not being a responsible steward of customer contact information. Techniques like analytical optimization aid brands in performing responsible customer engagement. Analyzing customer data to understand customer contact cadences and saturation levels is optimizing marketing engagement.
  • Measure Modern Marketing’s Value. Brands that market responsibly know exactly what marketing is working and what isn’t. Being able to attribute marketing activity to ultimate conversion allows marketers to better allocate future marketing spend across programs and activities. Omnichannel marketing attribution, a technique that is embedded in many martech solutions, helps marketing leaders better communicate marketing’s value to the broader business.
  • Make Agile, Better Business Decisions. When a brand markets responsibly, they maintain full control over data, analytics (including ChatGPT and other generative AI technologies) and engagement solutions. They use these solutions responsibly, having ensured that they are operating properly and are well governed. Having this confidence and control translates to being able to extract information rapidly in a performant manner for more agile, better business decisions.
  • Promote Corporate Social Responsibility. Using the marketing department’s platform to communicate that a brand’s business model is focused on acting responsibly to society — in the form of economic responsibility (using funds and budgets responsibly), social responsibility (diversity, equity and inclusion), and environmental responsibility (promoting sustainability) develops a positive brand image.
  • Operate as a Profit Center. Operating efficiently and effectively in a responsible manner, with many of the message points above in mind, positions marketing as a profit center — aiding in revenue generation — versus being a cost center within the organization.
  • Create Competitive Differentiation. Communicating how an organization uses its resources in a transparent manner creates a sentiment of trust and respect. This allows brands to differentiate from competitors and message that they are ethically and responsibly using their resources. The result is the creation of long-term brand value.

The concept of responsible marketing is a big one, and one that should take center stage within organizations today. If executed properly and communicated well, maintaining a responsible marketing framework within the organization can develop into a sustained competitive advantage. After all, think about the brands you trust and admire — it’s not the ones with questionable marketing tactics and data security issues. It’s the ones that communicate openly, respect privacy and act with environmental and social good in mind. Keep this in mind as you think about how your organization can get started with responsible marketing.

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