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3 trends driving transparency and inclusivity in marketing

Marketers work hard to produce messaging that will resonate with inundated consumers who are likely weary from it all. But amid all that noise a small number of brands manage to stand out. Is there something these brands have in common that other companies are able to repeat?

Through my work as a marketer and a platform evangelist for a large technology company, I believe that transparency and inclusivity in marketing are great ways for brands to stand out and earn respect from customers. Here are three trends they can use to set themselves apart in a crowded field.

1. Designing for a privacy-first environment.

Deep pockets can’t buy respect, but thoughtful actions can help earn it.

The martech ecosystem in the 2010s emphasized personalization and omnichannel marketing—so much so that governments had to pass detailed legislation to protect user privacy. While such legislation was initially seen by marketers as an impediment to data collection and enrichment, in hindsight it has set the course for a privacy-first school of thought within the industry.

At the very least, putting customer privacy first sends a strong message to customers that a brand is prioritizing their peace of mind over its own priorities. But this decision also indicates to customers that the company itself is considering long-term sustainability, rather than just short-term growth at any cost. Further, when brands are transparent about how they will use customer data, those customers are more likely to share personal information.

The first step toward transparency and inclusivity is to develop a strong privacy policy and express it in plain language that’s simple for everyone to understand. (Here’s a great example from Airbnb.) It’s also important to abide by your policy and periodically refine it to better align with the best interests of your customers. It takes a certain degree of integrity and confidence to communicate everything in simple terms, and customers often pick up on the semantic difference between brands.

2. Thinking of community as a moat. In mature markets with dozens of established players, having a reliable tribe of loyalists has emerged as a strong moat, a point of differentiation that’s difficult for your competitors to touch, even for upstarts.

Due to the amount of feedback a company can collect, its user or customer community helps advise product development. These users try products before their official launch and give detailed feedback on various aspects, such as the experience, the packaging, the value and even the right price.

For example, sports and activity brands Decathlon and REI organize events like tournaments and workshops at cities where they have a retail presence. This helps customers hone their craft and sustain their interest and demand for the same. Lego, the toy brand, has its own community (Lego Ideas) where creators can use its products to showcase their ideas with other creators through the community. It encourages healthy discussions on various topics and creators come together to make each other better over time.

Motorcycle brands Harley-Davidson and Indian have long been nurturing communities of riders who swear by the brands. They travel together across the US and support each other like a family. Such communities have created something of a lifelong bond between the rider and the motorcycle brand. Community-driven marketing is most common in nonprofits where capital is truly a luxury and the cause keeps people together. Brands like Wikipedia and Mozilla have seen steady growth for many years, thanks to community-driven marketing.

3. Embracing unified technology platforms. In the last 10 years, the martech landscape has exploded, and there are now over 8,000 vendors vying for market share. With so many companies in the space, it’s no surprise that marketers are leveraging as many as they can. Now, these nonsense tools are consolidating via integration platforms to simplify workflows.

By design, unified platforms bring the team together. Take, for example, the case of a product release; the marketing team relies on an analytics or segmentation tool in its planning, ideas using a productivity tool, organizes itself through a project management tool, creates material using a collaboration tool set, orchestrates using an automation tool and refines everything within an optimization tool set. The issue is that half of those tools are designed for generic problem statements, not specific to marketing teams.

In a unified platform, all of those capabilities exist within the same ecosystem, affording a high level of transparency to the rest of the team. The platform reimagines analytics, collaboration and optimization in the specific context of marketing teams, so there is no need to conduct a retrofit exercise. Such platforms improve visibility, streamline collaboration and make omnichannel marketing engagement much easier.

And considering privacy-first, it would be almost impossible to achieve if customer data is split across 10 different applications.

With more transparency within the marketing team, it’s easier for marketers to design inclusive programs that incorporate the strength of a community of customers and an ecosystem of partners.

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