Acxiom’s EVP Mike Menzer on Consumer Trust and Data Chaos

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Data chaos has become a term that many professionals within the marketing industry are starting to become familiar with – the ‘constant state of change’ which makes it almost impossible to keep up.

The digital revolution has seen marketers dealing with an ever-increasing abundance of data as they look to grow their clients’ customer bases. And with a surplus of information now available, data chaos is becoming more prevalent than ever.

Now more than ever, brands and agencies are required to use data in a bid to understand both the customers they have and the customers they desire. At the same time, there is an increasing need for companies to gain data trust, at a time when most consumers demand transparency and morality.

Marketing data company Acxiom helps brands understand the value of data, but also the value of building a truthful relationship with their customers.

According to Acxiom’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Menzer, data trust is crucial for any successful marketing business.

“In 2018 data was an indirect contributor to GDP growth but now, with the information economy in 2022, we can see that data is a direct contributor, specifically around AI, machine learning, and robotics,” he says.

“As a marketer, if you want to do personalisation, I don’t see how you can do it without data. I really don’t. You have to know the consumer, what they like and what their interests are.”

Dealing with consumer trust

Speaking with over 20 years of experience in data tech, Menzer claims that Acxiom’s purpose is to use data to create a world in which connections between people and brands are meaningful.

“What we do for our specific clients is engage at a data-first philosophy level and create a universal truth of their consumer or their customer. We do this by using privacy guidelines already built by our client and then ingesting the data into a rough first-party data ecosystem.”

The executive vice president hails Acxiom as doing a “very good job of connecting the consumer and the B2B customer with that ecosystem.”

“Everyone aspires to create a personalised experience. We collaborate with like minded individuals who want to create and build a universal truth for their consumers, but in a very fair and transparent way.”

Stating plainly that “it’s all about consumer trust”, Menzer explains the three elements that make up consumer trust: “brand trust, digital trust and data trust.”

“Brands must have each one to really ensure that consumer trust is built in order to create a value exchange between sharing personal data and creating a personalised experience. Digital trust is about commerce engagements, extending the consumers network and engaging with the consumers network.”

The Acxiom EVP says it is “imperative” brands have strong privacy guidelines and that they communicate and collaborate with their clients and consumers about how they are using their data.

“With brand trust we ask brands whether they have a strong ESG? Whether they engage in commerce appropriately? This will then inevitably lead to data trust and whether you can keep your customers’ information. There are a lot of customers who have privacy standards.”

Acxiom helps brands navigate Gen Z’s general mistrust of data marketing, with Menzer pointing out that “even Gen Z want personalised marketing, typically desiring offers, discounts and experiences.”

Just last month, a shocking 99% of Generation Z consumers admitted to frequently skipping ads, according to research carried out by Bulbshare.

The vice president mentioned the use of ESG (environmental, social and governance), when trying to appeal to younger audiences.

“We all know that ESG is huge. It is at the front of every single organisation’s mind out there. I would even say it’s probably discussed at board-level in every company, in today’s society. I think Gen Z is really focused on what your brand stands for in that ESG concept, and that is really how you build brand trust.”

“Appealing to the younger generation is also about ensuring the leaders of organisations display their philosophies and beliefs when they’re out speaking at public forums about the services that they offer.”

Dealing with data chaos

Brands often have to deal with an abundance of data about the shopping activity and profiles of their customers.

Menzer stated plainly that data chaos is always going to be present, “no matter what”, as companies will continue to have more channels and sources.

He divulged into some research Acxiom did with regards to the challenge of information overload.

“We did some first-party research this year. It turns out the number one challenge for all marketing individuals was connecting data and breaking down the silos, so they could engage in a personalised manner with their customers.”

“To deal with the abundance you have to build an enterprise data strategy and create a data architecture. You then have to put all that in a data model and substantiate it in a customer data platform.”

The executive vice president also touched on data transformation, claiming that “massive” brands invest in digital transformation initiatives for years at a time.

“Like many other consultancies, at Acxiom, we take a very data-first approach when we build ‘use cases’. We really try to walk the data through all touch points in the ‘use case’, which allows us to create earlier ROI in that customer journey.”

Menzer then referenced the growing importance of data in modern life.

“In 2018 data was an indirect contributor to GDP growth but now, with the information economy in 2022, we can see that data is a direct contributor, specifically around AI, machine learning, and robotics.”

Data regulation and the future

As well as data trust and chaos, brands are also having to navigate a constantly shifting regulatory environment, with the likes of the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) attempting to legislate marketing actions and ensure consumer trust.

Menzer sees regulation as being healthy for businesses as it allows for “more innovation to happen”.

“A decade ago businesses had more autonomy but now it seems regulation is about getting control based on consumer needs. With regulation, there will always be a balance among businesses. It allows for businesses to flex and understand all the components of innovation.”

As for the future of marketing, given that regulators approve, the Acxiom executive vice president believes that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the future.

“If we do it correctly, within the marketing ecosystem, we can gain massive levels of productivity, but also create that personalised experience that all marketers want to achieve, and consumers actually want as well.”