author: jacob nelson | staff writer
Marketing is a very broad and misunderstood area of business. It is more often than not confused with the likes of sales or advertising. Now, don’t get me wrong, it does involve both of those concepts quite heavily, but marketing is not as simple as telling someone to buy something. Marketing has much deeper roots in the psychology of the consumer today.
Knowing what catches the consumer’s eye was something marketing firms focused on years ago. Such information would help marketers determine where to place advertisements such as billboards or even full, brick–and–mortar stores. But as we move forward into an era where consumers integrate themselves heavily into social media, the idea of knowing where to place an advertisement becomes less important. Having physical store locations is also less important, since anyone can access the products they want through online retailers such as Amazon. Because the consumer base is shifting focus to the internet, so must the organizations looking to reach them.
I was born in the late ‘90s and was exposed to that historical, location-based kind of marketing. Now that I am older, I have a much better understanding of what it was like. See, back in the day, marketing was about helping the consumer find the business. It was cold calls and door knocking for a long time. Then it became a lot softer as television came around. Advertisements now had the ability to present a story through a short thirty–second or one-minute spot on different T.V. channels. It was around that time that marketing took a turn from personal touch to something more imaginative. Since the consumer was now watching T.V., they could not physically feel the item being sold. Companies could put on the flashiest show possible, and get our imaginations running 100 miles per hour about what it would be like to have that product.
Having experienced life in the second half of the 2010s, I can say that marketing has once again made a big shift. Instead of helping the consumer find the business, marketing is now geared toward helping the business find their consumer.
Cable has taken a backseat to the internet when it comes to entertainment value. Like I said, society looks at almost everything through the internet, and that’s where marketing firms and organizations must now focus all their attention. I doubt, though, that they have actually done so. I can’t go anywhere on the internet without advertisements filling my screen. Facebook, Instagram, Youtube… they’re all consumed by advertising, and this makes it harder for businesses to stand out.
This is where data and the psychology of the consumer comes into play. Businesses are collecting data on everything you do. From where you click to how fast you scroll past their advertisements, businesses now have access to a wide range of information that they can use to find the right consumer. I mean, I don’t have to look hard to get anything I want anymore. I simply type in the product I want on Google, and I instantly have access to millions of results from thousands of different businesses. Businesses must now figure out what I want to see while I’m on the internet based on my daily internet travels, and with the billions of different individual personalities on this planet, that’s a lot easier said than done.
It’s no secret that companies have been collecting data on consumers for some time now. Facebook and Google are both well–known for keeping track of our every move on their platforms. But how deep does their data go, and how well are they managing it? Both Facebook and Google have now had to stand before congress and answer those types of questions. And to be honest, not much information came out about their data management techniques. So, does that scare you? Is it a cause for concern that companies are monitoring our every move on the internet? And is it troublesome that they can now access consumer locations and movements using our phones?
Business theorist and social scientist Shoshana Zuboff seems to think so. Zuboff has written many articles and given lectures on the topic of “Surveillance Capitalism.” In its simplest form, surveillance capitalism means collecting behavioural data of the consumer and using that data to sell a product or service. Zuboff compares the fight for privacy from companies to asking Henry Ford to build each Model T by hand; it’s just not possible.
We’re unable to conceal ourselves from the internet, so how do we manage it better? Well, I don’t think we do. I think that our right to privacy was given up the moment our online activities became information that businesses could use to gain profit. I will not lie, it does make me feel a little sick thinking about all the companies that are constantly watching me. I don’t necessarily want Google Maps following me around everywhere, but the process of trying to conceal myself from those applications is extremely tiresome. Deleting or blocking apps and advertisements only goes so far, and I can only resist them for so long before I must use my phone or laptop for work or school.
Still, I have come to terms with the idea that these companies will always know what I’m doing or where I am. There is no point in continuing to fear or fight it, but I empathize completely with those that do. It is not irrational to fear surveillance, so why should any of us condemn those who resist it? Freedom of speech and privacy advocates such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have sacrificed much of their lives, helping the world stay informed about just how much governments and companies are watching us. Because of this fight, both men have been labelled traitors and fugitives. I understand that Julian has had other controversies surrounding him come up, but for this article’s sake I am only referring to his information leaks.
So, invasion of privacy: fight it, embrace it, or live as though it has no effect on your life. But don’t think that businesses will turn their gaze from you anytime soon.