Apple just shot across the bow of marketers. But did anybody notice?Apple's Safari has a major update coming this year: is it a sign of a war on marketing psychology influence tactics?
Apple has announced a new technology they're embedding into Safari coming later in 2017. It's a tracker blocker which they call "intelligent tracking prevention", and it may represent not only an evolution in personal advertising exposure management, but are growing resentment of the amount of psychology play that is taking place right on our own devices.
Many in the marketing world are very familiar and make good use of a technique generally known as remarketing. In simple terms – if you don't know what remarketing is – remarketing "watches" where you go after leaving a particular site be it ecommerce or other, and will continue to show related ads based on that product or page that you had been viewing one site, two sites, even 10 sites ago and beyond. The main play here is the understanding that people continue to mull over a purchasing decision well after they have started the research process. By continuing to show us product positioning information related to what we had been thinking about, there's a demonstrated success rate in continuing to put this product as top of mind for when we are ready to buy. This is why that pair of shoes you looked at this morning magically shows up over and over again whether you're reading the news, your favourite gossip column or thinking of ordering takeout.
A new line in the privacy battle may have been drawn
So why did Apple seem to think they need to block this behaviour? Simple, privacy invasion, or at least the feeling that we need to stop the (somewhat creepy) encroachment. People have given over a good deal of their privacy little by little, almost imperceptably, over many years. We post all sorts of "stuff" about our lives, don't pay nearly enough attention to the details of our social media privacy settings, and click "Accept" on upgrade and purchase approvals without giving it a thought; we're all guilty at some point of this.
Clearly Apple feels that technologies enabling of advertisers to follow us around the neighbourhood or planet, wherever we go in whatever context and on whatever device has got to be brought to an end. It's more than likely that there are significant numbers in Apple's research supporting the sentiment of users. Kind of like the Starbucks effect : where Apple's research on this space "has been economically vetted to the point where the firm is comfortable" developing technology because it will make users and potential Apple users' lives better. If this takes, other browser platforms will follow suit; there are already a few plugins that perform similar duties, but it's far from mainstream, default behaviour. This is that step.
Of course the psychology of influence and the ongoing learning research and sophisticated techniques of advertisers is nothing new. Gaining even just a minor blip in increased success and conversion rates by advertisers big and small represents potentially huge dollars. So any gain counts.
Tech Crunch provides a pretty good technical overview of how the intelligent tracking prevention algorithm is likely to work. As well as a few thoughts on its likely success and technical blowback from marketers.
Been there, done that
What they don't talk about much, is why this is coming up now. When standard banner advertising entered its first mature phase a number of years ago many people had already become sick of how pop-ups would invade our desktops. Enter the pop-up blocker – remember that (maybe I'm dating myself)? It was the first push back in privacy invasion to make sure that our daily lives were not completely innundated by marketing. Eventually, among other things, remarketing entered the fray in a far more sophisticated play on not saturating us with volume but appealing to our deeper subconscious pattern recognition of desire.
And once again we appear to be pushing back. But why? I call complacency.
Not laziness on the part of consumers, but one dimensionality of some marketers. While technology, bigger data capabilities, integrated systems are ever growing, businesses still so often look for the "play" on influence, on keyphrases, on clever tactics – on psychology. They so often ignore the quality play. Scale and high-quality information, providing tremendous value added information and education to our customer base, users, and would be customers are all readily available technologies and techniques that businesses and yet still seem to disregard as primary ingredients in upping their user experience game instead playing on psychology.
Quality over cleverness
Don't get me wrong. Quality marketing writing and advertising techniques in products and service positioning are key – humans still need to reach out to humans. But clearly people are tired of the overplay of clever tactics otherwise "intelligent tracking prevention" wouldn't exist. So it's time to put out a call for a return to excellent quality in marketing and business online operational presence. There is no throwing the baby out with the bathwater in this, but is it renewed focus on how we provide quality information at high scale, community and brand participation.
So what should businesses be looking at doing?
Quality positioning and presence is always going to be rewarded – focus your philosophy there. No one will ever try to dissuade you, block you, or countermand your efforts. What does this mean? Consider those aspect of your business offering that can scale as valuable information presented to the world? Is it inventory? Product details, use cases, wisdom in using in consumers' daily lives? Do you have multiple stakeholders like managers, franchisees, regional offices, technical people who could convey their wisdom to your user (fan) base? Do you have services, programmes, loyalty points that could be promoted in multiple regions? And what about mobile – how could these strategies work with users' locale and desire to be alerted to trends and geographically-specific situations? What if every single person in your company could contribute to the relationships and lives you look to improve with your products and services?
It's how business sees itself as a omnipresent brand entity in their customers' minds.
There is omnichannel strategy here, scale, agility, culture and openness. It's not the kind of thing that you just "install". It moves away from the idea of "I need a website. Great! Let's market it!" strategy that still pervades much to my chagrin. It's how business sees itself as a digital entity in their customers' minds.
From a systems and structural point of view none of this is new of course. But how business thinks about this continues to grow slowly. Too slowly. And Apple has just put everyone on notice.