Tracking Web Users: Confusing Consumers For Profit?

Cartoon Man With Magnifying Glass Viewing Man Viewing ComputerThere’s a lot we take for granted in our web browsing. There’s all that tracking of where we go and what we do – even if we do nothing. And don’t get me started on privacy policies, terms and conditions and all the other ridiculously long scrolling admonitions we often agree to with a knee-jerk response to end the tedium and get on with what we came for.

Nate Cordozo has an excellent story about this on Electronic Frontier Foundation‘s site. If a business model wouldn’t work if users had to opt in, it deserves to fail. Maybe if we flipped the funnel so to speak, we’d get a far better web user experience. If every site had a default “NO Tracking” setting, we’d start to reassert some autonomy of our virtual lives.

Then again, maybe that’s the point. The more we get used to ‘sharing’ everything in our virtual world, and I use that term loosely, then we’ll be used to submitting to all sorts of other practices, policies and laws designed to constrain what we as free humans can do .

When do you think the last time that “This call is being recorded for training and customer service” actually resulted in either? Why should we think web tracking will be any different?

Mapping The Protests In Turkey

by Allison McCartney3 weeks ago Filed Under: Data

In Istanbul, a small citizen sit-in quickly escalated into a nation-wide movement of anti-government demonstrations that has so far claimed the lives of two people and mobilized an estimated 250,000.

While video can offer a live glimpse of the action and social media can reveal the thoughts of the crowd, only a map can illustrate the massive geographical scope of the movement.

To date, about 90 protests have been reported in 67 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, many in territories hundreds of miles from Istanbul and Gezi Park.

Using a compilation of the latest news reports, we plotted the location of the largest protests, how many people participated and on what day the protests started.

#OccupyGezi: Turkish Protests in 2013

Healthy Is As Healthy Does

By Graham Mills Friday, Oct. 12, 2012

Healthy Is As Healthy Does

It is possible to draw parallels between the green movement and what is happening in health today. Both are human problems that have grown to be global crises through our actions and inactions. Both have their advocates and their nay-sayers. Both ask all of us to take personal responsibility for doing everything we can to fix the problem. And, perhaps most importantly in this context, both have a huge impact on brands and how they are expected to behave. Today, people want the brands that they buy or associate with to demonstrate that they share the same standards and beliefs. And it is much more than a product story.

Subaru, a car brand cherished by outdoor types, created the first auto assembly plant in the U.S. to achieve zero-landfill status. Rather than invent another greener car, it showed that its corporation stands for, and is prepared to invest in, protecting the environment. This is a great demonstration of what Jon Iwata, senior vice president, Marketing and Communications at IBM, calls “corporate character.” And understanding that how you act as a company creates brand relevance, which is much more valuable than simply buying awareness.

Proof of Character

People are looking for similar character from health brands. Some car manufacturers talk about passive and active safety. Passive safety covers the features that protect you if you get in an accident, while active safety is everything designed to stop you getting into an accident. Health brands could adopt this thinking to create experiences that encompass passive and active health — helping people when they are sick and helping them stay well.

A successful example of doing both is the “Get on Track” program. Novartis created it as part of the organization’s commitment to helping people with hypertension — regardless of which drug they are taking. When you have high blood pressure, your doctor tells you to change your diet, start exercising and take your medicine. And guess what? You get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. Get on Track used the thinking behind economic nudge theory to change this. The program creates lots of tiny healthy nudges that add up to a real difference — not just for the patient, but also for Novartis’ character.

Being active means thinking different. In an effort to find the thousands of new bone marrow donors needed every year, every packet of “Help, I’ve Cut Myself” adhesive bandages now contains a swab and an envelope. Send a drop of blood to the bone marrow donor center, and it’ll tell you if you’re a match. A brand that is relevant when you have cut yourself is now a lifesaver.

Another brand embracing active health is EmblemHealth. The new “This is What Care Feels Like” campaign has created a healthy network for New York: Connecting green markets and restaurants in live street demos, sponsoring fruit carts, partnering with master chefs to create cooking competitions for teens, and airing television commercials that give out health advice and tips. Yes, helping people to stay healthy benefits a health insurance company. But it also benefits us and makes that brand relevant to everyone who cares about his or her health.

Renewable Marketing Energy

When we create work that is as relevant as this, we are creating more than an advertising campaign. We are creating brand experiences that people can believe in, get involved with and share. Get it right and, just like renewable energy, we are harnessing a momentum that will power brands forward further and faster than ever before.

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Graham Mills is executive director of Digitas Health.

Marketing In The World Of The Web


Retailers will eventually recover from the consumption tailspin that threatens this holiday season. But quite apart from the recession, there are other, profound changes underway in the retail sector. As the evidence mounts about the power of social networks to reconfigure individual behavior, the crucial question facing industry is: How to leverage this phenomenon into actual profits?

The second generation of Internet (“Web 2.0”) companies such as MySpace, Facebook, Linked/In and YouTube exploded upon the scene three years ago. Today, MySpace and Facebook together have more users than the entire U.S. population; and the online community concept is already becoming a powerful tool for everything from creating customer loyalty, to assistance in product design, to a sounding board for company strategy.

Corporations from IBM to Toyota and Johnson & Johnson have been rushing to establish their own affiliated social networks and bind their customers ever more closely. There isn’t a smart company today that isn’t implementing some kind of online community, wiki or blog strategy.

But companies with millions of members of online communities are now asking: What next? How do we sell them products and services, or mobilize them into massive de facto R&D, manufacturing and sales departments? We have been studying the challenge and have concluded that very few of the traditional techniques of classical marketing (call them Marketing 1.0), or even of eCommerce (Marketing 2.0) will work in the world of social networks. A very different set of tools, concepts and practices is needed. Call it Marketing 3.0. Here are five:

From loyalty to attention. Before you can win consumer loyalty, you have to capture and reward consumer attention. Old propositions — network television’s tired offer of 22 minutes of canned sitcoms in exchange for eight minutes of untargeted commercials — won’t cut it. Consumers are demanding a better deal.

Some brands are starting to flirt with better exchange rates: Virgin Mobile gives a minute of free phone time for every minute of advertising a customer accepts. Ryan Air recently announced it would offer $15 coach tickets from the U.S. to Europe, subsidized by passenger attention to advertising and in-flight sales pitches.

Smart marketers will of necessity become obsessed with customer attention in the way they once obsessed over customer loyalty. The shrewd brands will create elaborate attention-rewards programs, and incentives to break through the noise and make that critical initial connection.

From crowds to clouds. Once you get that attention — once you generate heavy traffic to your site, gather a large league of “friends” on MySpace, or spawn a dedicated following on Twitter — how do you monetize the crowd?

Smart brands are turning their crowds into “clouds”: organic, self-forming and often self-governing communities of interest. Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Frito-Lay and Harley-Davidson use their clouds as feedback loops to get better faster by obtaining good, timely, often brutally honest customer insights. And the members of clouds can become true believers; they don’t just watch your commercials, they make them.

Right now, few companies are emotionally equipped to wring the best benefits of a cloud, because the most valuable voices out there usually belong to the malcontents. In the old model, customer-service departments aimed to placate or jettison disgruntled customers. In the cloud model, the idea is to cultivate and reward them. That’s not an easy transition.

From places to spaces. Consumers are increasingly organizing themselves into new communities — not just the big generic social communities, but myriad idiosyncratic slices of narrow, passionate interest (i.e., BlackPlanet, Inpowr and MomsCafe).

These new market spaces, or “meganiches,” may seem small, even strange at first. But when they’re efficiently targeted, they can be highly responsive, lucrative and loyal. Well-established meganiche Web sites include for video gamers, for digital photography aficionados, and dedicated to mobile phone zealots.

With this shift toward self-organization by consumers, national advertising campaigns as we know them will increasingly become a waste of time and money for many companies. The trick for brands is to cohabit social spaces with these consumers. Social media, and its verb form, “friending,” requires entirely new forms of advertising: bottom up instead of top down, personal rather than public, and subtle rather than full frontal.

From memes to bemes. In the Age of Broadcast, good advertising could occasionally manufacture memes of tremendous social impact. Think of “Where’s the Beef?” or “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” If you can’t recall an irresistible or effective turn of phrase of late, it’s because it is exceedingly difficult to spread a meme in today’s fragmented media environment. Marketing 3.0 is now the science of devising and managing directed business memes: call them bemes. Bemes are sent by members of social communities to each other and typically contain a reward or exclusive offer, which, when redeemed, also results in a reward coupon for the sender. This encourages members of social communities to propagate a “viral” ad. One well-documented beme was “The Subservient Chicken” from Burger King.

Brute force marketing won’t work inside social networks. The best online marketing now takes place among people who know and trust each other. Consider how rumors work. Like a rumor, a beme is a bit of useful information that rewards each person who passes it along. Want to be a sensation? Create a beme that consumers willingly accept and share with others.

From silos to simultaneity. Too many retailers today persist in believing that online shopping is merely a virtual extension of real world shopping. That is a big mistake.

Rather, online and offline need to coexist, and we need to rethink how they relate. For example, to their surprise, companies like BestBuy (which even encourages customers to shop the aisles but buy online from in-store kiosks) and Macy’s are discovering that physical retailing is a perfect way to move units online. That is, the physical world has become the showroom for the virtual realm.

Retailers now must reimagine a world where consumers experience products in stores but ultimately buy them on the Web: Stores are for experiences, the network is for inventories. And what in turn prepares potential customers for what to look for in stores? Online communities.

All of this suggests that Marketing 3.0 is not only different from its predecessors, but actively undermines them. If your marketing program fails to adapt to this new world, it won’t just become irrelevant — it will actually work against you.

Mr. Hayes, a former vice president at HP and Applied Materials, is the author of “Jump Point: How Network Culture is Revolutionizing Business” (McGraw-Hill, 2008). Mr. Malone, a columnist for, is the author of the forthcoming book “The Future Arrived Yesterday.”