Does automation risk breaking ethics codes and destroying your brand?

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Rebecca Melrose

The technology boom has brought automation into almost everything we do: shopping, banking, social media usage and even choosing music to listen to. In fact, the number of marketing automation tools as increased 87 percent since 2015. It is actually possible to go an entire day without interacting with a human being if you don’t want to.

Initially all of this sounds great – it makes our lives that little bit easier. But at what point does automation actually harm you brand? In the words of the knowledgeable Ian Malcolm – ‘You were so preoccupied with whether or not you could, you didn’t stop to think if you should.’ And we all know how Jurassic Park ended.

As digital marketers, we have a responsibility to act ethically when using data to target audiences with advertising. Also coming from the generation who want immediate results and satisfaction over long-term gains, I also understand how the so-called ‘black-hat marketers’ have gained popularity. They focus on getting immediate results rather than building long-term, high quality trusting relationships between brands and consumers. As good as this sounds – it’s detrimental to your brand. It’s unethical.

You don’t know what we know …

With the increase in marketing automation technology, not only do you get the data you were actually looking for (whether that be interest in cats, residential status, net worth etc.) you get a whole lot more. In some cases, apps that we have all used at one point or another, also deliver detailed information on our geographical whereabouts even when the app isn’t being used. That information can then be sold on to other companies who can use that data to target you with their brand.

You then have two points of unethical use of data – one use from the company who stored and sold your geographical location, most likely without you even realising it, and one use from the company who bought that data. It undermines the trust you have in both of those brands resulting in you potentially deleting the app and not engaging with the company who bought your data.

Hoodwinking at its most dangerous

Unethical use of data in marketing can also just be plain dangerous. Fake news is another great example. Algorithms targeted audiences likely to be perceptive to fake news based on previous data that you might not think even exist about your online behaviour. The companies creating these algorithms spent so much time working out if it was possible to get people to believe these fake stories that they didn’t actually think about whether or not it was a good idea to try it.

Consequences don’t exist for algorithms. They do exist for people and fake news cause quite a stir in 2016, most prominently in the US election. How much of an influence did fake news have on the mind-set of a nation?

We’re not at our extinction date yet

Removing the human aspect of digital marketing drastically increases the chance of unethical practices creeping into your business. While the digital takeover has opened up so many opportunities for companies, removing a human being with a moral compass (in most cases anyway) and replacing them with an algorithm with no ability to comprehend ethics could result in serious damage to your brand.

At Elastic we really take the time to get to know you and your company and build a trustworthy brand. We work with you to build long-term strategies both on and off-line to push your brand to the next level.

If you would like to find out more about Elastic can do for you and your brand (obviously completely ethically), get in touch.

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