People are anxious about the march of technology. It’s dawning on many of us that the benefits of the Internet, social media and the digital world aren’t turning out exactly as advertised. Platforms have been gamed. Data has been breached. Privacy has been compromised. And the people behind innovations and unicorn companies have been exposed. The bloom is off the rose.
Consumers are worried that clueless legislators or malevolent Trumpian regulators will cripple the technology and services we’ve come to rely on. They are anxious about the ability of rampaging technology to eliminate their jobs and forcibly alter their habits and lifestyles. Blind faith in technology and the idea that all technology is benign and good for you is falling out of favor and is being replaced by free floating tech anxiety.
Marketers need to factor four worries into communications plans and channel strategies. It’s no longer a given that anything digital goes.
Consumers are overwhelmed by ads in social media. And while some are useful and relevant, the volume and frequency degrade the experience. Consumers have a growing consciousness about their data and how its gathered, processed and used. Add to that a suspicion that their data is being used by Russians, Chinese, Spammers or others trying to manipulate facts, ideas, attitudes, actions or opinions.
Everyone has been hacked. Breaches at social media sites, banks, data aggregators, Google, Facebook and others have raised fears of identity and property theft. What once seemed so easy and secure, now feels vulnerable to faceless, unseen and relentless hackers.There is a growing sense that the bad guys are significantly more talented than the good guys and that the average person can do little or nothing to protect themselves.
The hype about Artificial Intelligence (AI), the supremacy of algorithms and the sentient Internet of Things (IoT) threatens our self-image and provokes a worry that machines will upend our lifestyles and replace or marginalize humans. The prospect of devices listening, talking, mapping, stalking and making judgments about us is profoundly unsettling to many who aren’t willing to trade privacy and preference for convenience. There is a dark potentially menacing side to advanced predictive analytics, machine learning, voice assistants, robotics and geolocation.
Consumers are wary of high flying companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix or Google that dominate their category. The disruption of many industries and the demise of traditional brands is as scary as it is progressive. There are no good autocrats. Americans naturally favor the little guys, many of whom have already lost the game. We are wary of being at the mercy of unregulated and unfettered capitalists who are generating billions in profits. And while we appreciate the services these companies provide the concentration of marketplace and political power gives us pause.
In framing marketing plans, selecting tactics and building messages, marketers need to take these changing attitudes and general wariness into account. The days of full speed ahead are over and have been replaced by fear and uncertainty about the value and impact of unbridled technology. Transparency, honesty and full disclosure are table stakes and building blocks of brand trust and loyalty in this environment.