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How Brands Can Achieve Hyper Personalisation Without Exposing Personal Data

In Nick Pink's debut as a Brain Marketing Columnist for Brand Chief Mag, he writes about hyper personalisation and how it really is possible to achieve without losing consumer trust.

Technology: you can’t live with it, you can’t live without it. We love our smart speakers but they listen to us. Our smart home devices are life changing, but they always know where we are and what we’re doing. The BBC is our birthright yet it’s Netflix that wins the day in lockdown. And we don’t go anywhere without our phones, but they track our every thought and log each whimsical search term somewhere in a huge bank of data that only Zuckerberg can see.

Ok, perhaps it’s time to take a break from Twitter, but you catch my drift. As consumers we want everything that modern technology can offer us, yet we reject any notion that there may be some trade off. Time and again, research shows we love personalisation and engage on a far deeper level when a brand makes the effort to tailor an ad to our interests or experiences, but are forever suspicious of the way in which they go about it.

And so we should be. Recent history has, sadly, taught us to question the whys and wherefores of many ad tech interactions, and while the industry is working hard to remedy this reputation, the damage is done.

We love and trust our devices but we don’t trust the apps we install on them and we certainly don’t trust the companies that provide those apps. This constantly contradictory view of the clever piece of kit that has become an extension of our hands is leaving the industry about as confused as the consumer.

Brands are battling an oxymoron of epic proportions. Consumers want brands to give them personalisation, they want relevant, contextual ads that speak to them on a deeper level, but they don’t want the advertiser to know anything about them. It seems impossible for brands to do one without the other, and yet that is what is being asked of them.

And while this wasn’t necessarily the spark that fired up Covatic, it is a unique side effect that is solving all manner of problems for advertisers.

Covatic grew from a seed of an idea I had when I was working on the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage and saw it was being trounced by Wimbledon in the viewing figures. It was clear that while Glastonbury was going out live, inviting fans to immerse themselves in the moment in real time, the tennis was being broadcast on the red button to be viewed at the convenience of the viewer. Music fans were expected to drop everything on a warm summer’s evening to sit indoors watching a gig they couldn’t get tickets for, or wait and get it on catch up sometime tomorrow when they probably wouldn’t bother because there was something else to do.

I knew then that reaching consumers in an effective, impactful way was all to do with speaking to them at the right time and the right place with messages that would be immediately relevant or useful rather than just throwing content at them out of the blue and expecting them to be grateful.

Working with a team of academics at Oxford University we developed our own software which sits within the app on your phone. It works by using the data that is already on your phone, and rather than taking it off your device and sharing it amongst other data sets and processes, we process it on your phone to provide the drives to the app such that it can work around your behaviour. If you have a meeting in the calendar from 4-5pm the app won’t send you a message at half four. If it knows you spend 40 minutes on the train every morning, that’s when it will send you interesting content or information that you can digest while you have little else to do.

No personal data ever leaves the phone and the owner of that app is unable to find out a single piece of identifiable information about you. It is this secure, privacy-first approach to in-app messaging that represents a turning point in targeted advertising. It proves that with some clever thinking, and cleverer tech, brands can target consumers without tracking them, and can serve impactful, memorable and, crucially, personal messaging while building back the trust that people have lost in the digital ad industry.

As society we feel a deep affinity with mass media and big broadcasters, but in reality we spend more time on Instagram or TikTok. Which is reflected in where the money is spent, namely not in mass media but very much in targeted social media advertising. And because that is getting harder to achieve every day, the industry is in a confused space.

But there are ways to embrace the best of ad tech without having to sign over your life to the data banks, and brands that can offer that will be the winners in the battle for consumer trust.

Nick Pinks, CEO and Founder of Covatic, the world’s first, user-centric personalisation solution, is passionate about bringing personalisation to the media industry. His expertise includes a deep understanding of Engineering principles. A genuine creative, his solutions are innovative and employ cutting-edge technologies in new ways to deliver fresh capabilities. He is also a great communicator, able to bring complex business and technology concepts to a wide range of audiences clearly and succinctly. Nick has a first-class degree in Media Technology and Electronic Engineering.

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