Did COVID kill marketing “techlash”? Consumers’ fear of martech drops as acceptance spikes

by | Oct 25, 2021 | Public Relations

Although consumers remain aware of the negatives of marketing technology—“techlash” is still a reality—new research of both consumers and marketers from the American Marketing Association-New York (AMA-NY) reveals that growing use of new marketing media and technology has moved American consumer opinion in its favor since the COVID-19 pandemic began, pointing to further adoption in homes.

The study, conducted by Charney Research and Toluna, finds that even as consumers have shifted to digital channels, many are concerned about data collection, marketers are aware of the issue, and both groups believe it can affect companies’ bottom lines.

“This unique study—the only one comparing consumer and marketer attitudes—shows that widespread use of new marketing technology and associated worry about its privacy implications are two sides of the same coin,” said Jason Revzon, AMA-NY president, in a news release. “Companies need to use this technology, but they also need to be genuinely responsive to customer concerns about it.”

Did COVID kill marketing “techlash”? Consumers’ fear of martech drops as acceptance spikes

The survey finds positive consumer sentiment about martech has jumped since the uptick in online buying and selling during the pandemic

Internet-connected smart speakers notched the biggest gains, up 30 points in favorability to 74 percent, from 44 percent in a similar 2019 study.

Views improved 16 points on average toward virtual reality (VR) headsets, augmented reality (AR) rigs, internet-connected appliances, artificially intelligent assistants, personalized ads, and micro-influencers, along with smart speakers. Positive feelings now outweigh negative ones toward all of them, compared to just two in 2019 (AR and VR).

The improvements were greatest among the college-educated, upper-income, and Gen Z (18-25), Millennial (26-39) and Gen X (40-54) consumers. However, gains in favorability toward smart speakers, AR, and VR have outpaced adoption, suggesting room for further growth in these at-home technologies.

Did COVID kill marketing “techlash”? Consumers’ fear of martech drops as acceptance spikes

Consumers are ambivalent about one novel form of martech: “dream-tech,” playing ads at bedtime to influence consumers’ dreams. Just 38 percent are favorable, 32 percent opposed, and 30 percent unsure.

Increased use of digital purchasing and payments has also made consumers more familiar with the benefits of marketing technology.

Consumers now are much likelier to say they see the upsides of martech than in 2019—by an average of 20 points per item

Gains are notable for statements about online shopping being easier (78 percent agreed), quicker (75 percent), better informed (75 percent), and more fun (73 percent)—clearly effects of pandemic-related online shopping.

However, concern over the downsides of martech are roughly as widespread as in 2019, signaling a continuing techlash

Large majorities of consumers worry martech use will mean consumers lose privacy (73 percent), feel under constant surveillance (76 percent), and let liars, hackers, and bots spread misinformation (77 percent). They also fear it promotes isolation and depression (68 percent).

On the key privacy issue of data collection, the techlash is being felt, too. The only types of collection that more than half of consumers accept are email address (66 percent), age (55 percent), and name (54 percent).

Did COVID kill marketing “techlash”? Consumers’ fear of martech drops as acceptance spikes

Collection of consumer locations is accepted by 42 percent and ethnicity by 40 percent. Other types of data collection were accepted by under three in ten: internet browsing history (29 percent), internet purchase history (26 percent), religion (25 percent), sexual orientation (25 percent), and party identification (24 percent).

Marketers largely agree on these items, the main exception being collecting consumer location, which 54 percent call acceptable.

Consumer and marketer views on consent for data use also are similar. Both emphasize consent for promotions, personalizing ads or products, or offering free information.

However, they disagree on the sensitive topic of sharing buyers’ information with other firms. Just 24 percent of marketers say consent should be required for this, while twice as many consumers do. Feeling is strong here: 71 percent of consumers are less likely to buy from firms that sell their data without their consent, and 51 percent say they would not sell their own data even if offered a price.

Did COVID kill marketing “techlash”? Consumers’ fear of martech drops as acceptance spikes

Consumers are also pushing back to defend their own privacy

Seven in ten either have refused cookies (tracking programs), installed ad blockers, deleted apps, or dropped social media accounts over privacy concerns. The most privacy sensitive are Gen Z and Millennials, who grew up with the internet.

Marketers are getting the message: they recognize that companies that respect customers’ privacy will benefit in the marketplace. Fully 85 percent say collecting less data from customers, requesting permission to use it, not selling it, or offering a price for it would be a competitive advantage.

Download the full report here.

The 2021 Future of Marketing Survey involved online polls of 506 consumers and 411 marketers around the United States, conducted by Toluna and Charney Research in August 2021. The 2019 survey included 500 marketers, conducted by YouGov and Charney. Further installments of the 2021 survey will include corporate purpose, the future of B2B marketing, and post-Covid marketing.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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