Consumer Control: Reality or Fantasy?

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This post was written by Dacey Arashiba, our resident Analytics expert.


Mark Wolfenson recently wrote “The Consumer Isn’t Really in Control: Why Agencies Need to Counsel
Marketers That Their Brands’ Narrative Is Still in Their Hands” ( His statement is that consumer control is still not a true reality. While
the consumer has the blunt ability to skip commercials on the DVR, this is not changing the ads they
would be interested in. Chevy is crowdsourcing it’s advertising content for a new SUV, it may reject
the direction their potential consumers take. He argues that it is still the company who controls the
narrative of it’s brand. While this is true, it cannot happen in a vacuum. Consumer control is an old
concept but an emerging reality. It will help both consumer and brand tell the story.

While brands have experience in exercising control via targeting, segmenting and narrative, the
challenge remains as to how to enable consumers control. Consumers can do so by implicitly or
explicitly making decisions. If their cookies are on, Google can track their search interests and serve
them ads. Bank of America may know their transaction history. Individual websites may know the
deeper engagement that a consumer has with their site. All of this information is out there. All of it
could benefit each constituent (User, Google, BofA, Website). The key to consumer control, however,
will be ensuring that the consumers not only understand how they are represented, they must also have
control over what they reveal to the online world.

If consumer interests, behaviors and tendencies are captured, the consumer can put forth as much or
as little of the face they want to show. The information behind that face, edited and refined by the
user, would be another step they can make to define their online self. If this controlled information
were available to the marketers (Google, BofA, Individual website) they would have a clearer idea of the
consumer on an ongoing basis. They would be able to adjust their narrative more or less on the fly.

The end game is that the consumer declutters their online life: rather than shotgunned with loosely
targeted advertising, they just get what they are interested in. The marketer has a better sense of
focus and can use the consumer face to more deeply engage the consumer. Improving the balance of
consumer control will improve the story for all parties.


Do you feel like you have control over your information and your online life? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


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