HomeBlogMarketing Ethics, Marketing Tactics My Interview on Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders


My Interview on Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders

Alec Foster2023-03-02

Marketing Ethics, Marketing Tactics, Privacy, Marketing

My interview with Kerry Guard just released on the Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders podcast. In this episode, I talked about marketing ethics and how to respect user privacy through creative marketing strategies.

It was an awesome opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with a wider audience and discuss the importance of ethical marketing practices. By prioritizing user privacy, we can build trust with our customers and create more meaningful and impactful marketing campaigns.

Listen to the episode and let me know what you think!


Kerry: Hi, Alec. Thank you for joining me at Tea Time with tech marketing leaders.

Alec: Hey, Kerry, it's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Kerry: I'm so excited to have you and I love our conversation. I'm going to tee it up for people because I want them to lean in because it's going to be good. But before we get there, let's let our listeners know a little bit more about you, Alec. So what do you do? And how did you get there?

Alec: Sure. Thanks for asking. I'm a growth marketer. And in the past couple of years, I've also become a certified privacy professional as a way of amplifying and making my growth programs slightly more ethical. I started off I guess my journey started back in 2010 as a meme page admin, which is a bit of a silly story. In high school and in college, I started a number of social media accounts on Facebook, the blue app that were mostly student-focused, creating silly memes and content. But what a lesson I learned very early is that pages, especially back in the heyday of organic social media reach, which now you have to pay a lot for. Facebook doesn't give that away for free anymore. If you amplify posts from multiple pages that people follow, it's much more likely to be viewed in their feed. So having multiple pages focused on similar topics amplifying some of the same content. We are reaching more people at my university NYU, then the student newspaper, and I was really important on a decentralized campus. And I was even able to change some policies at the school that were important to me for good. So I studied communications and political science, and I wanted to turn that experience and knowledge into a career. So I started off working in political campaigns and advocacy, some of which I'm still doing now. got started in drug policy reform, and then I started a nonprofit for digital rights, especially how they affect students and educators. That was really influential in my career, a lot of the same skills that I learned then are extremely applicable to what I do now as a grift marketer, where you're designing calls to action and engagement funnels and moving people through these funnels from being an interested listener to an evangelist what I now call like an affiliate or an engaged repeat customer. So, I did some work in politics. And then, out of college, I worked at Google and then a number of startups I'm currently working for cybersecurity and a financial security startup, both are very early stage. One of these I was their first hire outside of the core team of co-founders and helped them get started. And I'm also a data protection professional. So I try to work at companies where I can use that knowledge to both make the growth programs compliant with laws as well as adhering to best practices and gold standards for consumer data handling as well as affecting the product as it is concerned with privacy, which is I think, very important with cybersecurity or companies that have products that deal with sensitive topics such as healthcare or anything that might need to reach people that there might be policies against, say, regarding advertising or, or just needs to be handled sensitively. So, that's that,

Kerry: Oh my gosh, what a journey. I have so many questions. So many questions. Yeah, no, we're gonna get into our topic. But I do want to pull apart your story a little bit. Because you said a couple of things here that are just fascinating. Growth marketing, let's start with that. I think growth marketing has evolved, where it's not, the title has changed periodically. So I feel like the title of growth marketing has fallen off. I feel like I haven't heard that in a while. And has it evolved? Is it still growth marketing? Is it a different title? Is it in this transition? Or is growth marketing really different than the other titles that are sort of thrown out there right now?

Alec: I love this question. When I first heard the term growth, marketing and heard of growth, marketing, or growth marketers, to me sounded like lazy attempts of marketing, where you're just exporting data from LinkedIn and pumping it through Clearbit. And then building a remarketing audience and Facebook, just like lazy stuff that is often very hacky, very much associated with grift used to be associated with growth hacks. And on the politics side, this would just be called "Digital"; you're just a digital person. I got into demand generation and growth marketing by accident, when I started off handling events and communications marketing operations at a startup. And then, my boss, the director of demand generation, left the company, and I inherited a lot of these responsibilities. And at first, I was hesitant because I thought that demand generation and growth marketing would just be the same at any company, I was at a company where I really liked the product, at least at the time, and I thought that it would just, I would just be doing the same thing. It wouldn't take any creative energy, but I realized that it is imbuing a technical background with creative tactics. And there are some parts that feel like maybe a little mundane, like I'm setting up another Google Analytics account connecting Google Tag Manager creating all of these things on the back end foundation. Oh, absolutely. I've learned that it's very important, especially for early-stage companies. It's probably the first marketing role that one will hire where I think any kind of responsibility can fall into this, and there are opportunities to specialize and a few channels that I think can really set you apart from other growth marketers, I think, like, I've been called a like Jack of all trades, but I do have, some specialties that I think set me apart. And I think it's important for any marketer, especially growth marketers, to have a couple of channels that they go deep in and specialize in, but have a broad background so that they can learn things as they go or just do the basics, especially if they're the only marketer at a company. So to your question, I do think it has changed. Maybe my association with it has changed too. I no longer think of it as cringy as I used to all those certain aspects, depending on how it's executed, it can be a little unsavory. But in my, in my understanding, it's the best way of getting your foot in the door at a company and then, as companies grow, you might be able to specialize in an area that you feel more interested in.

Kerry: Yeah, it sounds like there's some overlap, too, between growth and demand. Like there's some blending there. I heard you say both of those things sort of interchangeably, and I think I do use them interchangeably. Oh, that's right. Yeah. I mean, I think that's where things have headed. And I like what you're saying we're growth sort of was this initial sort of hacking sort of thing. Like, they Oh, the example I always see which is so dated now, which was when Google first launched their email system, Gmail, right. And at the very bottom, they said sent from Gmail, and that was like, a hack in terms of getting more people to then buy into Gmail. And I just don't think those things, those are a dime a dozen, that's not easily replicable. It is those deep, knowledgeable things that you sort of stack on each other and grow over time.

Alec: So not everyone has the built-in audience that Google has. And I think I'll get into later, like every growth channel there's a, there's a cycle with it, where there's a period where it's very fresh, and people aren't used to it. But then people spot these or as they become utilize more widely. People learn to tune these out that like, Oh, this isn't, this doesn't feel authentic to me anymore. This is just the same kind of automated text or, email campaign or multilevel-marketing style of referral programs that people are used to.

Kerry: demonstrating that I'm waiting for TikTok to, to get there, but I don't do that. We'll see, we shall see. Um, my other question to you that you mentioned. So you're now doing cyber and financial security. What's. So I understand what Fintech is, and I understand financial, but this is this feels new.

Alec: I'm new to this. I'm new to this space as well. The area the company I'm working for, called Creednz, specializes in is preventing vendor fraud. In particular, where that is actually the most common type of financial fraud, where I mean, it has the highest dollar amounts, where say, this is extremely common, more common than I realized, where a scammer or con artist will gain access to third party systems like a vendor of yours. And this affects all types of companies, especially mid-market and larger companies. But smaller companies with fewer employees have fewer checks in place. So they're actually the ones that sometimes see the most damaging type of fraud. And it's also very common in real estate and like title companies. So I'll give you a couple of examples. So say that the parts supplier says that, okay, for future, you'll get an email from them, or maybe an email that looks just like theirs. And they say that from now on, send your payments to this new bank account. And it comes to they're from the same email address they've used. And so this has happened Facebook and like has been hit with these. A lot of companies have fallen victim to these types of scams, where they end up paying the wrong vendor, and that money is quickly like siphoned out or converted into cryptocurrency, and you don't get it back. And this is the most common type of financial fraud. In terms of dollar value, it's more impactful than the fraud that targets regular consumers, because there's more money to be made in there. And like the example of real estate, say, your PSA, the broker that you're dealing with, their account becomes compromised, they, they use this, they reuse the same password on their Gmail is they use on their like that one-off photo design web app, and they say, Okay, you got the house here to send the downpayment to this address, and you send that payment, and you end up losing it. And the thing is, is that the company involved is responsible for this, where, if your account is compromised, you're going to be, you will be held liable for, if not all, then like the vast majority of the damages. So there's a huge incentive for companies of all sizes to have standards in place that maybe will check bank account numbers against a list of like fraudulent accounts or other discrepancies like changes, or there are portals where vendors will authenticate changes like this. So it's important but it's a new space for me, I've, I'm learning a lot about it as I go.

Kerry: I feel like it's doing general like, and this is the category space that happens, right? When these securities huge. And then cybersecurity is a cent is a piece of that. That's huge. And then there are all these different categories in this and this is the first time I've heard financial security, which makes total sense.

Alec: Yeah, well, also think about how the pandemic has changed how we work in offices versus working remotely. You're not seeing your coworkers or say that the CEO sends the request to saying, hey, I need you to pay this vendor as it can happen internally as well say that account is compromised, you don't see that same person in the hallway and can ask like, Hey, did you just send this email or, Hey, I'm gonna send you that payment. So it's a lot more important to have other systems that encourage verification when you don't have these face-to-face interactions as often as he used to.

Kerry: I think it's faster now to the way that we respond to things feels very reactive. So I think a lot of people are learning to sort of question this, or maybe I'm in an echo chamber because I'm in the cyberspace. So that happens, but it's just, it's just fascinating to me. Let's switch gears here, Alec, because I could pull apart your story all day, there's so many interesting nuance to it from poli sci to NYU, was the dream was dream, I wanted to go to NYU. But I never feel like we go on this journey to be marketers. And we sort of end up here with this lovely mixture of background that then facilitates our ability to be really good marketers, because we were able to cultivate all this different all these different skills from this journey we take. So I love the mixture of skills you bring to the table here, which is going to lend really lovely to our conversation. Before we get there, though, what's one challenge you're currently facing something that's keeping you up at night? That feels really hard? What is that for you?

Alec: Yeah, I'll briefly touch on this. So one thing I'm experiencing, and the companies I'm working with these, like B2B software providers is the long sales cycle that we have, where it's not always apparent how, like how your channels are doing, whether you're reaching the right audiences, whether these leads are bringing in are qualified, whereas when I worked in a consumer product, you're dealing with a larger pipeline of customers. So it's good that the difference between like one lead and two leads, like a week that, that can be huge, but that's sometimes that can just be very random. Whereas when you are, when you're dealing with longer or larger customer size bases, and shorter sales cycles, it's a lot easier to see if your efforts are having an impact. And sometimes these drawn-out sales cycles can hurt your revenue if it's not what the company expected. And I'm seeing that in like many other companies, where budgets are having to be reduced, because companies took on large investment rounds, and aren't able to meet these aggressive growth targets that they had, now that we're in this downturn. So I'm sure you're probably wondering how I would overcome this challenge and something I'm still working on. But at least one of the companies I'm working with, we're transitioning to a product-led growth model, where we have a free version of the product. Yeah. And that helps, I mean, one, I think it's just a great way of letting people experience the product before dropping a five or six-figure contract on it. And it widens your pipeline, it also gives you the opportunity for remarketing to these people like once they've had a chance to experience it, or like bringing people back and gives you more customers or potential customers to analyze how the product is doing, you can monitor changes and how they are impacted. So I would say that a product-led growth model, if it's applicable to your company, is very useful. And I think that will broaden your reach. And shorten that sales cycle.

Kerry: If you haven't listened to it already. For those who are listening, check back to the very first episode of this year to Peter Wheeler's episode, where he literally talks through how to build a freemium model and the power of that so I love that you're talking about this, Alec, because it really, I feel like everybody steered away from it, because they felt like the leads they were getting weren't the right ones, because they weren't buying fast enough. But from a long-term standpoint, if you can bring people in initially who aren't ready to buy from you, because they're too small and are not ready, but then once they start needing those features, and then you need to stack up and then they need to grow like they grow with you. And it's sort of this really empowering, beautiful story that unfolds with startups and it's really hard to stay patient in it. But yes, it gives so much power to small businesses who need these tools that you all are building and allows them to get their foot in the door with you and then as they grow in scale from small business to medium size to scale or to enterprise like they grow with you and they stick with you because you gave them that first shot initially. So yes to that. Yes. Exactly how much joy I want to circle back with you next year, and I'm going to hear how it's going for you. Sounds great. Let's talk about this is what's so lovely about your background and the collection. of skills you have from poli sci to now being certified, is that the right word in terms of Yeah. Certified in security. So I first want to understand how you made the leap. Like, what do you told your story? It was like I was doing this, and now I'm doing this, how did you make that transition from more of that meme growth stuff to now being in cyber and fin security?

Alec: Sure. So it goes back to 2012 and 2013, I was very motivated. I was maybe in substances overly optimistic seeing companies get involved in the SOPA and PIPA protests, I think back in 2011, 2012, for like, keeping the internet like free and open, as well as the huge net neutrality battle that was going on with the FCC, and how that evolved over the years. And so that was, those were very formative years for me. And I had experience working with an international nonprofit that was student-led on drug policy reform called Students for Sensible Drug Policy. And I that was a huge professional development accelerator. It taught me a lot of the skills that I'm using today. But I realized that there was not an equivalent organization for digital rights, which was a newer interest of mine. So I started off creating petitions and learning about internet privacy from the activist perspective. And I had a lot of this knowledge. And I realized years later that I was still relying on this knowledge as I was creating my marketing programs and thinking about best practices. And I realized that I could translate this knowledge into practical skills and tactics that I could use in marketing. So I also met someone who worked as a data protection professional, and I learned about the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), which is the international gold standard of privacy certification bodies. And I thought I'm just going to try taking this test to see if I can pass it with my knowledge from learning about these laws. And I'm glad that I didn't pass it on my first attempt, I think that, because I wanted, it showed that this is a serious body of knowledge. And there, you need, actually, you need to read the book. So I studied a bit more, read all these white papers, read the book, and came back and I passed the exam. And which eye exam I took was for was based in the US privacy laws that focused on privacy sector, as well as privacy laws here in the US. But what's also incorporated international laws like GDPR, which is extremely important for marketers to know. And using that knowledge, I think, gives a lens of credibility to me when I'm say, applying for jobs, if, to my knowledge, I'm the only marketer that has this certification, it's more of a legal field distinction, but it, it has been very informative. And I encourage anyone with a little bit of like interest or is interested in specializing in this area, say, for companies, there's a lot of companies that do make privacy-enhancing tools and software, or the cybersecurity industry or companies that deal with sensitive consumer data. Having this certification will set you apart. But yeah, it funnily enough, started with my interest in advocacy as a bit of an outsider.

Kerry: Let's talk a little bit about privacy. Tell me more about like, what's data protection, privacy. The mean, I mean, I think we all know what it means how my most my audience is very savvy. But in terms of what you've been through, what does it mean to you?

Alec: Sure. Well, there are both gold standards, baselines of clear protections that you should give consumers. There have been a few of these that have been released that describe general tenants that marketers should know. And then there are also laws that need to be complied with. Some of the most important laws that marketers will come into contact with is the European Union's GDPR. In California, we have the CCPA and the CPRA, which will have gone into effect by the time this episode is released. There's a privacy law in Delaware. And then there are a few channels with specific privacy laws that marketers must comply with, like the CAN-SPAM Act, which has a long acronym that isn't worth repeating. But that governs email privacy. There's the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the TCPA, which not only affects phone calls but also text messages. And then there are some industry-specific laws like the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act in the financial sector, as well as HIPAA, that affects health care laws, and all those except for GDPR are in the US, but as marketers, most of the time you're advertising to or re-trying to reach a global audience. So it's, if you have anyone, like on your, if your product is available to people outside of the US in the European Union, you do need to comply with the GDPR. So it's having that legal background is really important you don't because it can open you up to fines if you don't comply with these laws. And also just best practices people recognize when their data is being used responsibly. And people do care about this. And there's like data out there that shows this.

Kerry: I mean, every time I open my Apple phone, and it tells me if I want an app to track me, right, I get the choice, which I always choose now, which is sort of ironic being in the advertising industry, I always choose No. But the fact that even have a choice, right, so I'm curious, what sort of the, I'm asking you to simplify and dumb this down, which I know is probably goes against every fiber of your being of that how technically complicated all this stuff is. But what's sort of the overarching theme through all these things? What in terms of privacy? Is it giving power back to the user? Is it making sure that we're just not collecting and using their data for more than what, what we've promised in terms of like, you're gonna get this exact newsletter for this exact thing? And nothing else? Like? What sort of having gone through all of these, knowing these front and back and this certification? was sort of the high level of what these things do?

Alec: You touched on a few of the things that I would have brought up, I would say there are four central tenants of consumer privacy, and there's individual control as you described with those prompts. And I want to touch more on those prompts. And like how consumers can be incentivized, like, if they know how their data is used, if they're gonna get more value, that they might choose to give the business more information about them. So the first tenant, is individual control, being able to delete and reclaim your data, choosing how the data is shared, and what data is shared. The second tenant, I would say is important in consumer privacy is respect for context. So say when Twitter was fine for using telephone numbers that people were provided as part of two-factor authentication for their ad targeting system, that is not respectful for context. So understanding the difference between what consent you obtain that data through, and making sure that you're adhering to that or giving consumers a chance to reauthorize use of that data in a different means. A third tenant around consumer privacy is security, where making sure that data is protected and stored properly. I'm sure you've signed up for many of these services that alert you when your data is found in a data breach. It's becoming increasingly common. And it's, there's a, it's a fallacy that that responsibility should be all on consumers' hands – as I mentioned, I was a privacy activist. And back in that time, I had a privacy breach where third-party developer on Facebook, there, they were using, I guess this is more of a violation of the respect for context, but they were collecting it in order to use their app, you would have to authorize sharing your friends' list, and they scrape those images and then use that to create profiles for your friends, even though your friends have never used that app. And then, they took it a step further and reused my images in their marketing materials. So I found myself in a press kit for this awful third-party app, I had nothing, no interest in being a part of but the point being is that at the time, I considered myself a privacy expert. And I thought it was, I use a password manager. I had good data hygiene, I had two-factor authentication. But still, a lot of these things don't matter if the businesses aren't treating your data properly with respect for the context and also securely. So. So safeguarding against breaches is obviously a very important thing. But there are other steps that businesses should take to deanonymize the data or anonymize the data. So making sure that if there is a breach or that data is more protected, there's less of a fallout. hashing passwords and etc. The fourth tenant, which I would say is important in individual consumer privacy, is access and accuracy. There are some financial laws that require this, but many, many laws and sectors of consumer data aren't governed by law, and I think that that needs that those protections need to be expanded. So being able what access and accuracy mean as being able to view what data a company has on you. And California has done a lot in that regard. So that consumers can send a request to understand what data that is held and also deleted if needed, and verifying the accuracy of it. Like, there's, it's possible that marketers can segment their populations and like, you might not get ads for like discounts on a home or whatever, if you live in an area that they think that you can afford it, that's very unethical. For it's a very unethical form of targeting. But when like, you shouldn't do that in the first place, but to like, you should be able to remedy this and be able to clarify what information is stored on you. And there are some applications out there that make this easier. I know, Consumer Reports now has a free tool where you can send these requests more streamlined, and then companies will get back to you after verifying your identity. So those are the four tenants that I say are most important. There are other general philosophies like collection, limitation, specifying what perfect what purpose, general openness, and transparency. And third-party accountability, when, when applicable, but I would say those four tenets I went through are things that every company, large or small, should follow.

Kerry: I like want to unpack all of these. But I think a more logical stance would be to talk through how we use these from a marketing standpoint like this is a lot. And it's this sort of question, everything we do, from a marketing standpoint, from the lists we build, and how we build audiences off of that, to how we collect data, what we do with it, I have to say, I feel like third party selling has sort of died off a bit, maybe maybe not as much as it should have. But I feel like that's definitely like, I understand why that's lower on your list. I feel like people get that, like, if I'm collecting your data, it's for me and me alone, versus me now reselling that information. Yeah, that's taken.

Alec: It is still out there. When I worked at Google several years ago, I did see all these third parties, like data lists that were built into the service where companies can find audience lists that are based on affinity and interests and demographics that Google doesn't provide, that they have expands on those. And it's still out there, I think that there is more respect for, I'm hoping there's more respect for how this data is used. But I think larger companies still have access to these types of tools. And it's also very prevalent in political advertising more than ever. I've seen both sides where I feel like this information can be used for good, you could mobilize persuadable voters on an issue that I think is very ethical, but at the same time, it can be used to suppress the vote or misinform people. So I think that's a whole different avenue that this podcast could take. And I mean, especially with voter like, with the elections, and what's been going on with that in terms of the outside influence from other countries. So we're going to create on that next podcast. That is, that is a whole other podcast, and maybe I'll have you back on discuss that. But for this podcast, and specifically for the audience, I'm working with, in terms of all this information, which is really important. And while I think we should all go get certified, if we are collecting data in any sense, I do think we need some level of certification of what of how we should handle that data in a really ethical way. So for you and your experience, as we all look to be sort of convinced on going to get these certifications, what's your sense of how we should use this the these best? What are the best practices that we should be taking away, and how do we approach our own marketing?

Alec: Sure, well, I'll touch briefly on the best practices, but I want to apply it to some common questions that I think your listeners would have, say, the platforms that we're all using, like Google Analytics or ads, and we're saying like aI models. So best practices, like I mentioned, respecting the context. But I think this isn't, this shouldn't just be treated as a negative thing like you described. Those prompts that you have on your iPhone, or if you want to share your data with an application. I think that there's a lot of opportunity for applications to give pre-prompts to explain the benefits of giving permission for data sharing. So making sure that customers are informed and that they can Understand the benefits if they're already to sharing that data. So I think that it needs to be treated as an educational opportunity, not just okay, I'm being I need to comply with these pesky data protection laws. Rather, I think you can set yourself apart by communicating transparently or giving consumers more control over their data. There are now things called CDPs, which are customer data platforms, that can streamline the management of first-party data and assets and customer privacy preferences. So creating these assets of any business and all need to be built in-house, there are services that provide these systems that can integrate with your like cookie management tool or provide that on your website. These types of tools can be very seamless and unobtrusive, and unobtrusive. So but you don't need a certification and data privacy, to know these and, or to follow these. And I think that's important for marketers to understand, I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad, or give you a bunch of homework, but rather telling you that. I did the research so that you don't have to. Giving people controls, we're all very busy. So pre-prompts giving a context, giving more controls, those are, I think some of the baseline things that people can do, that will also make sure that they're compliant with GDPR, or at least the baseline of it. So when it comes to specific apps, I would say that, when it comes to GDPR, by default, Google Analytics is not GDPR compliant. So you actually need to obtain explicit consent from end users through a cookie banner before you activate Google Analytics. And also describe the data processing in your privacy policy. So this, I've encountered this, say, in my own businesses, where their business I do marketing for where our conversion tracking is not always accurate. We run LinkedIn ads on the free version of our product. And it LinkedIn does not show the same conversion data that we have on our back end, when we see how many users have signed up for it. Because many of these users coming to the site, when they sign up, they haven't agreed to they don't need to agree to share data in order to access the product. So there is a lack of clarity sometimes that marketers are having to deal with now compared to what we had 10 years ago. But that's, I think, that just means you need to find like other opportunities to develop channels and like, have more insight into the back end on your system to see, okay, where are these? Like, where are these people coming from maybe the data doesn't go back to Google Analytics or to LinkedIn, but maybe you can see based on what you can create different landing pages, where you can have one landing page for your LinkedIn ads when a landing page for your Google ads are different campaigns. And you can use that information to, like, based on how many you can look at your LinkedIn platform, look at how many clicks you got, look at conversions for that page and see how many new customers that were brought into that page and just do some basic math, and you'll be able to calculate that same information that LinkedIn or Google would have otherwise given you. So I think it's directional

Kerry: to write, especially if you're working with large, this is great for smaller companies who maybe aren't working with large quantities of data. And so they do really need to make sure that every impression leads to somewhere. Right, right. But when you are a bigger enterprise, and you have a tonne of data, like you don't need, you can look at this. I mean, Google already says that the data they collect is a fraction of what's probably actually happening, right. So there is some direction, directional gut check that you sort of do have like, okay, there's enough data here to quantify that this is working or isn't working. But I love what you're saying in terms of segmentation. Like I think that's from a landing page standpoint. It is a bit more like work. Yeah. But that makes a tonne of sense. If you really do want to be that granular in terms of how much information you're collecting to know that the dollar you're putting in is the dollar you're getting out.

Alec: Yeah, these are just options. And I'm sure there are other ways that people can figure this out. A couple of other practical applications for how differently popular marketing tools aren't affected by privacy laws would be Google ads. So can standard keyword search advertising where you're just targeting keywords, not uploading it to a list. Those are not affected by GDPR or other privacy laws. But you do need consent for remarketing and conversion tracking. So that's but so Google Ads still or even LinkedIn ads where you're just that the non-remarketing kind, unless you absolutely need conversion tracking to work, you can still run these ads and be compliant with GDPR. And the third topic I want to touch on is AI I've used machine learning models, to expedite will say are like how we view new leads, like based on the information they submit, and like prequalifying them based on the information they submit. But the rights in GDPR, that could be violated by AI, would be automated decision making, if but that means if you're only using AI to make a decision, not if you're like having an extra layer of human review, but this makes a lot of sense. You don't want to deny people access to essential services, because of the type of grammar they use, or the usage of slang. That's not ethical. And then the second would be in GDPR would be the right to erasure where identifiable data is stored on a third-party server, or you use that for generating your models, like you'll need to track down that piece of data and make sure it's removed. So but if it is anonymized, if there's no personal identifying information on it, then that is still compliant, and that can be used without it violating the right to erasure.

Kerry: Cool, there's a lot here. So let's back up for a second. I do think there's a huge question about Google Analytics right now. So let's back up to that right now. Out of the box, you're saying it is not compliant, which I think we're all aware of, especially as countries continue to, quote-unquote, outlaw it. It sounds like GA four is better, but still not completely compliant. So what, is there a way to make Google Analytics or GA four compliant? Or is it just not?

Alec: Well, that's a great question. So I've worked for companies that only deal with customers in the United States. So we did not need a cookie banner. Even if someone from the EU arrived at our site, we wouldn't accept a lead from them, if they tried to input their information. And like we can also filter that data out, there are settings in there. But it is compliant if you have a cookie banner, and you're not collecting that data beforehand. When I travel to the EU, and I load up the same web pages that I visit from the US, I'll sometimes see often see cookie banners that I wouldn't have been exposed to it. So you can have you can implement these technologies so that they are only shown to users in the EU, if that is a concern for you. And so you can continue collecting information from people in other countries if needed. But yes, by default, it's not GDPR compliant, but it's very easy to have that switch. And as I described before, having context and informing people of the benefits of sharing that data, if there are any, if depending on your business, like I think there are many opportunities where people would want to share that data, but it just needs to be properly educated.

Kerry: Yeah. So how do you educate people? If they're just coming to your website and browsing? Like, is it in that cookie banner? Is it in? Is it in these pop-ups? Like, I mean, how do you make that information accessible? Yeah,

Alec: I've seen so many different types of banners. I like the ones that don't use dark patterns, like the big bold button that says "share my data" and the tiny greyed out button that says "No thanks, don't collect my data", or that makes you individually toggle each toggle off. And like after opening sub-menus, so I think, yeah, but there's like the pre-prompt education phase where you're saying "hey, our business relies on this consumer data, it is anonymized, you don't need to worry about this system tracking your information, here's a link to our privacy statement", which should be very simple. uses what little legalese as you can possibly manage? And so, I think, when people are informed, and they say that they can be better, like, recent and like, and we can understand more about our customers. I think people can be receptive to that type of messaging, but there's, there's always going to be people that won't even acknowledge the cookie banner. So I am not in favor of the huge pop-up that blocks you from using the site. But I think you should look around at others when you're deciding this deciding what route to take for your own business, look at other businesses, maybe use a VPN that puts you in the EU and see how other companies have other websites that you use, treat this information.

Kerry: I mean, I'm in the UK and I get cookie pop-ups all the time to the point where I'm just going to and I just hit okay. Okay, okay. Okay. Unless there's something I really just hit a lot of okay, because I want to get to the content. And I needed no by way. And I understand marketing and advertising.

Alec: I call that privacy fatigue.

Kerry: Yes. Totally how you privacy fatigue? Is that really all that you need to be like, GDPR compliant, or even for California to be compliant when using Google Analytics? Isn't that simple?

Yes, the just the consent, and also describing how personal data processing happens in your website's privacy policy? How it feels so much more complicated when you're like trying to dig through yourself?

Alec: Yeah, but it's, it's simple, like, what do you understand the, the purposes of these laws, it is a little tough. With my company, as I described, our conversion data is not very accurate for our free product right now, because we show a cookie banner to all users. And it's also very subtle, I think that in the future, we might have different toggles for, okay, this, this information could be used for just general website analytics or like retargeting, and I think there's some people that would be okay with just general website analytics, and not like being retargeted. Without, and I think that's so giving, giving consumers options, and making those choices very clear is the way to go.

Kerry: All right, last question for you, Alec, in terms of this is, so this is so helpful, because I feel like we're all so overwhelmed by how to be compliant, and, and to a point where we, I always say give up, but like, it just feels very daunting. And you really helped focus on what we need to, like, clearly start with and care about, in the age of where cookies are, eventually, Google keeps pushing it, but at some point, cookies are gonna go away. Is that from an ethical marketing standpoint? Is that the right move?

Alec: That's a great question. I think there is some anti-competitive nature to Google or other very large tech companies having cookies go away because Google has a lot of first-party data. They track you through your browser, they track you through search; it is the biggest top-of-funnel data collection experiment to ever exist. So, I think that it is complicated because I also care a lot about anti-monopoly practices, making sure that the next Google can have a chance to compete. I do think there are benefits to consumer privacy. But I think it's, it's to be determined if this will have a net benefit for consumers overall.

Kerry: So how can those smaller companies compete against Google in terms of if they're no longer collecting cookie data? And that third-party information? Sure, they're going to be using Google Analytics and less and all that, but how can they the first thing that comes to mind for me is like, Okay, we sort of got to go back to the dark ages of collecting first-party data ourselves, which we're already doing to an extent, but I don't know that we're doing it as diligently or as intentionally as we used to, and it feels like we sort of got to head back there, especially with demand gen being so like, take users on a journey where they get to make their own decision of at what point they want to interact with you. So again, everything and ABM all the things it feels like we sort of need to find a balance and that if cookies are going to essentially go away. Is that is that the case?

Alec: So I think this presents an opportunity for creatively driven marketers to come up with new growth channels, which is something I think I like I tried to specialize in, where you are right, that we there do need to be more first-party data. And it's unfortunate for marketers that have gotten through their careers so far doing just, I guess I would describe some of these tactics as lazy, like just using technologies that already exist and deploying these platforms and letting them do the work and bringing that data to their CEO, and there's gonna be going to be a greater need to build platforms or what I call "microsites" that encourage engagement that are, say like free to use, or like other ways of acquiring users that don't rely on the centralized platforms. One of my favorite acquisition channels is affiliate marketing, and one of my greatest accomplishments at a previous company was building an affiliate marketing program like building the software in-house using automation tools like Zapier. So creating these, creating these platforms that can bring potential customers into your websites, give them a reason to share their stories, whether it's like a microsite like a complaints forum, or maybe interacting with like a news wire or some other like free service that you've built. And it doesn't have to be that complicated. But these are, like, kind of going back to just organic search as a greater channel building more engaging content that people will want to sign up for. It does require more investment, where you're not just relying on a platform to find these users for you. Like, as these costs are rising, you need to start building out alternative channels. But this is really important because companies that learn at one stage or another, over-reliance on one or two growth channels is bad for business. When Google changes its search algorithm or ad prices rise, your company can be hung up to dry if you don't have a backup plan. So diversifying your acquisition channels is a best practice in general, but it's going to be increasingly important, as cookies are deprioritized or eliminated. People need to have these other channels like affiliate marketing, or content that is applicable to your target audience.

Kerry: This conversation, I hope everybody has a notebook in front of them. And they have filled pages of information because, or head to the website and download the transcript because this is so actionable. And I think in a time of compliance and security, this is so important for how we protect our users and their data and building that trust back with our audience. Because it's what we got to do right now as as marketers and advertisers, advertising and marketing isn't going away. But the more that we lose track our audiences loses trust in us, the harder we're making our jobs. So I love what you said, I just want to circle back and make sure we say this again, in order to build trust with our customers. And to be ethically compliant. We need to give them individual control over their data to say yes, collect my data or no and, and to be able to let them toggle that off and on and to be able to access it later and change their minds. We need to be clear about the context in which we are collecting their data and respect that we're going to stay within those boundaries, we're going to ensure the security of their data so that it doesn't isn't hacked, or accessed or given away in anything that we haven't promised. And make sure that that the data that we have collected is accurate, they again they can access and is and is up to date. So Alec, I'm so grateful for this conversation. It's everything I've been hearing sort of whirling around the sphere, but it hasn't been brought so to the table in such a clear way of how we can activate it without feeling daunted or overwhelmed. So I appreciate your clarity. Thank you. Is there anything that just one last piece of advice you would give people as they continue to embrace the idea of ethical marketing?

Alec: Yeah, so I'll share a little bit about my philosophy. First, I want to describe, I guess the certain tactics that I view is unethical. And some of these I'm guilty of, I would say peer-to-peer texting, which was like at first a novel tool, but now is used to spam people's phone messages without having obtained consent. And like just this morning, literally today, I received a text from a number that did not ask for any permission to contact me, and the first line read, hey, contacts first name, like because they messed up the mail merge tag. So it is it shows the clunkiness behind it and it wasn't like someone trying to initiate a conversation. It was just someone trying to send me to their site. I think that the best types of automation should move information around or open the door to human interaction instead of replacing it. That's a theme that marketers should really remember that like creating opportunities for these one-on-one interactions, but you can still use automation but use that to open the door and not just replace human reduction that is the direction we should go in some other unethical types of marketing that I'm still guilty of were like Twitter automation. adding people to a list if they tweet out a conference hashtag, or bribing people with gift cards or headphones in order to get a meeting to further with them. These types of things they rely on like FOMO marketing, limited-time offers, or psychological manipulation. It's not good. Other things I haven't done that I recognize are unethical are emails without an unsubscribe link. I know what you're doing, I will reach out to the company's marketer on LinkedIn, I will call you out! Limited time offers, like I mentioned, using data in ways that he didn't obtain consent for it. And just broadly, company executives taking on too much money and having to deliver on sustainable exponential growth because I think that is the environment that pushes marketers towards manipulative and unethical marketing. So my philosophy around ethical marketing is that is the opposite of lazy marketing that supports surveillance capitalism, where it surveillance capitalism meaning the economic system, around the capture and commodification of personal data for the core purpose of profit-making, and most marketers are complacent in this cycle of consumer abuse when their growth program is allowed to run them up. As we've discussed, consumers bear the burden of safeguarding their own privacy, we need to switch that. Marketing often relies on psychological manipulation by retargeting and FOMO. And as marketers, there's an opportunity for us to imbue creativity and take responsibility for how we reuse and share consumer data. The last thing that I want to share is that talking to you has inspired me to start sharing these programs, these step-by-step guides, with marketers, because it's one thing to wax on around why you should be ethical, but a lot of people don't like might get through this podcast and not know, where do I turn like how, okay, this all sounds really complicated or confusing or challenging. So what I'm going to start doing is releasing guides on my website. The first one is going to be about how to build that in-house affiliate program that I mentioned. With this, I'll give you a step-by-step guide on literally every step to create in Zapier, which includes anti-fraud checks, so that you can offer affiliates a higher payout than competitors. Because these affiliate software providers will charge a 30% commission of the payment that you're offering affiliates. So go to my website, https://ethical.marketing, to read step-by-step guides on how to create new growth channels that your CEO will love, and will feel good about.

Kerry: And that's my OUTRO Thank you, Alec, I will make sure all of that is in the show notes so that you can either type it in or you can click a button and it'll take you right there. Because I agree that everything you said that was unethical, felt icky, like, as you were saying it, my skin was crawling and I was like I've been there and it is the worst. Like if I get one more email where I'm clearly on an email list where they scraped my email from somewhere and didn't do single leg of of work to figure out if I was going to be the right company for them. Like I just and then to not have an unsubscribe button on top of that is the worst exam and then you add the wrong name to it. And it's just a whole other level of

Alec: you did it you did it configure it right. But as I mentioned, I'm guilty of many of these things. Like, I think the first step is like recognizing that Yeah. And I think we I'm trying to take responsibility, I'm sure I'll still make mistakes at some point. But I think it's just having this general philosophy of respecting your consumers because they will give you more information. Like the data suggests, surveys have shown that only 1/3 of customers believe that companies are using their data responsibly. But two-thirds of customers would consider sharing their personal information to get additional value. So there is an opportunity for in between I'm sure there are brands that you are familiar with, or that you've done business with, that you see as like ethical brands that you feel good about their business and want to support. And when you like having a human that you associated with that brand like that, that personal touch, or the consent that they've like obtained from you and like how they've gone about navigating that it's just like the same kind of respect that you would expect in a like face to face relationship with a friend that like when he started seeing your customers as people. You will be able to deliver more value to them and bring more people into your business.

Kerry: Like this has been such a joy. I'm so grateful. Thank you for wanting to be on Tea Time. And my pleasure, I hope our paths cross again.

Alec: Sounds great. It's been a pleasure talking to you. I hope we can continue this conversation at a later date.

Kerry: That was my episode with Alec Foster. Are you ready to take action? Are you ready to make sure that your marketing is ethical? I am. Let's go. Let's do it. Let's do it. And if you have any more questions, you want to understand more about how you can make your marketing ethical. Please please reach out to Alec on LinkedIn. His link is in the show notes. Thank you for joining me what an eye opening conversation I'm so so grateful. And thank you for listening. If you found this episode helpful, please like subscribe and share. This episode is brought to you by mkg marketing or ETF accelerate submission cybersecurity vendors via SEO digital ads and analytics. Hosted by me Kerry guard CEO and co founder of odd marketing Music Mix Master done by us Nelson if you'd like to be a guest, please mkg marketing inc.com to apply

More Posts


Lessons from Willy's Chocolate Catastrophe: Navigating AI's Role in Art and Labor


Racing Towards AI Supremacy: Balancing Open Innovation with Ethical Responsibility

Show more

Alec Foster

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License.

Alec Foster

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License.