Adobe puts a face on data

New tool provides deeper detail on consumers, but is it creepy?

New tool provides deeper detail on consumers, but is it creepy?

Here’s a sneak peek at the May 2014 issue of Marketing

The heaps of consumer data marketers collect have historically been anonymous, painting a picture of, say, women 25-34 who live in Calgary, or hockey fans in St. John’s, rather than specific individuals.

Adobe is looking to change that with a new feature the company rolled out on March 25 at its annual summit in Salt Lake City, Utah. Called the Master Marketing Profile, the new tool puts a human face on consumer data—literally.

Take, as an example, Alison Parker, a 23-year-old Salt Lake native whose picture flashed across the screen during the summit’s opening keynote by Steve Hammond, Adobe’s senior director of marketing, cloud product management.

Though it’s a dummy account, Parker’s profile shows the type of details afforded to marketers via the tool, which goes way beyond the basics of name, age and location to provide stuff like average purchase order (Parker’s is $65.98), interests and email address (

By mining CRM systems and social networks, marketers can further detail every customer, adding interests, preferences and life details into the mix, giving them an understanding of every minute detail that could trigger a purchase decision.


The tool can segment customers into sections, as marketers have long done, like people who visited a brand site via a Facebook ad. What’s new is the potential to speak to consumers one on one, knowing all the kinds of details a best friend or family member would know.

“It lets you have a deeper connection with your customer, whether they’re anonymous or if they decide to share information with you,” says Hammond.

The key there is “decide.” To put a name on a profile, a customer needs to be authenticated and provide consent—via, usually, super-fine print—using a direct contact tool like email or an e-commerce profile. How and when to ask for permission, however, is up to the brand.

“Consent is really between the marketer and the consumer. It’s for them to decide at what point they provide an opt-in and an opt-out,” says Ray Pun, an analytics leader at Adobe and strategic marketing lead for its mobile solutions. To use the tool for one-to-one marketing, though, the marketer needs the consent. Without authentication the customer is just a number, not a well-detailed person.

Handling such detailed personal data with care is also up to the marketer, Pun says, acknowledging there’s “still a governance issue around data” and “someone needs to make sure data is protected, that people don’t hack into it.”

Pun admits there’s also a “potential creepiness factor” for brands that aren’t upfront about how they’re collecting and using the data stored in Adobe’s profiles. Consumers are already wary of data collection, and the level of detail the Master Marketing Profile collects on individual consumers pushes data collection closer to Big Brother levels.

The antidote to those concerns, Pun says, is transparency first and then value. “Consumers expect value: save them time, make things easy for them, save them money or delight them,” he says. “If you give them value, they’re willing to share their data with you. “If you’re not getting value, what’s the point?” he says. “That’s when it becomes creepy.”

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