Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Should brands help the government by handing over their customer data?

Marketing Society Forum
Marketing Society Forum

Should brands help the government by handing over their customer data?

Whitehall officials are in talks with brands as a possible precursor to the abolition of the national census and the use of loyalty cards and other customer records to gather information instead.

NO - Janet Smith, Clubcard director, Tesco

One of the key reasons our customers trust and use Clubcard is because they know Tesco would never compromise on the promise we make - that all their personal details will be kept safe and confidential, and never given to organisations outside Tesco. There's no wriggle room here, we just don't break that promise. To do so would be to jeopardise our customers' trust, and the Clubcard's future success.

In any case, I'm not sure the data would be of much use to the government in terms of replacing personal census data. Clubcard data is compiled with a view to analysing consumer trends to help us improve the service and products we provide.

Our data is really just a list of products bought when using a Clubcard and the location of the transaction, along with the name and address the Clubcard is linked to. It does not include specific data on the number, ages or occupations of family members living at the address, and is therefore unlikely to be a substitute for personal census data.

YES - Alex Batchelor, Chief operating officer, Brainjuicer

The census is one of the best-known and longest-running data-collection exercises. It is even in the Bible. They are important because governments need to know how many people live in the area that they govern - and their age, sex and location. The data is used to help provide houses, schools, roads and hospitals.

Part of our social contract with the state is a system of taxation that allows us to share in the benefits and costs of things provided for the common good - and it requires societies and governments to balance the competing needs if they are to prosper.

Companies are an increasingly important part of these societies and many have turnovers that exceed the gross domestic product of all but the biggest countries' economies.

I am confident that a better and more efficient allocation of resources would be possible if government and companies shared their data to this end. I doubt, though, that the level of trust that is needed between governments, the public and companies exists.

NO - Colin Bradshaw, Managing director, Rapp Data

It's an interesting idea, but one that may not have been fully thought through. How much and what sort of data? Where do you draw the line? Address verification, purchase history, bank balance, energy consumption, browser habits? What does the government want with all this additional data? Where would it stop?

There are other areas of concern, too, most notably, privacy. With Facebook and Twitter, we choose to share this information. When you transact with a company, though, you expect it to be a private matter. You do not sign up for the sharing of your activities and interests with the government. There are also factors around data sharing - specifically on costs and formats, not to mention possible brand implications and public perceptions.

When in opposition, the Conservatives described plans for the national census as 'increasingly invasive and intrusive ... and will erode public support'. It's a criticism that could come back to haunt the Tories if this particular idea comes to fruition.

NO - Andrew Ground, Former chief commercial officer, LoveFilm

Brands must help the state in some instances (for example, with criminal investigations), but saving money with the census is not one of them. I don't think collaborating with brand databases will cut anything from the £500m cost of the census.

The census attempts to count every single person in the UK. This is fundamentally different from the brands, which mostly collect data on households - not individuals.

To reduce the costs involved, the government needs to get more first-time response to the census. It must convince people their replies will not be used by government enforcement agencies. 'Big brother' exercises with brands would be exactly the wrong way to encourage people to respond promptly and honestly.

There may well be ways the government could work with brands' data to help drive innovation and competition, but that is another story.

- For more discussion, visit marketingmagazine.co.uk

The Marketing Society is the most influential network of senior marketers dedicated to inspiring bolder marketing leadership. www.marketing-society.org.uk


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer
Mumsnet admits users' emails and passwords accessed via Heartbleed bug