Marketing is (also) policing!

The central idea of ​​this article comes from the discussions of a recent workshop on the phenomenon of platformization. It comes from our colleague from the University of Paris Nanterre Christophe Benavent and gave rise to a few shuttles between Nantes and Nanterre presented below.

Security and populations

The major idea – and which may seem excessive, certainly – is that the credibility of marketing as a subjectifying force now rests – and more and more – on its capacity to police! Indeed, marketing has a clear interest in ensuring the safety of people and goods related to its marketing process in order to maintain a certain type of public order by enforcing not the law in the strict sense but its law.

This was already the case at the margin in shopping centers, it has become central in the world of platforms for the simple reason that the quality of service depends on the actions of users. This is particularly evident in the new policies of moderation and control undertaken by social platforms . This policy is as much the internal regulations that they develop as the means of applying it to populations of thousands, millions or even billions (!) Of individuals.

Marketing is (also) the police

Marketing has always had to reassure the prospect – carefree bill on foot that ignores itself – in order to be able to transform him into a customer! A long time ago, it was a question of transforming this beautiful test – from prospect to customer – by then trying to pass it between the posts, that is to say from a one-shot customer to a loyal customer . The idea was to exploit the total value of its life cycle (LifeTimeValue). The beast – and expensive – customer seduced by the atmosphere of one evening (transactional marketing) has thus become the one – more profitable – retained by the flagship store ( relationship marketing ) and its cards – necessarily magical – through a lifetime entirely dedicated to the brand (experiential marketing).

Everything is based on the ability of the supplier to police the customer to let him fully benefit, to him (inclusion) and to him alone (exclusion) of the chance he has to live a full and complete experience with the customer. product or service, such a wonderful and unique experience that it will be the one of his life and the basis of his attachment to the brand . The marketer must equip himself with a panoply of police officers to guarantee him the exclusivity of his own brand throughout its existence (that of the customer, not that of the brand!) And throughout its entire territory. geographic and / or digital. It will therefore also be a question of ensuring the border police (PAF) , its role being precisely to guard them.

To do this, in a traditional and romantic but completely innovative approach of the Au Bonheur des Dames type, he must first be invited to come and shop. That is to say, the seller must be able to reassure him by ensuring the safety of the place, the premises and their surroundings. Previously, they were gatekeepers, nowadays they are porticoes. The idea remains the same, these security guards – physiognomists and / or cameras – have the main function of showing customers how seriously their safety is taken and that it is the watchword of the owner of the premises. They also have the function of composing, sorting and filtering the audience which is an integral and essential part of the experience .

The second step, the most delicate after a more or less skilfully highlighted product has been chosen , is to accompany the hand to the wallet. Then, as there is (often) far from the cut to the lips, it will be a question of footing the bill. How on earth can the intention to buy be transformed into an act of purchase? It will reassure the payer and ensure the police of the payment and the security of the transaction. It is the price of trust, a kind of debt or tax.

Consequently, the cash must gradually disappear, for the checks the mass is said, and to leave the place to the electronic payment. For example, it is a question of imposing the bank card (with or without contact) and many accounts (Nickel ) or payment-oriented applications (PayPal, Android Pay , Lydia…) making the dreaded moment painless, fast and tasteless. payment…

The security forces of digital marketing

Since marketing is no longer their sole responsibility, but that of the platforms (GAFA, NATU and other unicorns) , what is left for marketers? Concretely, their job is above all to police their own market to reassure future clients against fakes, frauds, scams, cheating inherent in digital transactions perceived as disembodied and circumventable.

Of course, digital is a game-changer. However, as security via the blockchain – itself emanating from the Bitcoin cryptocurrency – is not yet neither fully operational nor completely immutable , the trusted third party remains essential. Its mission is to reassure the customer on the effectiveness of the transaction (payment, delivery, sav, etc.) then on the conformity of the product or service with the specifications posted by the seller.

The marketer has de facto become the trusted third party that the market demands. It is therefore up to him – especially when he intervenes by and for a brand – to ensure the policy which will accompany the customer during his passage from the intention to his act of purchase and which will densify his consumption experience.

Note that in the platform models what gives confidence is that the platform mediates the payment, it releases the transaction once it has been carried out without incident, potentially suspending the payment in the event of an incident. They ensure monitoring by trace, by notes and opinions, and now take the responsibility of moderation to temper the communities and sometimes guide them. The trusted third party is first and foremost a security third party.

From cognitive bias to confirmation bias

But the task is much larger when, in these models, the production is ensured by the crowd, whether professional or amateur. The trolls and other haters have become de facto the main enemies in spoiling the atmosphere forums and social networks. They can destroy good sellers reputation, decrease the overall attractiveness, destabilize the browsing experience, sow doubt and mistrust and install an against-productive culture of hatred as the famous one of Time Magazine .

It is therefore a matter of police … identifying them and possibly neutralizing them. But it is not only the trolls who represent voluntary opposing forces, sometimes criminal, often unconscious and arising from cognitive biases that contribute to our judgments. We are talking here about confirmation biases that contribute to polarization and conflict in social networks and collaborative platforms. In practice, the temptation is great to correct them with nudges  ! The communicating marketer – like the intermediation work of community managers – will thus exercise a kind of traffic police aiming to secure the flow of information.

Here we find the classic dilemma of a police constantly oscillating between repression (sanction) in the face of trolls and incitement (education) via nudges.

A police force mounted on algorithms

In an environment where the customer is over-informed (on the product and its ecosystem) and the salesperson is over-trained (on the attitude of customers and their strategies), finally, the main innovation that marketing can bring to its prospects during marketing is the police.

The plateformisation tends to make it simpler, faster and less expensive, the linking of the offeror and the applicant through coordination more efficient and instant. It is part of an economy of diversity, volume and immediacy. Safety devices need to be up and running in a fraction of a second and on a massive scale.

However, in the continuity of the logic of security, these same algorithmic devices will be able to pass to the logic of incentive – this is the case of Uber “having more drivers on the road” – then to the logic of sanction and repression. Already the “best practices” of security on the web have left the recommendation section to gradually impose themselves (banks, insurance …)

This opens up a huge field for an algorithmic police force that would track down counterfeits, illegal copies, insults and offenses, discrimination, disinformation, fake news , denigration in the ever-increasing volume of opinions, shares and conversations.

It is not surprising that these techniques are put to good use. This is mainly the case of new generations of machine learning , which in the continuity of the problems of risk scoring or credit scoring , endeavor to learn, to identify categories, to predict values.

Beyond marketing, what font for datacracy?

These techniques can be based on:

  • very large volumes of data (big data) to calculate and update the hundreds of thousands of parameters of their models;
  • powerful and fluid networks;
  • strong calculation skills.

This algorithmic font can thus browse the web in search of musical signatures, identify hateful content, sort spam, classify emails, send alerts, recognize faces, trace routes, identify fraudulent connections, identify questionable profiles, etc. One day, it will be able to browse the web and predict – like the PredPol system ) – inappropriate behavior according to the formula that has become customary!

All of these models, because the platforms mobilize hundreds or even thousands of them, must necessarily be urbanized… civilized! In order for the crowds to show civility, the platforms will have to show urbanity. Consequently, the role of the police would become that of ensuring the coexistence of these two aspects of social life.

This coupling between civilized crowds and urbanized platforms highlights two questions. The first is that of the genesis and constitution of the rules that the police must enforce: can we accept a policy for which we have not voted on the rules? It is for example the problem of the legitimacy of a private police force. The second question is that of the control of these algorithms and by the same of their governmentality.whose intelligence is perhaps limited but whose deployment is massive. It is therefore the question of their governmentality. What transparency? What respect for private life? What respect for free will? What externalities and what inevitable co-lateral damage? In other words, beyond the perimeter of marketing and marketers, what kind of policy in the face of datacracy …

This article was originally posted on Marketing is (also) policing!

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