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Let’s Talk About Consent and Empowerment in Marketing

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Let’s talk about consent.

It’s a critically important subject for marketers. How we get it, how long it’s valid for, and how we maintain it. Typically referred to as permission-based marketing, consent is needed to allow us to land in a user’s email or messaging inbox with marketing offers and announcements.

Because consent is a dynamic state of a relationship and not a static one, we must offer consumers easy avenues by which to provide or revoke that very thing. One-click email unsubscribes and STOP2END reminders at the end of SMS marketing texts stand as positive examples of that.

Unfortunately, despite rhetoric from myriad brands that they are customer-centric, it has become clear that permission-based marketing has become a game of obfuscation, confusion and misdirection, disempowering consumers from acting in their own best interest. In service of more leads, sales and conversions, permission has moved away from an act of agency and toward one of manipulation.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Marketers must do better. It’s time to make a choice: Either we mean what we say and we empower consumers, or we stop all this performative talk and keep on doing what we’re doing. But we can’t keep doing both.

In that spirit, we propose a new path forward: ethical permission-based marketing (EPBM). In the most user-friendly way possible, EPBM empowers users to define and control their relationship with a brand’s marketing communications.

The information hierarchy is skewed

Here is an example of permission-based marketing from GolfChannel.com:

Reading the article requires the consumer to make a choice: enable ads or don’t. And of course, the reader is not-so-subtly reminded that opting into this tracking is what allows the site to continue operations. (Why figure out a monetization strategy when you can just sell consumer data?)

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