The Great Trade-Off: Balancing Privacy and Trust in Marketing in the Digital Age

Privacy Week 2023 was held from 8 – 12 May with a focus on Privacy Rights in the Digital Age.

The Marketing Association supported the efforts of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner by holding a free webinar to discuss how best to balance privacy, consumer trust and marketing. More than 500 people signed up, confirming the growing interest in privacy within the marketing industry.


We asked 8 Marketing Association members from around the country to distil their key lessons from the webinar. 

  • Michael Durie
    Michael Durie,
    CEO, Durie Hill Associates
  • Cassandra Ong - Square
    Cassandra Ong,
    GM Marketing, Assurity Consulting
  • Tim Rosenbrook-1
    Tim Rosenbrook,
    Director, Gecko Marketing 
  • Gabby McLean

    Gabby McLean,
    Chief Strategist, Maven Loyalty

  • Javier-Yebenes
    Javier Yebenes,
    Marketing & BD Manager,
  • Hazel Rigler
    Hazel Rigler,
    Chief Commercial Officer, Motive Group
  • Alan Hard
    Alan Hard,
    CEO, Marketing Impact
  • Peter-Mangin
    Peter Mangin,
    Head of Technology, Wealthpoint

Lesson 1 - Privacy is the foundation of brand trust.

If you aim to build trust with your customers, you must take privacy seriously. This extends beyond simply relying on a Privacy Policy. It's about being authentic and maintaining a consistent dialogue with your customers about their privacy throughout their consumer journey.

Gabby agrees with Peter’s statement and points out that privacy is now a key pillar of brand trust and marketing teams need to be seen to be guardians of this trust relationship. Customers are more likely to trust brands that show that they respect their privacy and as Javier adds, privacy is not just about how you use customer’s data. Privacy is relevant from the moment you plan your strategy, to how you collect people’s data, the automation tools you use, who you share the data with, and how you protect it.

Lesson 2 - There’s real risk in collecting excessive data. 

Don’t collect more info than you need. It’s one of the 13 Privacy Principles and reiterated by the panel of privacy experts and practitioners. However, as Cassandra says, FOMO often drives organisations to collect excessive data. Whether it is collecting details for your database or asking people to fill out a lead generation form, the temptation is to ask for more information than we need and that’s something we, as marketers, need to address, agrees Tim.

Without stringent policies in place to govern the secure storage and appropriate retention periods for data, organisations put their reputation on the line. Recent high profile data loss incidents serve as cautionary tales and demonstrate the consequences of inadequate data protection measures, such as breaches, privacy violations, and severe damage to a company's image and customer trust. Which brings us to Lesson 3. 

Lesson 3 - Every company should implement data retention guidelines. 

More data doesn’t always mean a better understanding of your customer, Javier points out, and collecting data is useless if you do not have the tools to process it. Out-of-date or incomplete data often carry a tremendous cost to an organisation, and as Hazel adds, organisations should only keep data for the length of time they need it for the purpose they collected it for. 

Peter noticed that the panel highlighted data retention as a particularly challenging issue for New Zealand businesses, as many don't map the purpose of the data they collect. While retention policies are unique to each organisation, Peter argues that the most practical step towards defining these policies is to establish data classifications and handling frameworks. This groundwork will then enable the creation of a suitable retention framework.

Lesson 4 – Most privacy policies aren’t user friendly. 

Alan points out that privacy policies are typically way too complicated, filled with legal terms and irrelevant information that discourages customers from reading and understanding them. The panel kept coming back to the role of marketing as the customer champion who can help reinvent privacy communication to be simple to understand, easy to navigate and interspersed among all touchpoints in the customer journey.

Brands should consider using videos, engaging visuals, and concise Plain English language to convey complex privacy concepts in a more interesting and accessible way. As marketers, we need to help customers better understand their rights, the data practices in place, and the steps they can take to protect their privacy. This approach promotes transparency and empowers individuals to make informed decisions regarding their personal information. 

Lesson 5 - Consumers want greater control over the information companies hold on them. 

Another crucial insight from the webinar is that users and customers increasingly desire greater control over the information stored by the companies they interact with. A recent IAPP report revealed that a significant number of respondents would trust an organisation more if they, as customers, were able to interact with the data collected about them. This includes options to access, correct, delete, or restrict the use of their personal information.  

By enabling individuals to exercise these rights easily and efficiently, organisations can build trust, enhance customer satisfaction, and demonstrate their commitment to privacy says Cassandra. This could be done by implementing user-friendly tools and interfaces that allow individuals to manage their data preferences.  

Lesson 6 - Dark patterns are a growing concern. 

The prevalence of the use of Dark Patterns across many top New Zealand websites surprised most of the webinar attendees. Dark patterns are a type of design interface intended to trick consumers into divulging more data than needed. The negative implications for any organisation and marketer who may be tempted to go down this route are significant, including long-term brand trust damage and reduced engagement. 

In the absence of any New Zealand legislation, there was widespread agreement that the best interim approach would be to co-design some standards and/or best practices – a collaborative effort between Marketing and UX/UI teams.