I decided to change my routine this morning and start my day at Starbucks. The double cappuccino was delicious. The new Starbucks/Google free Wi-Fi gave me pause.
The value proposition for the Wi-Fi is quite attractive: As free coffee shop internet connections proliferate, a faster, more reliable internet connection could help Starbucks differentiate its in-store experience, swaying coffee drinkers to switch from Tully’s or Peet’s, and to consume more Starbucks goodies while they surf.
My hesitation arose based on my level of trust for Google and other multinational corporations bent on world domination. That sounds harsh, but I say it to emphasize a point: As a consumer, I believe I have a duty to be vigilant about the personal information I share in exchange for “free” services, like the Wi-Fi at Starbucks. And I’m not saying I won’t ever trust Google or Starbucks, or that they’ve done something to harm me – they just haven’t yet earned my trust.
I connected to the service, but started thinking about permission marketing. Why is it that I’m willing to give my name, phone numbers, home address and email address, to REI? Why is it that I was happy when Amazon raised the price of my Prime membership from $79 to $99 a year? Why is it that I’m very concerned with Facebook’s new Terms of Service regarding GPS tracking and photo sharing?
But when Starbucks and Google won’t let me have something I need, to help ease my mind, a lahar warning starts ringing in my head.
As a consumer, my level of trust, and therefore the permission level I assign a company, is a complex mix of intellectual and emotional calculations. Do I feel the company’s price/value relationship is fair? Do they have my best interests at heart? Do they value their growth and profitability over their customers’ health and well-being? Are they transparent about policies that matter to me? And, if they’re asking me to potentially share a lot of information about myself, are they extra-transparent about the exchange?
As marketers, we are responsible for choreographing this dance – especially with regard to permissions – to ensure we make it easy for customers to extend us their trust and deepen their affection for our brand. One small glitch and we could compromise that invaluable and ephemeral asset.