Data Privacy, Anthropological Data, and Cognitive Load in Social Media

Social media has evolved into a complex advertising machine that we, along with our consumers, are still learning to use. Conversations around data privacy, transparency, and our brain’s ability to absorb so much content have been swirling in recent years, pushing advertisers to rethink their social media strategies. Traditionally, big data was at the forefront of the social media strategy, but as data privacy becomes a top concern for consumers, B2B marketers must begin studying anthropological data and cognitive load to create a social experience that can resonate with their audience and provide a successful brand recall in a short period of time. We’ve seen data privacy, anthropological data and cognitive load leading the conversations around social media marketing in the United States.

Data Privacy

Data privacy has become daily news in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, 64% of Americans have personally been affected by a major data breach. And while many countries have taken steps to protect data, studies show roughly half of Americans do not trust the federal government or major social media platforms to do so.

Dwindling trust for platforms, such as Facebook, brings major updates to not only the platform but to the law. Users want to know why they are being targeted for ads, where their data is going and who has it; giving them the ability to hide ads, change settings and shield themselves as much as possible from advertisers and data breaches. For agencies, that means being responsible and open about the way personal data is used in creating target audiences.

A multitude of American businesses and agencies have had to adjust communication strategies to include transparency as best practice. But when incorporating compliance with the demand for data privacy comes with the realization that consumers may flip the switch on the ability to target them, asking “why would I want to jeopardize my client’s performance over this?” is a fair question. However, on platforms where the value proposition is easily connecting with consumers, the need to exceed expectations is higher than many may imagine.

Here are some tactics to consider utilizing to establish transparency across communication strategy:

  • Incorporate transparency into business strategy, not just marketing strategies.
  • Use social listening to understand what your target audience is talking about – it’s not just your brand.
  • Position transparency at the core of the business strategy.

Anthropological Data

“Advertising works better when it does not tell people what to think, but rather allows them to make up their own minds about its meaning. They participate by figuring it out for themselves.” – Jon Steel, 1998

There’s no denying that quantitative data is an essential component to advertising today, but has it, limited advertisers, from holistically understanding the consumer experience? Changes in marketing and advertising are calling for more a consumer-centric approach rather than a quantitative data approach, which is the perfect space for anthropological data to come in. Anthropological data is used to help develop and shape a voice and image of how consumers use brands in their lives, providing a multi-level understanding for how consumers reach a satisfaction from the brands and products they use.

New approaches in marketing and advertising focus on adding value to consumer’s lives while establishing ongoing conversations and extended relationships over one-way interactions. Brands are seeing success when they include consumers in a mutual relationship rather than pushing a product on them, perhaps explaining the growing success of influencer marketing. Consumers want to feel represented in marketing efforts, and that representation is contingent on a firm understanding of who they are, which cannot come from quantitative data.

Naturally, this practice creates an emphasis on not only understanding the consumer but building relationships with them. This forces businesses to be more transparent with their advertising and product quality. In recent years, we’ve seen transparency within a business become an expectation from consumers shaping their behaviour towards product selection. Anthropologists have the ability to provide a holistic perspective and meaning behind the consumer behaviour that is often overlooked by traditional marketing practices.

So, why does this matter? Utilizing anthropological data while developing target audiences will not only surface more compelling research of the consumers’ lives but will also help establish strong relationships between businesses and their consumers, bringing the consumer experience full-circle.

Cognitive Load

Across the industry, we pride ourselves on our creative ability. It’s not simple to work, and advertisers don’t want it to be. But, data is showing us that many of the ads we love the most have a very low brand recall. Because of this, creatives are faced with a tough question: how well is my work performing in the real world? The fact is, creativity is not the same for everyone, and research has shown ads with low cognitive load generate the highest levels of brand recall.

HeyHuman’s neuroscience team conducted a study using brain monitoring techniques to evaluate six of the most valued ads in recent times. The ads were Apple’s “1994”, “Unlock” and “Welcome home”; Sony Bravia’s “Balls” and “Paint” and PlayStation’s “Double life”.

Their analysis showed that 50% of the twenty participants claimed to have seen Sony Bravia’s “Balls” advertisement before, but only 9% were able to correctly recall the brand. In comparison, it was found only 14% of participants had seen “Double life” by PlayStation before, but 33% of those were able to correctly recall that PlayStation was the brand associated with it. It’s important to note “Double life” had the lowest cognitive load and “Balls” had the highest. Ads that provide a simple, thoughtful message will outperform others in terms of brand recall.

While we recognize engagement and motivation as important performance indicators, cognitive load gives brands the power to measure how accurately the message is aligned with the creative. Understanding what occurs in the human brain is a huge opportunity for brands. For example, it was also found that Facebook is more cognitively draining than Instagram, thus content should differ entirely between Facebook and other platforms. Paying close attention to these human patterns is how we can develop more engaging and successful content for consumers.


This article was written by:

Abbie Chmelka Headshot

Abbie Chmelka,
Social Media Coordinator,
Bader Rutter

Karina Laufenberg Headshot

Karina Laufenberg,
Marketing Coordinator,
Meissner Tierney Fisher & Nichols S.C.


Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

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