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DATA RAPE: The New Direct Marketing

Swimming With the Information Sewer Rats

Vol. 6, Issue No. 21 | November 2, 2010 By Denny Hatch
14
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IN THE NEWS

Data ...
L.R. email to D.H.

Hello Mr. Hatch,

I loved your article on guarantees. I’m a firm believer in REAL lifetime guarantees. I’m trying to locate some data for a client on the percentage of consumers who actually exercise their right to these real lifetime guarantees. It stands to reason that the lifetime value of the customer more than justifies such a CRM strategy; however, it would be helpful if I could find some data that supports this fact. Would you be able to direct me to data on the cost-benefit of lifetime warranties.

Also, it would be helpful to be able to find real data on the assumed “abuse” of REAL lifetime guarantees.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Best,
L.R.

Oct. 23, 2010

D.H. to L.R.

Why is everybody data-crazed these days—afraid to move or make a decision without data?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to your question.Cheapskates and premium bandits will screw you, no matter what your guarantee. Ladies and gentlemen will most likely forget about the guarantee.

If you have a crappy product that falls apart, you’ve got good reason to worry about your guarantee.

Otherwise, if you offer good stuff, good service and market to ladies and gentlemen, you should be OK.

OK?

Cheers.

"As political professionals, the more data we have, the happier we are," Indianapolis Republican consultant Kristen Luidhardt told The Wall Street Journal. "We'd love to know absolutely everything about you."

Au contraire, Kristen. When your communications are as intrusive as your data collection, you’re not only going to spook everybody and piss them off big time, but also trash your brand.

A case in point, Ms. Republican consultant, is the blizzard of robo-calls from floundering, desperate office-seekers—and their spouses and assorted pimps at all hours of the day and evening over the past three weeks—that have only crystallized my contempt for all politicians and all parties.

For the first time in 55 years, I may sit out today’s election. It doesn’t matter who wins any more. They’re all a bunch of four-flushers in my book.

A Personal Digression
Consumers love talking about themselves. Many years ago, I had a client that mailed out consumer surveys, which were happily filled out and returned by the zillions. All kinds of questions were asked: on toothpaste, leisure activities, travel, vehicle ownership, hobbies and interests, auto insurance, etc. Much of the information the responders revealed was highly confidential, especially in the area of health.

For example, one of the questions asked if anyone in the household had one or more of 26 ailments. Included in the list: arthritis, asthma, bedwetting, Crohn's disease, emphysema, heart attack or angina, Parkinson's disease, psoriasis, etc.

In addition to the list of ailments, individual health problems were given their own sections: diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and allergies, along with lists of medicines used.

Any of half a dozen arthritis drug manufacturers might sponsor one or more questions about Rheumatoid Arthritis and receive exclusive rights to responses, plus the name and address of the person who filled out the survey.

And because this was all voluntarily “self-reported” information, this is a license for the sponsoring pharmaceutical company to hustle its drugs by mail to targeted patients. In addition, the non-sponsored responses were up for grabs by marketers and the results found their way into vast databases made up of individual behavioral and demographic dossiers that are rocketed around the country dozens of times a day and rented by marketers.

I was a bit uncomfortable with this client. But he was dealing in data that consumers had volunteered. If Mrs. Pscuniack of Sioux City was dumb enough share the details of her behavior, lifestyle, habits and plumbing with a bunch of strangers running a computer, who was I to pass moral judgment?

Takeaways to Consider

  • "As political professionals, the more data we have, the happier we are. We'd love to know absolutely everything about you." —Kristen Luidhardt, Republican consultant, Indianapolis
  • When your communications are as intrusive as your data collection, you’re not only going to spook everybody and piss them off big time, but also trash your brand.
  • “If the individual has supplied the information about himself/herself, it can no longer be considered personal.” —Herschell Gordon Lewis
  • “You've got to dumb-down what you know.” —Ed McLean
  • In other words, you may have a great deal of personal and intimate data about your prospect, but that knowledge must operate behind the copy. You cannot reel off in-your-face information to a person that you got from an outside source. It is eerie. It is creepy. It is disrespectful.
  • “Let’s be realistic: It isn’t essential to know an individual’s real income and/or net worth. If someone subscribes to a financial publication, a photography magazine, a fashion magazine, a health publication, that positions the person as a prospect for certain types of related products.” —Rose Harper
  • Direct marketing has morphed into a business fueled by an insatiable lust for data predicated on the concept that institutionalized peeping Tom-ism is not only legitimate, but also trumps everything we’ve learned over the past 800 years.
  • The data rapists—the information sewer rats together with the spammers—are fouling the waters we all swim in.
  • “Nothing succeeds like excess.” —Oscar Wilde
  • To all the smartypants techie twits that never learned the discipline of direct marketing, know this: Data rape is not—and will never be—a viable alternative to testing.

 
14

COMMENTS

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Most Recent Comments:
Valerie Lambert - Posted on November 03, 2010
Speaking of PRIVACY ISSUES: Received 11/02/2010 by Google to all gmail users, regarding Google Buzz: "Google rarely contacts Gmail users via email, but we are making an exception to let you know that we've reached a settlement in a lawsuit regarding Google Buzz (http://buzz.google.com), a service we launched within Gmail in February of this year. Shortly after its launch, we heard from a number of people who were concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users and recently reached a settlement in this case. The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users' concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be. Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011. This email is a summary of the settlement, and more detailed information and instructions approved by the court, including instructions about how to opt out, object, or comment, are available at http://www.BuzzClassAction.com." -------------------------------This mandatory announcement was sent to all Gmail users in the United States as part of a legal settlement and was authorized by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Google Inc. | 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway | Mountain View, CA 94043

Peter Drew - Posted on November 03, 2010
Thanks to Lydia Sugarman for noting that Rapleaf offers a way to remove oneself from their database.

I went to Rapleaf.com and found the opt-out page. The Rapleaf folks are kind enough to note on that page that we can opt out of many advertising cookies by visiting the Network Advertising Initiative opt-out page: http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/opt_out.asp.

I visited the NAI opt-out page and discovered about 50 ad servers listed there. Conveniently, the page tells you which ad servers have placed cookies on your computer and provides a box to click to opt-out of them. I had 13 active cookies listed. I promptly opted out of them and will monitor the NAI opt-out page on a regular basis to keep these cookies off my computer.

Read the page thoroughly because you have to click submit and a "continue" link to make sure you opt out. I also noticed after hitting the "continue" link that the page refreshed showing me the cookies I removed, but it also detected additional cookies with the refresh.

Removing the cookies doesn't mean you won't continue receiving ads, but it should cut down on the amount you receive.

It was an interesting exercise that showed me how many companies are trying to get into my computer to get info on me. It is definitely kind of creepy. George Orwell wouldn't be surprised, I'm sure.

Thanks again to Lydia for sharing the info and thank you, Denny, for tackling the topic in your article.
Valerie Lambert - Posted on November 02, 2010
You totally skipped the father of all of this, leading the way: Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook!

Zuckerberg has publicly declared on various occasions that, pretty much, people aren’t interested in privacy anymore http://bit.ly/bJQXQ4 and he and his harvest and sell as MUCH and as OFTEN as they can…from 500 million users.

In fact, Facebook has told us that we don’t even own OUR data anymore, and most of the time, we just hand it over to them http://bit.ly/buFOXz

Television shows have gotten too lazy to write or create, so they make shows that offer to give various people their 15 minutes of fame (with a scripted twist here and there for ratings) and call them “reality” shows. Other fictional shows run with the disclaimers that the plots are “based on real events,” so nobody is surprised about – and few are resistant to – the concept that everyone’s personal news, data and information is very, very public.
S ROJAS - Posted on November 02, 2010
I am not voting today. After enduring all the public lying, bashing, and avoidance of issues by candidates, it's a shame anyone has to win.
R Turney - Posted on November 02, 2010
Back when we were paying large dollars to snail mail our offers, the saying was to mail less. I guess these people are trying to mail "smart", targeting relevant segments by getting people to reveal all sorts of personal information. With today's concern about protecting privacy, the data being gathered seems headed counter to this. Look at the info that gets posted to Facebook and Twitter (notice the word "twit" contained therein). I truly don't get it.

I hope you decide to vote. Imagine living where you can't? We just had a mayoral race here in Toronto where the candidates were pathetic. I voted anyway and will vote every chance I get.
Kevin Kotowski - Posted on November 02, 2010
There is a way around all this rabid data collection (which the late, great Chicago columnist Mike Royko first suggested years ago). Lie. When asked questions in an online survey - lie. Go to websites you have absolutely no interest in. Browse items on sites you have no intention in purchasing. Respond to phone polls by lying. It's amazing what my "data profile" now shows my interests are and frankly, it's kind of fun.
Lydia Sugarman - Posted on November 02, 2010
It should also be noted that Rapleaf offers a way on their site to remove yourself from their database.

However, when one considers that their technology has been integrated in other applications, e.g. Flowtown and MailChimp, you have to wonder if that one unsubscribe is adequate. Rapleaf's clients are major CPGs and other large corporations. When this kind of information is easily and affordably available to anyone via licensees, it becomes an even greater cause for concern.

Kevin Nielsen - Posted on November 02, 2010
On this Election Day, Denny, your spot-on comments give pause to consider a worse misuse of personal data in the hands of a type of marketer if you will, the Political Gerrymander.

Every 10 years Mr Gerry Mander (aka sewer rat) goes about his work largely behind the scenes, utilizing highly personal data to draw convoluted congressional districts that insulate and entrench incumbent politicians and parties.

Only a few of us get pissed off or feel intruded upon by our vote being made less meaningful and our union less perfect.

Marjorie Bicknell - Posted on November 02, 2010
Denny, so glad you decided to vote!

You are sooooo correct regarding all the point in this column.

Sucking up too much online information only reinforces the public's suspicion of direct marketing ... and using that information can really backfire. Who can forget the campaign - I believe it was for 1-800-FLOWERS - that sent reminders to credit cardholders that they had bought flowers for a specific special occaision and reminded them to do it again. Many a marriage was said to land on the rocks when a letter arrived asking a man to send flowers to a woman who was not his wife!
Apryl Parcher - Posted on November 02, 2010
Great article, Denny:

If the REST of the direct marketing world starts jumping on the bandwagon of calling me at all hours of the day/night with these damned recorded messages, I'll resign.

Yeah, right...

You know, it's funny...I sat in on numerous campaign meetings for the candidates in my district and offered straightforward marketing expertise to help them out--and they look at my as if I have 3 heads. Then they go out and irritate the crap out of their constituents with these ultra-annoying recorded calls. ARRGHHH!

I guess it's not called "silly season" for nothing--but man--this one has really trod on my last nerve...both as a marketer and as a human being.
Ross Perkins - Posted on November 02, 2010
Denny, really powerful article this week. I just wanted to note this is as much an issue in B2B as it is in B2C.

I know of a marketer that collected detailed data on imports from the Customs Service -- a literal "who's importing what." It is public data, but little-known.

The marketer made all this information available in a database for prospecting. Bone-headed subscribers would call up prospects, and say things like "I know that you imported 2,500 gear shafts from Germany last month," instead of a more general "we specialize in helping companies who import from Germany." Not surprisingly, these salespeople would creep out the people they were calling, often getting hang-ups, intense questioning about where they got the information, threats of lawsuits and more.

What's really interesting is that rather than questioning their approach, these subscribers would conclude the database "didn't work" and would not renew their subscriptions. Ultimately the publisher had to send instructions to its subscribers on how to use and not use the database for prospecting.

Lesson learned: data compilers shouldn't get too far in front of their customers. By presenting data that is too sophisticated or in any way sensitive, they risk customer confusion and/or unintended consequences.

Sue Canavan - Posted on November 02, 2010
Great article. And scary. Re politicians: All the data mining in the world isn't going to help those bottom feeders. What they can't get through their skulls is that a vote for them isn't a mandate.
Lee Kaplanian - Posted on November 02, 2010
Hi Denny,

A very good article because I too feel things are getting out of hand. It's bad enough to be called on the phone by politicians and their minions, but to add insult - it's a recording! How impersonal can you get!

However, if you sit this one out - you have no right to complain about anything. I have sent in my ballot and I'm not happy with the choices, but now I have fulfilled my responsibility and my privilege. And yes, I will most likely complain, but I did vote.

Keep writing, I enjoy your essays and appreciate what you have to say.

Lee Kaplanian
Max Bendel - Posted on November 02, 2010
Denny, please vote...

Max

DH Replies: Max: Thanx for writing. Yeah, I went to the polling place at 7:30 a.m. and, holding my nose, voted for a single mediocre candidate whose opponent was simply too awful to contemplate.

Click here to view archived comments...
Archived Comments:
Valerie Lambert - Posted on November 03, 2010
Speaking of PRIVACY ISSUES: Received 11/02/2010 by Google to all gmail users, regarding Google Buzz: "Google rarely contacts Gmail users via email, but we are making an exception to let you know that we've reached a settlement in a lawsuit regarding Google Buzz (http://buzz.google.com), a service we launched within Gmail in February of this year. Shortly after its launch, we heard from a number of people who were concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users and recently reached a settlement in this case. The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users' concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be. Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011. This email is a summary of the settlement, and more detailed information and instructions approved by the court, including instructions about how to opt out, object, or comment, are available at http://www.BuzzClassAction.com." -------------------------------This mandatory announcement was sent to all Gmail users in the United States as part of a legal settlement and was authorized by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Google Inc. | 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway | Mountain View, CA 94043

Peter Drew - Posted on November 03, 2010
Thanks to Lydia Sugarman for noting that Rapleaf offers a way to remove oneself from their database.

I went to Rapleaf.com and found the opt-out page. The Rapleaf folks are kind enough to note on that page that we can opt out of many advertising cookies by visiting the Network Advertising Initiative opt-out page: http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/opt_out.asp.

I visited the NAI opt-out page and discovered about 50 ad servers listed there. Conveniently, the page tells you which ad servers have placed cookies on your computer and provides a box to click to opt-out of them. I had 13 active cookies listed. I promptly opted out of them and will monitor the NAI opt-out page on a regular basis to keep these cookies off my computer.

Read the page thoroughly because you have to click submit and a "continue" link to make sure you opt out. I also noticed after hitting the "continue" link that the page refreshed showing me the cookies I removed, but it also detected additional cookies with the refresh.

Removing the cookies doesn't mean you won't continue receiving ads, but it should cut down on the amount you receive.

It was an interesting exercise that showed me how many companies are trying to get into my computer to get info on me. It is definitely kind of creepy. George Orwell wouldn't be surprised, I'm sure.

Thanks again to Lydia for sharing the info and thank you, Denny, for tackling the topic in your article.
Valerie Lambert - Posted on November 02, 2010
You totally skipped the father of all of this, leading the way: Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook!

Zuckerberg has publicly declared on various occasions that, pretty much, people aren’t interested in privacy anymore http://bit.ly/bJQXQ4 and he and his harvest and sell as MUCH and as OFTEN as they can…from 500 million users.

In fact, Facebook has told us that we don’t even own OUR data anymore, and most of the time, we just hand it over to them http://bit.ly/buFOXz

Television shows have gotten too lazy to write or create, so they make shows that offer to give various people their 15 minutes of fame (with a scripted twist here and there for ratings) and call them “reality” shows. Other fictional shows run with the disclaimers that the plots are “based on real events,” so nobody is surprised about – and few are resistant to – the concept that everyone’s personal news, data and information is very, very public.
S ROJAS - Posted on November 02, 2010
I am not voting today. After enduring all the public lying, bashing, and avoidance of issues by candidates, it's a shame anyone has to win.
R Turney - Posted on November 02, 2010
Back when we were paying large dollars to snail mail our offers, the saying was to mail less. I guess these people are trying to mail "smart", targeting relevant segments by getting people to reveal all sorts of personal information. With today's concern about protecting privacy, the data being gathered seems headed counter to this. Look at the info that gets posted to Facebook and Twitter (notice the word "twit" contained therein). I truly don't get it.

I hope you decide to vote. Imagine living where you can't? We just had a mayoral race here in Toronto where the candidates were pathetic. I voted anyway and will vote every chance I get.
Kevin Kotowski - Posted on November 02, 2010
There is a way around all this rabid data collection (which the late, great Chicago columnist Mike Royko first suggested years ago). Lie. When asked questions in an online survey - lie. Go to websites you have absolutely no interest in. Browse items on sites you have no intention in purchasing. Respond to phone polls by lying. It's amazing what my "data profile" now shows my interests are and frankly, it's kind of fun.
Lydia Sugarman - Posted on November 02, 2010
It should also be noted that Rapleaf offers a way on their site to remove yourself from their database.

However, when one considers that their technology has been integrated in other applications, e.g. Flowtown and MailChimp, you have to wonder if that one unsubscribe is adequate. Rapleaf's clients are major CPGs and other large corporations. When this kind of information is easily and affordably available to anyone via licensees, it becomes an even greater cause for concern.

Kevin Nielsen - Posted on November 02, 2010
On this Election Day, Denny, your spot-on comments give pause to consider a worse misuse of personal data in the hands of a type of marketer if you will, the Political Gerrymander.

Every 10 years Mr Gerry Mander (aka sewer rat) goes about his work largely behind the scenes, utilizing highly personal data to draw convoluted congressional districts that insulate and entrench incumbent politicians and parties.

Only a few of us get pissed off or feel intruded upon by our vote being made less meaningful and our union less perfect.

Marjorie Bicknell - Posted on November 02, 2010
Denny, so glad you decided to vote!

You are sooooo correct regarding all the point in this column.

Sucking up too much online information only reinforces the public's suspicion of direct marketing ... and using that information can really backfire. Who can forget the campaign - I believe it was for 1-800-FLOWERS - that sent reminders to credit cardholders that they had bought flowers for a specific special occaision and reminded them to do it again. Many a marriage was said to land on the rocks when a letter arrived asking a man to send flowers to a woman who was not his wife!
Apryl Parcher - Posted on November 02, 2010
Great article, Denny:

If the REST of the direct marketing world starts jumping on the bandwagon of calling me at all hours of the day/night with these damned recorded messages, I'll resign.

Yeah, right...

You know, it's funny...I sat in on numerous campaign meetings for the candidates in my district and offered straightforward marketing expertise to help them out--and they look at my as if I have 3 heads. Then they go out and irritate the crap out of their constituents with these ultra-annoying recorded calls. ARRGHHH!

I guess it's not called "silly season" for nothing--but man--this one has really trod on my last nerve...both as a marketer and as a human being.
Ross Perkins - Posted on November 02, 2010
Denny, really powerful article this week. I just wanted to note this is as much an issue in B2B as it is in B2C.

I know of a marketer that collected detailed data on imports from the Customs Service -- a literal "who's importing what." It is public data, but little-known.

The marketer made all this information available in a database for prospecting. Bone-headed subscribers would call up prospects, and say things like "I know that you imported 2,500 gear shafts from Germany last month," instead of a more general "we specialize in helping companies who import from Germany." Not surprisingly, these salespeople would creep out the people they were calling, often getting hang-ups, intense questioning about where they got the information, threats of lawsuits and more.

What's really interesting is that rather than questioning their approach, these subscribers would conclude the database "didn't work" and would not renew their subscriptions. Ultimately the publisher had to send instructions to its subscribers on how to use and not use the database for prospecting.

Lesson learned: data compilers shouldn't get too far in front of their customers. By presenting data that is too sophisticated or in any way sensitive, they risk customer confusion and/or unintended consequences.

Sue Canavan - Posted on November 02, 2010
Great article. And scary. Re politicians: All the data mining in the world isn't going to help those bottom feeders. What they can't get through their skulls is that a vote for them isn't a mandate.
Lee Kaplanian - Posted on November 02, 2010
Hi Denny,

A very good article because I too feel things are getting out of hand. It's bad enough to be called on the phone by politicians and their minions, but to add insult - it's a recording! How impersonal can you get!

However, if you sit this one out - you have no right to complain about anything. I have sent in my ballot and I'm not happy with the choices, but now I have fulfilled my responsibility and my privilege. And yes, I will most likely complain, but I did vote.

Keep writing, I enjoy your essays and appreciate what you have to say.

Lee Kaplanian
Max Bendel - Posted on November 02, 2010
Denny, please vote...

Max

DH Replies: Max: Thanx for writing. Yeah, I went to the polling place at 7:30 a.m. and, holding my nose, voted for a single mediocre candidate whose opponent was simply too awful to contemplate.