Business Outlook 2003
"One of the biggest boons to direct marketing in the last 20 years has been the rise of database marketing," explains Jock Bickert, president of Looking Glass Inc., "And [database marketing] has been on a collision course with all the privacy concerns of the last five to six years."
According to Bickert, consumers are much more aware of how their information is being used, and while they're still willing to share it, they have come to expect more when they do.
"In the United States, we assume we have a right to market … and we do," offers Liz Kislik, president of consultancy Liz Kislik Associates LLC. "There's also a privilege, and taking that seriously means thinking about what customers want and expect. … The majority don't worry about data [protection] unless triggered by the annoyance of intrusion."
Consumer awareness seems to be at the heart of the direct marketing/privacy dilemma. Everyone remembers the negative experiences: calls during dinner, the deluge of spam, wildly inappropriate offers resulting from poor targeting and segmenting. As Bob Hacker, chairman of The Hacker Group, sums it up, "Right now, I can pick on any direct marketer and Martha Stewart and I'm safe."
It's an unwieldy chunk of cognitive dissonance: How has an industry that has thrived so long come to be seen as little more than a punch line for late-night talk show hosts?
"Part of the problem is that we also wear our consumer hats as individuals," offers Ruth P. Stevens, president of consultancy eMarketing Strategy and a marketing professor.
"I've got kids [in class] who are eager to learn about the availability of data. … They're just aghast. They say, 'Wow, this is great, I can get access to avid readers or people who are interested in motorcycles,'" explains Stevens. "Then they say, 'Oh no, wait a minute, now these guys know about me. And I just bought a toaster. I didn't realize I was giving up information to marketers.' They have a difficult time, just as we do, deciding whether they are outbound marketers or whether they are consumers with their own privacy."
- San Francisco