People love talking about themselves. Many years ago, I had a client who mailed 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, bed-wetting, Crohn’s, emphysema, heart attack or angina, Parkinson’s, 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 may have sponsored one or more questions about rheumatoid arthritis and received 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 was a license for the sponsoring pharmaceutical company to hustle its drugs by mail to targeted patients. In addition, the nonsponsored 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 were rocketed around the country dozens of times a day and rented by marketers.
Can You Get Personal?
Newbie direct marketers and copywriters assume that if they can talk personally to a prospect by mail or e-mail about the individual’s problems, needs or wants, attention will be paid and action will be taken.
“As someone who likes camping” or “No longer do you need to suffer the pain of arthritis” may seem like good ledes. But in fact, they can spook a prospect—take the positive knowledge about a person and generate a highly negative reaction.