Have you noticed that consumer notices are suddenly sexy?
It may well be a reasonably inescapable conclusion given the amount of guidance marketers received at the end of 2007 and will continue to receive in 2008.
The fact is the Direct Marketing Association issued its Commitment to Consumer Choice program, with a new notice provision for each solicitation. Further, the Internet Advertising Bureau is working on its own best practices document for disclosures. Even the Federal Trade Commission held a town hall meeting on behavioral advertising, focusing much of the discussion on notice to consumers.
That’s an awful lot of attention for something that is sometimes relegated to the legal department. Marketers take heed, because these notices are the foundation to your ability to achieve a prosperous multichannel future!
Marketers would do well to be sure they have meaningful, multichannel-enabled notices for their firms and brands that provide greater transparency than ever before. And, make certain the notices capture all of the new businesses and partnerships that may have been struck since the last time notices received this much attention.
In my day job, far away from the hot spotlights of Washington, D.C., DMA and IAB, I see how marketers struggle with optimizing across new channels and media. How they seek advice on updating old policies that were developed in the late ‘90s when the word multichannel was not yet even a gleam in the eye of marketers. Many of their business models have evolved, and they need their policies to be brought up to date.
Adding to the “buzz” about notices is the fact that new entrants are coming to the remote commerce party. Brand advertisers are adopting multichannel strategies.
Whether these are marketers trying direct techniques, small start-ups leveraging the power of inexpensive and broad-reaching interactive channels, or, for that matter, new employees at “traditional” direct marketing organizations, the need for developing meaningful consumer notices is steadily growing.
Some things to remember:
• Make your notices easy to find, easy to read and easy to act upon.
• If you’re using targeted marketing techniques to drive traffic to a call center, or even mail order, don’t forget to include notice about your uses of data about consumers.
• Driving traffic to a Web site should include something like a www.mybrand.com/privacy link.
• More and more, mail-order forms are being reconsidered by marketers who are struggling with increasing postal and printing costs. But keep in mind that this real estate normally contains your notice. Make sure the baby is not inadvertently thrown out with the bath water.
• Most, but not all, organizations have privacy policies on their Web sites. If you don’t, by all means put one up ASAP. If you do have one, make sure it is up-to-date and legible by consumers. Post a privacy link at the bottom of each page and in your e-mail communications.
• If you’re collecting information on a Web form for lead generation or co-registration purposes, make sure that consumers see the choices you offer for allowing or limiting data use.
• Many marketers also are making their notices consistent with other high-level branding messages. Consider touting the environmental benefits of providing choice to consumers in your notice. Or, note the ability to keep your prices low by dint of your responsible use of data. This is a good opportunity for you to engage your customers with your brand at this critical touchpoint.
• Lastly, for those marketers that are struggling with privacy policies that may have been eclipsed by changes in business models, please know there are resources to assist you in making the necessary changes while providing your customers with the notice they need to make informed decisions. The DMA has a section of its Do-The-Right-Thing that explains this in great detail.
Remember, while the paparazzi glow on consumer notice may ebb and flow a bit over time, the reality is that consumer notices are the keys to unlocking and maximizing the responsible use of one of your organization’s most valuable assets: your customer data. Do not underestimate notices’ strategic value to your company, your brand, your customers and your ability to do business without government regulation.
Lou Mastria, CIPP, is chief privacy officer and vice president of public affairs at NextAction Corp., a Westminster, Colo.–based provider of cooperative data solutions for multichannel retailers. He can be reached at (908) 363-0983, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.