Famous Last Words: The Disturbing Blunders of Data
How to Identify an Old-Time Direct Marketer
I once shared a client with Washington State consultant Robert Coates. At one point he said to me, "I'll bet I could tell if you are true direct marketer."
"Okay," I replied. "How?"
"If I handed you a printed database of consumer names and addresses, I'll bet you would stop what you were doing and start reading the list."
I thought for a moment and said, "Yeah, that's what I do. I can't help it."
To me, something magical exists in a list—people I've never met whom I can contact and possibly change their lives for the better.
This thinking can then stretch into the direct mail package itself. Here's how freelancer Malcolm Decker writes a sales letter:
I develop as clear a profile of my prospect as the available research offers and then try to match it up with someone I know and "put him in a chair" across from me. Then I write to him more or less conversationally.
My Opinion ...
Every name in a database—consumer or in the business arena—is a real living person. I am an intruder in the privacy of their homes or offices. This is an honor, a sacred trust and a responsibility. Yes, I can change that person's life for the better. I can make an offer that is accepted, rejected or ignored, which is okay.
However, I can also hurt that person, just as the data goons at Office-Max did to the Seay family. That is not okay.
People as Commodities
The Big Data mongers are in charge. They're in the business of manipulating bits and bytes of electricity. The human element is gone. Get with it, old geezer.
The Direct Marketing Association has come up the catchphrase "Data-Driven Marketing." The mantra: Let's grab all the data we can, sell it and get rich. If leaks occur, it goes with the territory. I disagree. Direct marketing is intimate advertising, Stan Rapp said years ago.