Database and Privacy ...
an Oxymoron for Direct Marketing
It's very interesting that we in Direct Marketing are incredibly concerned about privacy. At this time in our "life".
And we should be. With all of the data we now have available to us, it is not unlikely that some of it will be used in a manner which really dives into personal privacy.
This has particularly acute consequences in the consumer market arena. And we have been hearing about it. The DMA has been talking about it. And all the magazines have been writing about it. For at least the last 12 to 18 months. (Although, in all honesty, we have been considering it for at least a decade!)
What has hit me, I admit rather recently, is that database marketing is what is causing the invasion of privacy. At the 1992 DMA Annual Convention in Dallas there was a considerable amount of discussion about the importance of database marketing. And, being able to zero in and talk to only our best prospects and customers. A lot of rhetoric was put forward on exactly how to do it.
All the cost advantages of doing it were outlined. (And all the cost of getting prepared to do it were also detailed in some manner or another)
So, it appears that the more sophisticated we get with database marketing the more likely we are to have a personal invasion of privacy.
For a long time this whole privacy issue didn't bother me. In fact I thought it was really over blown. In fact I still think it's very much overblown. I don't doubt that there are those who do feel that their privacy has been invaded. If they feel that way, then it has been. PERIOD!
It really is as simple as that. Somebody feels that someone else or some organization is doing something that is a personal invasion of their own ... then we in fact have done it. It's not whether we think we have ... it's what the customer thinks. That is the only thing that is important.
But is also an oxymoron. Because database concept is to allow us to talk specifically only those people who are most likely to be prospects or customers for our product or service.
Database allows us, because of the personal data, to talk to those people who are most likely to respond. And at the very same time not to talk to those who are not likely to respond.
Is this personal? Is it an invasion of privacy?
Personally, I don't think there is any problem with talking "personally" to our prospects or our customers. I do understand the "privacy" part. Personal to me is not private. Personal is how old you are, the fact that you have a dog, the fact you're married with two children, the fact that you drive a Plymouth van, and other such things. Private is how much money you make.
As the entire database marketing concept develops, as telemarketing gets more refined, as interactive television reaches out in a more specific and personal way, as direct mail targets the audience more directly, it is very likely the opportunity for an invasion of privacy will take place. In fact, it's would be very surprising if it didn't happen. And, somebody will take advantage of it.
Those of us who like to be straight and up right in Direct Marketing need to understand the difference between privacy and personal. We need to understand as we develop our computer capabilities with database marketing, what it really means. The whole concept of Customer Relationship Marketing (which is another phrase we like and use a good bit in this DM business), may be being too private.
I guess I really don't know. I guess I really haven't got it all sorted out. But since it hit me ... I figured it might have hit you, too. That computers and database marketing is the way to go. There's absolutely no doubt about it. It is going to happen.
It has also hit me that if we don't use it right, we're going to put ourselves out of business. Because personal is okay ... private most likely is not. Personalization is okay, privacy is just that -- privacy for the individual.