When it comes to online customer data, marketers today have to balance a fine line between consumer privacy and effective marketing. The problem is that it’s quite easy for marketing to be intrusive, annoying and even creepy, so there is a risk that the abusers in our industry may prompt legislation that shuts it all down. This is a concern for Linda Woolley, CEO of the Direct Marketing Association, and it should be a concern for all marketers.
Woolley points out that data-driven marketing is “the secret sauce” to how marketing today can be so customer-centric, and part of being customer oriented is respecting their privacy needs as well. The DMA already has a few products available to help:
- DMA Choice - an online tool that lets you opt-out of "junk mail." Visit www.dmachoice.org for details.
- Online Ad Opt-outs - These work to prevent your data being collected and tracked by behaviorally-targeted ads. Look for the "little blue icon" in the corner of ads to participate.
Those tools are available today, yet privacy advocates are pressing for legislation to restrict the collection and use of online data. This development should be a big concern for all marketers, because according to Wooley, doing that would risk setting back marketing “not years or even decades, but more like 100 years.” I think her concerns are well-founded, but they may even be understated because the impact would extend far beyond marketing. Considering how much business is conducted online in general nowadays, such legislation could impact the whole enterprise and be felt at a macroeconomic level.
A good example of well-intended laws with some negative implications are HIPAA regulations enacted over a decade ago to safeguard individuals' health care information, which now make the quest more difficult for health and life sciences companies' to become more customer-centered in how they run their organizations.
For better insights directly from the source, watch this two-minute interview on AllAnalytics.com with the DMA’s Linda Woolley conducted by Noreen Seebacher, community editor of AllAnalytics.com at the recent Integrated Marketing Week conference in New York City.
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