Balancing consumer privacy and effective marketing


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.

Linda Woolley, CEO of the Direct Marketing Association

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:

  1. DMA Choice - an online tool that lets you opt-out of "junk mail." Visit for details.
  2. 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 with the DMA’s Linda Woolley conducted by Noreen Seebacher, community editor of at the recent Integrated Marketing Week conference in New York City.

Please comment here or at, and as always - thank you for following!


About Author

John Balla

Principal Marketing Strategist

Hi, I'm John Balla - I co-founded the SAS Customer Intelligence blog and served as Editor for five years. I held a number of marketing roles at SAS as Content Strategist, Industry Field Marketing and as Go-to-Marketing Lead for our Customer Intelligence Solutions. I like to find and share content and experiences that open doors, answer questions, and sometimes challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked. Outside of work I am an avid downhill snow skier, hiker and beach enthusiast. I stay busy with my family, volunteering for civic causes, keeping my garden green, striving for green living, expressing myself with puns, and making my own café con leche every morning. I’ve lived and worked on 3 contents and can communicate fluently in Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian and get by with passable English. Prior to SAS, my experience in marketing ranges from Fortune 100 companies to co-founding two start ups. I studied economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and got an MBA from Georgetown. Follow me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: 2013 marketing round up in five hot topics - Customer Analytics

Leave A Reply

Back to Top