Using Customer Data For Your Marketing? Better have Trust First.

“I don’t like this,” my wife said as she tensely slid the mailer over to me. A local car dealer had sent a “For Sale” sign that displayed her name and vehicle: make

Is marketing too invasive?

Is marketing getting too invasive?

model and year. They claimed to be looking for that model of car to purchase, as there is a demand for it.

However, it was from a car dealer that we have never used, never visited, and have never purchased that kind of car. It was from a Kia dealer wanting to purchase our Honda.

Being in the marketing data business, I know that it is not difficult to produce this type of marketing. It is targeted, personalized – somewhat relevant, but for many consumers, this is getting too close to an outright invasion of privacy.

Direct Data Marketing

Even though this information is public record, digitalization has made public records accessible as a bulk commodity, which is something I am sure that those who created the system did not intend. Regardless, companies can now access tens of thousands or millions of consumer records based on purchases, credit scores, demographics, zip codes – you name it.

Even though the company may have no ill intent and have no idea who will receive their marketing material, it’s a blank to be filled in by a third party data service. And that is the problem. 

By using personally identifiable consumer data in marketing, without a previously established relationship, you are breaking the bounds of a trust-based relationship. One would assume that a trusted relationship would result in keeping personal information, well, personal. But when there is no relationship, and personal information is used as a targeting tactic, it can come across as crass, or even invasive. You can be too close for comfort to the consumer, especially when they have never done business with you or even know about you.

Trust is established when there is a mutual agreement.

When the agreement has been acted upon and both parties have delivered, there is now a working relationship. Both have shown good faith and will most likely do business together again. For example, we have purchased our last four cars from the same dealership – why would we change based on a mailer asking us to sell our Honda to someone other than our dealer?

To quote a line from one of my favorite movies, Jurassic Park, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” This fits modern day data marketing perfectly. Just because the technology is there does not mean that you should take advantage of it and use it. It needs to be considered in the light of the consumer’s perspective – not the benefit of the marketing company.

Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Does the customer know you?
  2. Do you have a previously established relationship?
  3. Has the customer expressed a desire to receive relevant information?
  4. Has the customer expressly shared their information with you?
  5. Will the customer expect that you know the information you will use?

If you answered “no” to these questions, then you have not established trust. Do not embark on this wonderful new marketing data venture, rife with possibilities – unless you want to alienate an audience by “creeping them out.”

It’s not that marketing should not be done. Marketing is a part of this economic system. Companies have every right to persuade you to use their business or products. Consumers expect marketing and advertising. However, when you use personally identifying information AS IF there is an already established relationship, it may be taken as invasive marketing.

Using data is a responsibility – not a right.

Crossing the line of creepiness is a decision that every company will have to make as they work in this world of personalization. In pushing the potential of using personal data in marketing, the question needs to be asked, “should we?” just as much as “can we?”