Marketing Databases: If You Want to Know, Just Ask
Most of the folks I know who looked up what Axiom "has on them" were either amused or angry that there was little to no similarity between the data and real life. The data said you lived here, when you really live there. It said you liked flower arranging, dining out and badminton when you really are into "Medal of Honor," horror films and Texas A&M football. It said you graduated with an advanced degree, when you really dropped out of high school in the 11th grade to become a roadie for Crosby Stills, Nash & Young.
Conspiracy theorists said this was a ploy to get users to correct any inaccurate information (which was substantial) so that what Acxiom has to sell becomes more valuable. Others said that not seeing ALL of the data in their profiles gave users a false impression of just how much more vast and robust the individual profiles really are. Acxiom said it was providing "transparency" into part of its data collection, something that could help forestall required legislation of all data collectors.
So the underlying question in all this is, in whose best interest is it to correct Acxiom's data? I tend to think mine. While there will be those who howl that just the mere fact the company collects online user data is somehow a breach of my right to "privacy" (something not covered in the Constitution or Bill of Rights, if I correctly recall my 8th grade civics) in the real world full of security cameras and a multibillion-dollar market in offline and online collected data (not to mention the NSA), there is no privacy anymore.
Why wouldn't I want marketers to have correct information about me? I suppose that depends on the nature of the data. Before Obamacare, did I want my insurance company to know I had a pre-existing condition because some data company sold it to them? Nope. Or that one of my kids got arrested when he was 18 for something really stupid? Nope. But if the information is essentially nonpersonal and can't be tracked back to me individually, then who cares?
I have long argued that marketers don't really want your home address, blood type or figure prints. They don't sell on those criteria. They sell on the broad strokes of demographic and psychographic generalizations like male, 18- to 34 years old, owns a home, has two kids, rents cars, travel three times year overseas, invests in stocks, plays golf. If the data is reduced down to more finite terms like, plays left-handed, has a 12 handicap, buys only Wilson golf balls, wears green knit golf shirts most days and is a lousy caddy tipper, then the pool of folks to market to narrows to impossibly small segments that are inefficient to reach.
I don't mind giving marketers accurate information about my brand preferences and consuming habits. Hell, I spend a half hour filling out those JD Power auto questionnaires (although I appreciate the two bucks). Perhaps my feedback will get Toyota to put rear window wipes on their sedans, or stop Jeep from thinking two-toned interiors are hip.
I am willing to tell them when I am in market for a big purchase, because that is when I want all the information I can get before I buy. I want options. I want details. More importantly, with accurate information about me, perhaps they will stop showing me ads that drive me nuts and are not for products I would ever want (such as EVERYTHING advertised on the network news, and almost everything promoted during live sports, especially beer and fast food.) Direct mail is just as bad. Hey, I took one cruise, which doesn't mean I will take another again any time in the next decade.
Better yet, make me an offer. Give me $50 for spending time online answering 200 questions you want to know about me. Now that is a win-win.