BA's decision to align its advertising and CRM accounts under BBH, in a new partnership with 7 Seconds, is a shrewd move and is almost certainly something we're going to see more of.
For years experts have been talking about "customer hubs" through which all parts of a business have a single view of the same customer. Talk, though, has led to very little action.
How often have
you been asked to sign up to a service you're already subscribed to, or find one part of a large company has your new address while another keeps writing to the old apartment? My wife's bank still has
her down as single for her savings account and married for current account, despite a flurry of letters, and we both regularly get calls from insurers to cover our house, even though they don't offer
insurance for our old style of property but haven't made a note of the previous five times they've tried.
One of my favourites is the spammy O2 adverts you just can't get away from when checking a Yahoo email account. The point is -- I'm already a customer and I'm logged in to the account they've just sent this month's bill to, yet still they're telling me I should switch to them?
I'm happy to be upsold, but please stop pestering me with massive adverts that just make you look like your acquisition arm has no idea what your CRM division is up to. Although we both know that is actually the case. Instead of "join us" creative, have you not got copy that could tell me about putting the whole family's array of devices on one network, under one insurance scheme?
So anything that aligns advertising to new customers or broadens the engagement with existing customers with CRM systems that understand the depth of current engagement and opportunities for a deeper relationship has to be a positive step.
You just never know -- it might also lead to brands and their representatives ending that ridiculous process of fobbing off requests by saying it's against "data protection" for them to look at records for you stored by another part of the organisation. Just as health and safety is the last resort of the naysayer, the data protection excuse is the preserve of organisations that have siloed your information over the years and now have no way of aggregating it, so don't even try.
Whenever I'm asked for advice, I always say companies of whatever size should think like a start-up and use cloud-based service wherever they can and orient advertising and marketing around CRM. Clever start-ups know which books you've read or which wines you've ordered, they can often tell you what your friends are enjoying too, and they can make recommendations because their knowledge isn't scattered around legacy systems they don't know how to probe in a uniform manner.
So BA's move, which it claims to be a first, is an encouraging step that should lead to some clever uses of data. Just what these are will remain to be seen -- but one can imagine some interesting scenarios when customers, particularly members of its flying club, start researching flights and holidays online.
If they want a suggestion from me, though, they could start off with the very simple step of not penalising American Express BA cardholders. Book a BA flight or holiday with its own card on its own site and you'll be charged more than if you were using a generic Visa credit card that might well be co-branded by a rival airline. Crazy!