Jock Bickert, a legendary direct-marketing figure who gleaned consumer data simply by asking for it, has died, according to a Monday Facebook post.
Bickert was the founder of National Demographics & Lifestyle Selector (NDL), a database firm built, at first, on information from warranty cards and questionnaires.
Later, it added other database services, and went on to build a product with hundreds of thousands of names.
A native Iowan, Jock Bickert was trained in psychology, earning a Bachelors Degree at Princeton and a Masters Degree in clinical psychology from the University of Iowa.
He worked at City Hospital in Denver, and exhibited the skill set that he eventually utilized in running his own company.
“The strengths and weaknesses I had in psychology were evident in my style,” he admitted in an interview in 1992. “I was a good diagnostician, not sure how good a counselor.”
Bickert moved into market research, running surveys, and then worked with volunteer groups to build “databases of constituencies based on questionnaires,” he said.
His training in psychology led him to focus on behavior.
He believed that “people were more than a collection of demographics, more than 40-year old male who makes $50,0000 and owns a home. People define themselves by their leisure activities.”
Deriving data from warranty card questionnaires, Bickert founded NDL in 1975 and pushed it forward with a $500,000 investment from Baldwin United Corp. The initial clients were camera and sporting goods firms that asked customers to fill out warranty cards.
Bickert was an early proponent of being transparent with consumers about the uses of their data.
“We felt we had to tell them they would become targets for direct mail,” he said.
In 1992, the company had a weekly opt-out of 6.8%. We’ve never gone over 8%,” he said. The high point came during a wave of TV publicity about privacy in 1984.
Bickert sold NDL to R.L.Polk in 1988, although he continued running it from his Denver office. He was a mentor to many in the field.
NDL and Polk were known for their conference parties, held at such venues as the San Francisco Aquarium and the National Press Club.
Bickert was named to the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame in 2003.
Further information was not available at deadline.