Let's say you subscribe to just a couple of magazines, Sports Illustrated and something more specific and arcane - the Interactive Edition of Media Magazine. If you found yourself suddenly being bombarded with direct mail solicitations, you'd probably think of these subscriptions first as the source for how your name and address was provided to the direct marketers. Fact is that most Americans do get this by now - that when they subscribe to publications, they usually subscribe to other things too.
Perhaps you'd think that your credit card company sold your user data, or maybe you'd consider that some other entity you'd come into contact with recently - a hospital maybe, or a pharmacy - had provided your personally identifiable data (PII) to the direct marketer.
After all, what they sent you in the mail IS somewhat linked to your interest. You recently bought some golf equipment and your SI subscription had the golf package, and you got a brochure in the mail about golf-oriented resorts. It does seem clever, if not somewhat big brother-ish to most people.
The thing is, those of us in the online marketing arena have no idea how spooky such come-ons are to Joe and Jill American online - especially when the kind of targeting that is required to deliver effective marketing of this kind has nothing to do with PII anymore. How many of you shook your head when you saw that I wrote "spooky" in the last paragraph? The direct marketers among you probably think I'm Pollyanna in my views. Naïve, right?
Well, here's some good news and some bad news, all in one. If you align your direct response campaigns with the major brands that people subscribe to and KNOW they subscribe to online, your clients' ROI will be four or more times higher than if you buy a list or simply target to random IP addresses.
Spend a little more to make a little more?
Treat the user with a little respect, since you want them to part with their money for your clients' products?
Then why is it that in the few minutes its taken to write this beginning, I have had to navigate on my own desktop between not one but five full-screen pop-up ads? Is it that the good people at PriceGrabber.com, 123FindMe, Hunt-Easy, ABCsearch, and Yousearch4 simply don't know any better? Or is it that they promised something to their clients that had to do with desktop penetration and not with, well, actual sales?
I'm just a naïve user, so all I know is that these nice companies have suddenly taken over my desktop and sometimes my home page. One of them began to install a .exe that was to become my home page, but I clicked "No" in time. There are others, of course. But these are the three that arrived this evening after I had cleaned off my cookies and done the Spybot search and opened the Panicware Pop Up Stopper and examined the Search and Replace function in Windows and NO I haven't visited any sites of ill repute since I cleaned those damn cookies. Honest.
Why the screed?
I know how to do all these things and I know the differences between the privacy policies among the sites I visit. It's kind of my job. Joe and Jill American don't know from any of that. All they know is that, every time they log on, they are assaulted with garbage. Tonight, I got a full frontal reminder of why so many people don't trust online marketing. Perception is reality, and the customer is always right.
Think about that the next time you buy a user or and IP list. Then try to justify buying one that isn't at least opt-in/opt-out. You might make money short term. But, until that's the norm online, for email, and for all the DM we do to the desktop, it'll be harder to create sustainable models.
After all, why do you think that permission-based .exe programs and other opt-in style marketing are doing so well? Consumers don't mind sharing their desktop, as long as there's something in it for them - be it a broader relationship with a brand they like, or some quid pro quo, like stock updates, or free music. If you run a site or you target campaigns to IP addresses, make sure you know whom it is that you're doing business with. While working through brands that consumers know may seem like making nice, it's really more about making sense to your consumers. And that always makes sense to your bottom line.