Is the value of data set to increase?

Russell Parsons

Last Friday (26 November), Marketing Week featured in a lead story in The Times. A fillip for one and all here but it is not an irregular experience that an Marketing Week article would garner national coverage. What is an oddity, however, is that the piece was about direct mail, data and the royal family.

The family of the Princess to be, Kate Middleton, has been reportedly selling data collected from the well-heeled mothers that use its Party Pieces website to direct marketers who might, it is said, be expected to pay up to £20,000 for the full-list.

News that the Middleton family appear to have recognised that value and that direct marketers seem to be ready to pay what it costs to get their hands on that valuable commodity is no surprise.

You, as direct marketers, will understand the value of data. Data, of course, is the silver bullet that can elevate a campaign’s effectiveness by precision targeting.

As a direct marketer himself, Justin Basini, until recently the head of marketing and customer initiative management at Capital One, understands the value of data better than most.

So much so that he has launched Allow, which helps consumers opt-out of all data lists, liaises to find which lists they are happy to be on and then sells their data to direct marketers directly, splitting the profit with the consumer.

Sounds like a leap doesn’t it? Putting customers in total control of what data they receive and when.

There is no doubt that Allow, as it has been appropriately dubbed, taps into a growing frustration, and even anger among consumers over what some see as the unscrupulous tactics of data companies, which lead to nothing but “junk” landing on their door steps.

Allow, in theory, takes this malevolence out of the equation. It also leaves those direct marketers willing to pay (how much has yet to be disclosed) with decidedly warmer prospects.

The service, as Basini puts it, aims to increase the “scarcity” of data, and by doing inflate its value. But will consumers want to work with data services to improve the effectiveness of a brand’s targeting?

Opt-out options such as the Mail Preference Service allows for nothing in the way of subtleties, its “spaghetti at the wall” approach, as Basini describes it, removing people from lists with little option to opt back in. Others, such as the Anti-marketing group offer, for a price, to stop all “junk” mail stone dead.

Black and white approaches, but satisfactory for those consumers that choose to use them.

It is debatable how many consumers have pondered, “if only there was a service that allowed me to be in control”, most are either vehemently opposed to the very notion and want nothing to do with data or DM protagonists or simply don’t care that much.

The carrot of profit-sharing will obviously help but the service must be communicated expertly. In an age where consumers can seek information from a billion different places by a myriad of digital means, there is an argument that they already feel sufficiently empowered, empowered enough to opt-out of all and choose themselves who to seek further information from, without the help of Allow.

That said, it will be interesting to see which way the wind blows for Allow. If successful, direct marketers will see look upon an already valuable commodity as even more precious. And perhaps the Middleton’s business model might have to change.

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