Apple has highlighted the best and worst of DM

Bono has been described as many things in his career, from pop prophet and visionary on the more positive side to tax avoiding hypocrite with a hugely inflated sense of his own power to persuade by those less charitable, but never as direct marketing truth sayer.

Russell Parsons

But in predicting a backlash to Apple’s giveaway of his band U2’s latest album earlier this month, he stumbled upon how direct marketing strategy was conducted in days of yore.

“People who haven’t heard our music, or weren’t remotely interested, might play us for the first time because we’re in their library.

“And for the people out there who have no interest in checking us out, look at it this way… the blood, sweat and tears of some Irish guys are in your junk mail, ” he said.

To recap, to mark the launch of Apple’s latest iPhone, the tech giant in partnership with the Irish pop behemoth pushed out the band’s latest long player, ‘Songs of Innocence’, to about 500 million iTunes customers in 119 countries for free.

The backlash from customers, many of who took receipt of a free album that they hadn’t dreamt of owning less than well, caused Apple to release a tool to allow those that didn’t want it sullying their carefully crafted iTunes library to remove the album.

What Bono was unwittingly describing was the likely conversation that would have taken place in marketing departments across the land in days gone by. “Let’s carpet bomb people with a mail campaign. You never know, for every 10 people who are going to be really hacked off by it, there might be one or two that it sticks with,” someone might have said, once.

Meanwhile, Apple CEO last week penned an open letter to its customers outlining its commitment to protecting its users’ privacy.

The letter was transparently an attempt to quell some of the privacy concerns arising from the high profile nude celebrity photo leak scandal but Cook also used the platform to throw a few rocks at rivals’ customer data capture practices for use in advertising.

He said in the open letter on the company’s website: “Our business model is very straightforward: we sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers.

”We don’t ’monetise’ the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.”

Putting aside the mild whiff of hypocrisy, Apple’s advertising network iAd does collect data – from user registration, geography, media consumption and purchase history – in order to sell targeted advertising, the sentiment is spot on.

Transparency is key, as are explicit opt-ins. However, one direct marketing success is offset by a failure. Despite the fact is was free, Apple’s untargeted approach to sending the U2 album stinks of an approach from a different age.

In this particular scenario, it would have been advisable to call on behavioural data to find a market that might be receptive to receiving the album and saving itself of a lot of trouble and the backlash. Using data to improve the experience is not a sin, it’s smart marketing.

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