Data Love Story in the USA With a Few Spats, Too

You might call this time of year, Jan. 15 to March 15, marketing data’s “high season,” based on all of the goings-on. There’s a lot of data love out there — and, like all relationships that are precious, they demand a huge amount of attention, respect, and honor — and celebration.

I’ve been enjoying Alliant’s “Data and the Marketer: A Timeless Love Story” postings this month, leading up to Valentine’s Day.

You might call this time of year, Jan. 15 to March 15, marketing data’s “high season,” based on all of the goings-on:

The Alliant infographic download got me thinking of some other “key” dates that might also be recognized on the Data Love calendar, reflecting other aspects of the love story. Not all love affairs are perfect — are there any? Sometimes there’s a quarrel and spats happen, without any abandonment of a full-on love affair.

  • 1960 — The Direct Marketing Association (then, DMAA) develops its first self-regulatory ethics code for data and lists, in an early industry initiative to separate the good from bad players. It becomes the basis for practically every data protection (and consumer rights) framework since.
  • 1971 — The Mail Preference Service is launched (today DMAChoice) the first marketing industry opt-out control program for consumers — the essential framework for every consumer choice tool in marketing (in-house and industry-wide) since.
  • 1973 — The U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare introduces and adopts eight Fair Information Principles. In 1980, the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development adopts these principles for trans-border data flows. In 1995, The European Union, among other governments, enact variation and interpretation of these formally into law, eventually adopting the EU General Data Protection Regulation in 2018.
  • 1991 — Jennifer Barret is named Acxiom’s privacy leader — among the first enterprises to name what essentially would become a “chief privacy officer.” In 2000, Trevor Hughes launches the International Association of Privacy Professionals. A nascent cottage industry evolves into a huge professional education and development organization that today includes tens of thousands of members.
  • 1992 — A nonprofit and privacy advocacy organization, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, is formed, and soon thereafter begins tracking data security breaches, both public and private sector. Its breach list since 2005 is posted here. Data privacy and data security, as evidenced in Fair Information Practice Principles, go hand-in-hand.
  • 1994 — The first online display ad appears on the Internet, by AT&T. (And the first commercial email perhaps the same year.) So marked the humble beginnings of Internet marketing — “direct marketing on steroids.” I thought Jeff Bezos used this term in Amazon (formed 1994) early days during a DMA conference – but alas, I’m having a hard time sourcing that one. Perhaps this quote was related to Google (formed 1998) and the real-time relevance of search!
  • 1995-96 — Subscriber Ram Avrahami asserts a property right to his name in a lawsuit against S. News and World Report. Because he thwarted the spelling of his name on the magazine’s list – in a bid to discover who else the magazine rents its subscriber list to – the court ultimately rejects his challenge. The case, however, introduces a novel concept and set of questions:Is the value of any list or database tied to the presence of any one individual name on that list, a penny a name in this case?  Or, is its value because of the sweat of the brow of the list/database creator (a business, nonprofit group, or other entity) that built a common attribute to which a list may derive commercial value?The “walled gardens” of today’s Digital Giants largely were built on such data collection. These two questions recognize that a “data-for-value” exchange must be perceived as mutually beneficial, or else consumer trust is eroded. “Who owns the data?” (a 20th Century assertion) might be better substituted today as “Who has a shared interest in the value and protection of data?” (a 21st Century proposition).
  • 2006 — Facebook is formed, among the first companies that created a “social network.” (I’m sure the adult content sector preceded it, as it often points us the way.) In one industry after another, digital disruption reorders supply chains, consumer-brand relationships, shopping practices, and name-your-own-business here. The Great Recession, and venture capital, serves to speed the quest for data-defined efficiency and transformation.
  • 2017 — Equifax, one of the United States three leading credit and information bureaus on Americans, experiences a breach of epic proportions. While the nation was fascinated with subsequent public hearings about Facebook, its data deals, and its (ahem, beneficial) targeted advertising practices, a potentially much more egregious purveyor of harm – sponsored government hacking of the highest order – largely gets a ho-hum from the general public, at least until this past week.
  • 2020 — California fragments online privacy protection in the United States – only underscoring the need for the federal government to act sooner than later. Support Privacy for America.

So, yes, there’s a lot of Data Love out there — and, like all relationships that are precious, they demand a huge amount of attention, respect, and honor — and celebration. See you soon in Orlando!

 

 

What’s the Price on ‘My Data’? Let the Marketplace Set the Rate

A bipartisan bill in Congress would assign the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with the task of determining what consumer data is worth; at least when it comes to Big Digital giants. So what’s my data worth?

A bipartisan bill in Congress would assign the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with the task of determining what consumer data is worth; at least when it comes to Big Digital giants. So what’s my data worth?

On the face of it, having the government mirror the private sector, and recognize that consumer data is a valuable asset, is actually quite wise. Data is worth something — and accounting rules, risk management, capitalism, and a reverence for asset protection — all point to a need to understand data’s worth and secure it accordingly. But should the government come up with the arithmetic? Really? And why limit this to Big Digital … data drives all economy sectors!

If this is about commerce and productivity, and facilitating next-generation accounting and capitalism, then I’d be all gung-ho. If it’s about setting the stage for just being punitive, then perhaps we can and must do better.

Take privacy. I’m already getting click fatigue — with permission notices on every site I want to visit, as well as the apps I use, it’s no wonder people are questioning if laws like GDPR and CCPA really afford any meaningful privacy protection at all, as well-intended as they may be. Privacy is personally defined — though universal principles need apply. Again, I think we can and must do better.

Recognizing data’s value — as the fuel for today’s economy — means recognizing data’s limitless beneficial uses (and encouraging such uses and further innovation), while putting a no-go ring around unreasonable uses (like throwing elections).

Business Efforts to Calculate Data’s Worth

“My data” is a misnomer. On the data valuation front, we from the direct marketing world — purveyors of personally identifiable information (PII) — have been putting a price on data for years … and understand data’s value, intrinsically. Big reveal: It’s not about me. (Sorry, Taylor Swift.)

Worldata, for example, has been tracking list prices for decades, and dutifully reporting on this. In the world of direct response, there’s “sweat equity” in both response and compiled lists. For response lists, some enterprise built a list of customers (or donors). The value of that list is derived from the shared attribute those customers have – and not, as some privacy advocates would have it, with the sum of one individual after another appearing on that list. With compiled lists, observable data is harnessed and staged also for marketing use – providing a more complete view of prospects and customers. Again, the value is derived from the attributes that data subjects share.

Even in digital data driving today’s media placement for advertising (more accurately, audience placement) — the algorithms deployed in search, social, and display — the values of these formulae are derived from affinities in these proprietary calculations, much of it anonymized from a traditional PII perspective. Yes, there are lots of data — nearly $21.2 billion in U.S. trade alone — but it’s not hoarding; it’s being put to productive use — in effect, 1:1 at mass scale.

With any innovations, there are bound to be mistakes by good companies, and some bad players, too. But it’s amazing to see how the marketplace weeds these out, over time. The marketplace, in time, weeds out the wheat from the chaff. The industry comes up with brand safety, privacy, security, chain-of-trust, and other initiatives to help facilitate more transparency and control. And testing shows which data sources are timely and reliable — and which ones where data quality is in question.

Predict This: Data Unleashed for Responsible Use Unleashes Consumer Benefits

Recently, I heard a current federal official say that data may be fuel — but it’s not like oil. Oil is finite. Data, on the other hand, is a limitless resource — like fusion. And it can be replicated. In fact, he went on to say, the more it is shared for responsible data use, the more consumers, citizens, commerce, and the economy benefit. This is correct. The commercialization of the Internet, indeed, gave us today’s global Digital Economy — giving billions access to information where they are able to derive limitless benefits.

That’s why potential breaches of data do need to be risk-assessed, prevented, understood for a likelihood of harm — with data governance and employee training thoroughly implemented. That’s also why government should investigate significant breaches to detect lax practices, and to instruct enterprises how to better protect themselves from bad actors. Here, I can see a viable SEC role, where all publicly held companies, and privately held too, are called into question – not just one type of company.

Where privacy is concerned … don’t just divide Big Digital revenue by the number of users with social accounts — and start menacing on what data about me online may be worth. That immediately starts off with a false assumption, fails to recognize information’s exponential value in the economy, and denies the incredible social benefits afforded by the digitization of information.

The Digital Advertising Alliance (a client) conducted a study in 2016, and found that consumers assign a value of nearly $1,200 a year to the “free” ad-financed content they access and rely upon via digital and mobile. However, if they were forced to pay that amount – most would not be willing (or able) to pay such a premium.

This research shows why we need to protect and facilitate ad-financed content. But it’s part of a larger discussion. It’s about why the commercialization of the Internet has been a 25-year success (happy birthday, October 24) and we must keep that moving forward. As consumers, we all have prospered! Let’s start our discussion on data valuation here.

 

Could GDPR Have Averted Facebook’s Data Debacle?

This new European regulation that begins on May 25 is causing many to complain about increased regulations and the cost. I view GDPR differently. But from my perspective, I like what GDPR offers.

Welcome to my monthly column series, Around the World, where we will explore what’s new in marketing and sales from a global perspective. This column will focus primarily on technology innovations and the impact they are making in helping companies achieve their growth objectives.

Note: I intentionally include both marketing and sales innovations. The reason is most effective organizations employ collaborative marketing and sales teams who work together to achieve shared goals. Companies can no longer afford to separate these two symbiotic areas of the business. Clearly, we have a long way to go to make this a universal reality, but we are moving in that direction.

The ROI of GDPR

Starting next month, I serve up short Q&A sessions with innovative people who are making an impact in the marketing and sales industry. This will create an interesting flow of perspectives and experiences from around the world. The purpose of this column is to be a source of useful and inspiring information for you, my readers. But I also want this to be an interactive forum where you share your reactions and experiences so we are learning from each other.

Let’s get started with a look at GDPR, which will have global ramifications in how marketers and salespeople handle personal data. This new European regulation that begins on May 25 is causing many to complain about increased regulations and the cost it is going to have for businesses. I view GDPR differently. These new regulations are actually exactly what we as individuals expect and demand from companies in how they treat our personal data they have extracted over time.

From my perspective, I like what GDPR offers. I want to share my data with companies to receive a better service, be rewarded for my loyalty and be treated ethically, knowing that my data is safe and secure. In fact, I’d like to go further and have ‘a right to be remembered!’ For instance, it’s so boring and time-consuming to have to complete the same forms for the same company you fly with each time, rent cars from or hotels you visit. As consumers we want these entities to retain the data we have provided about our preferences and use it in the future.

We all want to be treated like trusted members of the family. Imagine being greeted by the Italian restaurant owner who impresses your guests as he ushers you and your guests to your favorite table in a restaurant! You feel special. The evening gets off to a great start and sets the tone for a great customer experience. This is all because the owner took the time to get to know you and your preferences before you stepped inside his restaurant.

One of the main benefits of GDPR is the fact that there are huge powers (and corresponding fines of 4% of revenue in each country affected), which will make large companies sit up and take notice about this important issue. And it’s really the big companies who have handled our data in an appallingly way. Just in recent weeks, we’ve seen millions of records hacked or misused by Facebook/Cambridge Analytica, Uber and Under Armour; the latter at least reacting quickly to confirm their data breach, rather than the normal corporate procedure of trying to brush things under the carpet as VW did with the dieselgate scandal – with unbelievable corporate arrogance. Shame on VW.

GDPR’s Potential Impact on Facebook Debacle

So if GDPR had been in place, for instance, could it have affected the recent Facebook crisis?

Direct Mail: Data Makes All the Difference

The draw of the latest marketing trends pulls at us all. Many companies have integrated their direct mail with technologies like QR Codes, NFC and augmented reality, but many are missing the point with direct mail. The power of direct mail is the ability to reach the right person with the right offer to drive their response. Yes, technology can make the responses quicker and easier, but if you are not taking into consideration the person you are sending too, you may be throwing money away.

The draw of the latest marketing trends pulls at us all. Many companies have integrated their direct mail with technologies like QR Codes, NFC and augmented reality, but many are missing the point with direct mail. The power of direct mail is the ability to reach the right person with the right offer to drive their response. Yes, technology can make the responses quicker and easier, but if you are not taking into consideration the person you are sending too, you may be throwing money away.

The most powerful tool you have today is your data. You need to be able to harness this power to create great direct mail campaigns. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Create a data plan. What are your goals? What data have you already captured? What data do you want to capture? Now that you know what you want, how are you going to get it?
  2. Outline how you are going to use that data. Just having the data is not enough. You need to plan out ways to capitalize on it. Being able to group like people together for messaging will help you have less complicated campaigns. Make sure to not sacrifice your ROI by trying to make the campaign too simple. Some complexity is a good thing.
  3. The most common form of information that is extremely helpful in direct mail is purchase history. When you know what someone has already purchased you are able to tempt them with other items that they may be interested in, such as accessories or upgrades. This can also work in the nonprofit sector by tracking donation amounts. You can entice donors to donate more, by providing stepped donation amounts based on the last donation made.
  4. When you don’t have a lot of data already compiled there are many resources that can help you to enhance your data. There are geo, psycho, and demographics to name a few. Using this information can help you to build personas for better message targeting. Augmenting your data can provide powerful insights such as financial, shopping, technology and so much more. A couple of examples are Nielson with the Prizm tool and Accudata with the SnapShot tool. Working with a data company can help you expand your customer and prospect knowledge which can equate to better targeted marketing.
  5. Keeping old data is the biggest mistake. Outdated data is a real problem. These days the key to good data is not only capturing as much information about each person as you can, but also double checking it. Keep your data clean with all available tools. Some of these tools include NCOA (checking for new addresses when people move), deceased file processing (removing people when they die), surveys (keep your info current by asking them directly) and so on. You should look at your data as a constant work in progress and be cleaning and adding to it all the time.
  6. Do not forget about security. It is extremely important to secure your data. Too many times we hear reports of data breaches. Work with your IT department to make sure you can count on your data security. Many companies have not spent enough time on data security and have had to pay a very high price. Your customers trust you. Make sure you are trustworthy now before it is too late.
  7. If your data is small, don’t worry about it. Plan ways to grow your data base and continue to improve it. The more you are able to capture with each campaign the better your direct mail is going to get. Everyone started off small at one point. Just remember the tools you have available to help you and keep your data up to date. Old data will cost you money.

Direct mail can be an excellent driver for your marketing, not just for purchases, but for online engagement as well. When you focus on your data and really target your audience the impact of direct mail can be enormous. Tracking your campaigns is extremely important so that you know what is making you the most money and what needs to be worked on. Your direct mail should be constantly changing and updated based on your responses and data files. Have fun creating direct mail campaigns and learning more about your customers and prospects.

Take Command of Marketing Data Governance—Because We Have To

The emergence of “big data” as an enterprise concern for many businesses and organizations is, as with most trends, both an opportunity and a concern. I recently was involved in reviewing new and recent Aberdeen Research on “Big Data”—how it is defined, how it is changing information volume (astounding in quantity), variety (both structured and unstructured, with tremendous pressure to integrate and make sense of it), and velocity (pushing the insight, analytics and business rules that flow from such data to lines of business that can best profit from it).

The emergence of “big data” as an enterprise concern for many businesses and organizations is, as with most trends, both an opportunity and a concern.

I recently was involved in reviewing new and recent Aberdeen Research on “Big Data”—how it is defined, how it is changing information volume (astounding in quantity), variety (both structured and unstructured, with tremendous pressure to integrate and make sense of it), and velocity (pushing the insight, analytics and business rules that flow from such data to lines of business that can best profit from it). An infographic that captures some of this research is now posted at Mason Zimbler, a Harte-Hanks Company, which created the visual presentation.

Alongside this current fascination and business trend, perhaps it’s not surprising that members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, also are posing questions at the marketing business as to how we collect, buy/sell, rent and exchange data about consumers online and offline, and if there is adequate notice and choice in the process. In the rush to capitalize on Big Data, we need to ensure that we’re collecting and using marketing data for marketing purposes only, and doing so in a manner that is respectful of fair information practices principles and ultimately serves the end-customer, be it consumer or business individual or enterprise. [See Rep. Ed Markey, D-MA: http://markey.house.gov/content/letters-major-data-brokers.]

All too often, privacy adherence is considered a legal matter, or an information technology matter—but I maintain that while these two business areas are important in respecting consumer privacy, it is marketers who have the most to gain (and lose) by smart (or insensitive) information practices. Data is our currency, and we must treat data (our customers as data subjects) as our primary asset to protect. Our method of marketing is in the balance. One or two major privacy mishaps can spoil it for everyone.

Of course, marketing data governance is far more than privacy compliance. Data quality, data integrity, data security, data integration, data validation and data flows within an enterprise all, too, are part of marketing data’s customer intelligence equation. It is in this spirit that the Direct Marketing Association recently introduced its newest certification program for professionals: “The Institute for Marketing Data Governance and Certification,” taught by marketing veteran Peg Kuman, who is vice chair at Relevate Group. The three-day course, which has launched on a two-year, multiple-city tour, is indispensable in understanding how multiple channels, multiple data sources and platforms, customer expectations and business objectives combine to command better understanding, tools and processes for data handling for smart integrated marketing. Forthcoming course dates and registrations are available here: http://www.dmaeducation.org/dm-essentials/marketing_data_governance.php

For three days last month in New York, approximately two dozen professionals from large and small enterprises, both commercial and nonprofit, attended the first seminar. I, too, attended. There were representatives from marketing, public relations, analytics, legal, IT and fundraising, representing brands, agencies and service providers. This group was engaged—providing examples, asking questions and reporting experiences as the curriculum moved along. (For those who don’t know Peg—a former client of mine—she is quite the facilitator.)

Alongside a workbook, I took home some great handouts, too:

  • A sample security policy; a sample information security vulnerability assessment;
  • A security due diligence questionnaire;
  • A sample vendor risk management program vendor questionnaire;
  • The latest copy of the DMA Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice (recently updated with new email append guidelines, by the way) and a bevy of news articles that captures the media’s and public policymakers’ current attention on consumer data in America.

The meat of the course tackled, among other topics:

  • Categorizing data and assigning priority and sensitivity (personally identifiable information, sensitive data and other categories);
  • Mapping data flows and interactions with customers; enhancing data with appended information, and ensuring its use for marketing only;
  • Having a data quality strategy as part of a data strategy;
  • Calculating return on data investment;
  • The emergence of digital, mobile and social data platforms, and how these present both structured and unstructured data collection and insight analysis challenges;
  • Assigning data “ownership”;
  • Calculating and assigning risk regarding security;
  • Monitoring security, investigating potential incidents of a breach, and handling a response to a breach were it to occur (using recent breach response examples of LinkedIn and Epsilon); as well as
  • Laws, ethics and best practices for all of these areas.

One of my concerns is the importation of European-style privacy protection in America, and current fascination with such protections by U.S. regulators and elected officials. That is worth another blog post in itself, but I can assure you that we need to educate politicians about the superiority of self and peer regulation where no consumer harm exists.

Thank you, DMA. Marketing data does not harm. It only creates consumer choice, commerce, jobs and (tax) revenue—and pays for the Internet and other media, too—and it is ridiculous to even entertain government-knows-better regulation of such information through a potential omnibus law in America, or other notions such as a government-mandated “privacy by design” requirement in marketing innovations. (On the other hand, I’m more than happy to see laws pass that protect Americans from potential government abuse of private sector marketing data—Big Brother should not be getting access to marketing data for non-marketing purposes, unless there is a demonstrable greater public good, where subpoenas are served and heard.) Privacy by design is smart business, but only when left to the innovators, not the policymakers.

Which brings me to close—and if you’re still reading this, I congratulate myself for not chasing you away. Big Data (which can incorporate far more than marketing data) goes hand-in-hand with marketing data governance. Whether a Big Data user or not, we all use marketing data everyday as our currency. Protect it. Respect it. Serve it. Govern it. So we can use it.