Where have all the ethical Marketing Managers gone? – published 2008

 In opinion

I was horrified to read a Financial Times article about a survey that mentioned that an alarming percentage of marketing managers would provide personal information held on customers to 3rd parties without their consent.

The survey, commissioned by StrongMail Systems, an e-mail security company covered 900 data security and marketing professionals, found that 7 per cent of marketing managers would disclose a customer’s sexual orientation, 14 per cent their involvement in political activism, and 19 per cent their credit card details.

As recently as 2 weeks ago, I found out the hard way that Conde Nast (through whom I subscribe to Wired Magazine) sold/rented my personal mailing address to both Scientific American and Time Magazine, who both sent me unsolicited subscription offers.

To stop receiving this unsolicited “correspondence”, I had to scan the junk mailer as a PDF, search each company website for the privacy person’s email, and contact them to remove me from their lists. As an ethical marketer, I normally ask companies who spam mail me where they obtained my details from, so I can get off that list as well.

I did receive a full response from the Circulation Director at Scientific American, so hats off to them – the response is copied below

We have received your inquiry regarding the subscription solicitation that you received from Scientific American magazine.

We rented your name for one time usage from Conde Nast publications. Conde Nast represents that you are current or former subscriber to one or more of their magazines. The data product we rented is called “The Conde Nast international masterfile. You must contact Conde Nast Publications to instruct them to remove your name from any databases that they market.”

So what does this all mean for mobile advertisers?

For some time now, I and others have been talking about the promise of providing targeted and profiled mobile advertising to subscribers who share their preferences with us in order to tailor the advertising messages, and hence drive ROI for the advertiser.

What the above survey has shown is that some marketing managers simply don’t value the relationship they have with consumers – especially given 19% of those surveyed would give away my credit card details!

How then can consumers feel compelled to trust anyone with their details, and even something as simple as preferences, hobbies and interests if there is a risk it will be shared with people we don’t want to share it with.

In my example above, I subscribed to one magazine – Wired. I expected (perhaps wrongly) that Conde Nast would not share my personal information with others. I certainly did not consent to this, nor did I check any boxes when I signed up online authorising them to do this. So – I now don’t trust them with my personal information.

[Anyone from Conde Nast reading this?] I’m about to re-subscribe to Wired – direct with them to reduce their costs. But how can I be sure they won’t give my details to others if they have a “Conde Nast international masterfile” which they rent to others? How many other unsolicited subscriptions will I now receive, and to whom at Conde Nast should I send the bill for my time in order to get off these lists?

We as advertisers and markers must earn the trust of subscribers and customers. We suggest to them that if they tell us what they like, we will give them advertising “relevant” to their interests and perhaps some other benefit in return. If, however we then pass this information to other parties, they will become very reluctant to give any information away – thus destroying the trust, and value than can be created by targeted mobile advertising.

We have all spoken about the “Starbucks example” (which I killed off at a conference in Amsterdam – I’ll write a separate post on this) when people will “…simply walk past a Starbucks and get a free coffee offer”.

WRONG WRONG WRONG! The mobile is such a personal device. It is one of the few things we always have with us so we must treat this medium (and the trust if we have permission to deliver targeting advertising to it based on personal profiling) so carefully to earn and maintain the trust of our valued consumer.

Marketing managers, and keepers of lists need to rethink their CRM and list sharing strategies very carefully when it comes to mobile, or there will be no mobile advertising industry for us all to share in.

Haven’t those of us in the UK learned the hard way how to destroy a whole industry – remember the 2007 premium rate phone scandals? Can anyone name an advertiser who now rushes headfirst into a PRSMS marketing campaign or competition?

It’s about trust. Get this right and the rest will follow.

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Futurist Keynote Speaker and former IBM Global Managing Partner, Andrew is a popular and sought-after presenter and commentator on issues around digital disruption and emerging technologies. He is a multiple TEDx & International Keynote Speaker. Watch his speaking showreel here, enquire about availability & fees here.