Privacy and Database Marketing

posted in: News
Is Privacy still possible online?

Every now and then, the “privacy” debate crops up, there’s a flurry of discussion about how personal details are gathered, kept and used, and then the debate seems to fade away again.

Currently doing the rounds (at least locally here in New Zealand) is the debate on Database Marketing. This is of interest to me for a number of reasons, 1) I am interested in the whole privacy debate and have my own opinions  2) I enjoy following others’ views on the matter and comparing them with my own, and 3) Purple Dog offers data collection and data based marketing services to clients and therefore I have a vested interest in the topic from a business point of view.

So what are the main discussion points?

For this particular article, I’m going to refer and respond to the debate that was aired on TVNZ7’s “The Ad Show”. A wonderful TV channel in my opinion, free of commercials and offering some very robust debates and intelligent discussion (well done TVNZ7!)

In the spotlight are the questions around what happens to your personal data when signing up for a store loyalty (or credit) card.  Progressive Enterprises (who own grocery supermarket chain stores “Woolworths” and “Countdown” in NZ) has a loyalty card called “One Card” and the audience and presenter debate “what information do you have to give away, who has access to it, how is it used and how safe is it”.

When signing up for such a loyalty card, as is probably standard practice these days, the member is asked for their name, address, phone number, age, marital status and so on.  In return, you are promised rewards vouchers (discounts) when you spend a certain amount or buy specific product – that are of course, targeted at you according to your spending habits.

So what happens to your information and where is it stored?

Privacy Laws

It seems fairly clear that there is no secret that such organisations track and record your spending habits, interests and preferences and that this information is used to build up a profile of who you are and what you buy.  Is this OK?  Debate!

One of the interviewees, Keith Norris of the NZ Marketing Association, likens this practice to the same as when “the local grocery store manager of old, knew all about your family and what you liked to buy”.  A good point I thought.  However, did that local grocery store manager write down and record your purchases and then use spreadsheets charts and graphs to analyse what specials and new products to push at you the next time you come in to the store?  The answer is, probably not! Since your spending habits were known, I guess it’s fair to say the grocery store manager may have had a pretty good idea of what would be of interest to you!  In this respect, it seems all good.

According to Mr Norris, the marketing association (and by that, we can assume he means the members he represents) were “always very well behaved”.  He cites the 17 year old privacy laws of NZ as a “the perfect solution to a problem which never existed ” (sic) and goes on to explain how consumers are protected because of it.

He also points out that data “selling” has never really been a problem in NZ, unlike in the United States where companies  (specifically in the health care and medical sectors) regularly sell their customer’s information.

Although I am inclined to agree, it’s still worthwhile pointing out that it is a good practice for the individual to ensure that whomever they are giving their information too, has a robust and transparent data privacy policy.

Gehen Gunasekara, a privacy expert from the university of Auckland says “we need to be vigilant, but not paranoid”.  It may be dull reading the terms and conditions, but it’s the only way you’ll know what you’re signing away.

Purple Dog agrees with the TVNZ7 show panel who argue that the data collected can empower individuals by giving them the opportunity to decide who they want to communicate with, which offers they want to receive (relevant to their own needs and interests) and how they want to receive it.

Clearly it is a powerful way for organisations to communicate openly with their customers and provide them with useful, interesting offers and services. It really goes without saying that such sensitive information should be protected by a clear and transparent privacy statements.  Nevertheless, it is worthwhile underlining that fact and reminding both providers and consumers of the duty of care.

In Summary

Here at Purple Dog, we are strong advocates of privacy protection and enabling our client’s customers’ to choose what, when and how to receive information.

In this regard, we insist that all of our clients have a transparent privacy policy that clearly states they will not sell, share or pass on any information to third parties without the explicit consent of the individual.  We do not tolerate spam or random marketing and we expect our clients to adopt ethical, principles based business attitudes when using customer information for marketing and other campaigns.

This approach can only have one outcome: it’s good for everyone and everyone is happy!  The eMarketing services (primarily newsletters and email marketing) and the website design services that we provide are designed to help businesses to inform their customers, and communicate with their customers in a responsible and professional manner.

In addition to this, we insist that all targeted marketing provides for the user to easily be able to “opt-out” at any time without infringement or penalty, thereby enabling users to simply say “hey, don’t send me this stuff”.

For more information on our permission based marketing services, please click here.

Care to comment – we want to hear your views below!