Letter: Customers Don't Want Companies Flaunting That

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I'm not used to reading DM News for movie reviews. But when a friend browsing through periodicals in my office found your article ("Is 'Minority Report' the Future of DM?," Aug. 5), I should have known it was by Ruth Stevens. Her timely article actually contains the answer to the question she asks, "Where do we want our industry to go?" The answer is clear: in the direction of products and services that improve the quality of life for our customers.

The late-20th-century marketing successes Stevens cites -- credit cards, ATMs, e-commerce and Speedpass -- share something in common. They all require personal data to function, but their appeal for the buyer is NOT about that personal information. For the consumer, shopping without cash, spending less time in traffic, getting money on a street corner 24/7 or spending just minutes online to book a vacation, comparison shop or buy any book in print, the appeal is universal and has nothing to do with individual tastes, interests or past experience.

What "Minority Report" clearly mocks is how companies confuse why these innovations are so pleasing to consumers with the need the companies have for that personal data to target their prospects and design and deliver their products.

I'm reminded of a true story about a friend who burst into tears at work reading an e-mail that said something like, "Last year for Valentine's Day you sent Ms. A a Happiness Bouquet and Ms. B a Springtime Arrangement. Here are some selections for this year we're sure they'll love!" Well, Ms. A was his mother who had just died, and Ms. B had broken off their engagement. Who needs this thoughtlessness! The firm could have done a much better job if it had just let my friend retrieve his own purchase history -- if he chose to.

Customers don't want a company persuading them to buy products by invading their privacy and flaunting it -- using details about their personal lives and purchase history to bombard them with more intrusive marketing messages.

Insightful focus on the reality of people's lives and respect in handling personal data will lead the way to successful innovation in our industry.

Ann Goodstein, President, Goodstein Direct Marketing &

Communications, New York



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