No Wonder We Have Privacy Problems

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Marketers think about effective ways to target their customers every day, but when does that targeting cross the line and become an invasion of a customer's privacy? Read this note I got from Jim Kobs, president of Kobs Strategic Consulting.

"I recently received a mailing from Bank One, who has one of my credit card accounts," Jim wrote. "The first paragraph starts out: 'We want to be your number one credit card. We noticed that you recently made a large payment to your [name of competitive credit card account] and want to make sure we're not losing your business. That's why we want to remind you again of these low-rate reasons - it's our way of showing you that your business is important to us.' " Bank One included four convenience checks in with the mailing, and the teaser copy on the envelope said: "Important rate information about your account."

Jim wasn't happy. "Even though I've been in the business for over 40 years, I didn't know credit card companies could monitor your activity with their competitors," he wrote. "I can see how this can provide valuable marketing information. But I sure don't like them telling me about it. No wonder we have privacy problems!"

Doesn't this make it seem like Bank One is watching every move Jim makes, and is that a good thing? I can't figure out what Bank One hoped to gain. To convince Jim to buy something in case he paid off another credit card? To hope that he's cash-strapped and in need of another bill? With the number of privacy issues in the world today, marketers have enough to worry about. Why add more to the list?

Newsletter Changes and More

· Those of you who receive our DM News/iMarketing News Daily may notice a few changes in the design of the e-newsletter starting today. We've moved around a couple of items, primarily the Lists & Database section from the left-hand side to the middle news section (they're now just above the classified ads), but we've kept a button on the left that you can click on that goes right to them.

· Two of this week's letters serve as a reminder that the Direct Marketing Association will be accepting nominations for its Hall of Fame soon. They're open from late February to early March, so get those nominating letters in order now. It will be interesting to see who ends up on this year's inductee list.

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