Panel: Privacy Issues Force Marketers to Focus on Customer

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ASPEN, CO -- The increasing focus on privacy laws and regulations has rekindled enthusiasm for concentrating on existing customers, marketers said at last week's fourth annual Information Privacy Forum, sponsored by The Donnelley Group.


"There were a lot of interchanges with the customer on a day-to-day basis that we weren't leveraging. The privacy regulations have reminded us to focus on what the customer wants," Brian Keery, director of e-business for the Kodak Professional Photography Group at Kodak Corp., said during a panel discussion on marketing smarter in a privacy-conscious world. "It used to be, 'What file can I go get.' Now, we're focusing on what is our business, which is memories, and how do all these products relate so they're not competing with one another."


The restrictions caused by Gramm-Leach-Bliley forced Trilegiant Corp., a division of Cendant, to use more modeling techniques to build more effective files, said Frank Smith, vice president of modeling and analysis at Trilegiant.


"It was a jolt internally to the organization as a whole. Privacy was a catalyst to make people care more about the caring and feeding of data," Smith said. "That hurt us briefly because of a ripple effect. When you mess around with a control that's working, you take a temporary hit on response."


For Publishers Clearing House, positive things have occurred because of the scrutiny over sweepstakes marketing, said Rory Cumming, general manager of PCH.com.


"We became more proactive. We're able to deal with new legislation because we had moved into that position. It's not just being ahead of the curve," he said. "We changed our attitude. Now we're more customer focused. It helps us stay ahead of the regulations."


PCH was forced to become more innovative.


"We're further along now than if we didn't have the regulations. PCH is much stronger as a company now than five, eight years ago," Cumming said. "We've built better trust with consumers and are recognizing their desires."


Privacy compliance is better, but not because of legislation, the panelists said.


"By focusing on it, you're behind the boat," Keery said. "If you wait for it, it's too late. Instead, you need to focus on what the customer wants."


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