Doing Personalization the Wrong Way (IT Toolbox Blogs)

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.


Information is power, but a fundamental tenet is that power should be used responsibly. This is increasingly true of personalization with CRM.


A CRM system combines with modern technology to produce a flood of targeted information about many aspects of people’s lives. This gives marketers a powerful tool for targeting potential customers.


But when that power is misused you don’t attract customers, you drive them away – and build yourself a health dose of ill-will in the process.


A recent example comes from Massachusetts where the state attorney general threatened to sue an advertising agency for their “creative” use of personalization technology. The agency, whose client was a right to life group, was using “Geo-fencing”, which combines geolocation technology on smartphones with mapping to mark out areas to target ad messages. In this case the targets were young women who happened to be in an abortion clinic.


The unlucky “prospects” were targeted with 30 days of anti-abortion messages until Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey stepped in and reached an agreement to get the agency to stop the ads.


This represented an epic fail in personalization technology. In this case the agency and its clients knew perfectly well what they were doing, but the lesson is that this sort of thing is becoming increasingly easy to do by accident.


As we accumulate more and more information and develop more accurate ways of identifying potential customers, it becomes easy to quite unintentionally overstep the boundaries and produce messages that your recipients will find offensive. This doesn’t win customers, it drives them away.


This is worse than it sounds because of the magnifying effect of social media. The offended parties aren’t likely to keep quiet about it and the next thing you know you’ve got a media PR crisis on your hands.


The key to avoiding such disasters is to consider the probable impact of the message on the person receiving it. Are they likely to find it intrusive? Remember your purpose is to attract business not turn people off.


There are a lot of cases where you can do this sort of thing legally without using Geo-fencing. Getting a list of people being sued for debt and sending them ads for bankruptcy attorneys for example. (Although in most places that would run afoul of the local Bar Association’s code of ethics.)


In our current privacy climate in this country there are a lot of opportunities for such marketing missteps. They may not get you in trouble with the law, but they won’t help your business either.


The answer for people concerned about the misuse of Geo-fencing technology is to turn off the geolocation feature on their smartphones. The answer for businesses who want to stay out of trouble is to think before crafting a personalized message.


About the Author

Rick Rick Cook has been involved with computers since the days of punched cards and magnetic drum memories. He has written hundreds of articles on computers and related technology as well as a series of fantasy novels full of bad computer jokes.

Source: SANS ISC SecNewsFeed @ May 4, 2017 at 12:30PM