Not that long ago, the credo of both US firms was “mail the f**k out of them”, and there is little doubt their actions were a major contributory factor in dragging the direct marketing industry through the sewer, let alone sparking the consumer credit boom.
To be fair to Basini, however, while at Capital One, he was instrumental in changing the company’s marketing strategy, slashing unsolicited mailings to concentrate on other benefits, such as the fight against ID fraud.
But will Allow really revolutionise the data market or is it just a rehash of the Preference Service – the scheme launched by Royal Mail and Royal Dutch Post, which haemorrhaged so much cash that it was eventually sold at a loss to IPT?
Now no-one could argue with Allow’s aims; anything that improves targeting, slashes waste and repairs the industry’s image should be applauded. And, these days, consumers are becoming much more aware of the value of their data, and equally persnickety about the brands that they want to be contacted by.
As Basini asserts: “It became clear to us that something needed to change in the way that marketers communicate with their customers, giving more control to the individual.”
The main threat to his business plan is apathy. As we reported earlier in the week, 5.2 million mailings are likely to be sent over the Christmas period to dead people simply because so many brands fail to use long-established suppression services, so there are still hundreds of companies wasting millions of pounds, let alone causing unnecessary hurt and risking damage to their reputations.
And as our Consumer View column shows, in this age of consumer empowerment younger people are more than adept at managing their own relationships with brands on Facebook and the like, so why would they sign up for Allow?
If Basini and co-founder Howard Huntley can persuade businesses and consumers alike, then they have got a chance…but they shouldn’t underestimate the scale of the task ahead.
Charlie McKelvey, publishing editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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