Magazine article Marketing

Tight Focus for a Close-Up View

Magazine article Marketing

Tight Focus for a Close-Up View

Article excerpt

When a major leisure brand says it feels that contracting out its database marketing might not be a good thing, it may not be the start of a trend, but it's not what the data experts want to hear.

There is, of course, a distinction to be drawn between a company's own customer database, which it may manage itself or farm out to a computer bureau, direct marketing agency or telemarketing bureau and the big, commercial databases, which anyone can tap into. Their role is generally one of providing a targeted route to locating new prospects.

The latter have come through a year of takeovers, mergers and intra-industry link-ups, with a battery of new products using both geodemographic and lifestyle techniques to help clients hit target markets with little wastage. And more high-profile branded launches are planned.

But exactly where do the best new business prospects lie? As the generic information bank grows, so also do direct marketing strategies aimed at identifying and getting to know customers as individuals -- and advertisers are having to reassess their needs.

"Our current concern is what to do with internally-generated information," says Martin Callingham, group market research director at Whitbread. "Would it be better to bring all data within the company? Would it be better to manage our own?

"If we buy in data and skills, we are buying what's available to everyone else. That might not be the way to get the competitive edge."

It's all a bit radical for the database industry, which would much rather forge long-term, collaborative links with the likes of Whitbread, servicing internally-generated data with external skills and extra information sources. Suddenly, client communication has shot to the top of the agenda.

"We need to package information in a way that's easily accessible to nontechnicians," says Alistair Wright, group, account director at NDL. Clients are attracted by off-the-peg products, and they build awareness for database providers, too.

Yet it follows that, as advertisers generate big databases of their own, they will want to pick and choose whatever enhances the information they have. "The trend is towards individual client solutions," says Greg Bradford, managing director of CACI. "We like to emphasise people skills."

For database companies, the pressure to prove that data and analysis techniques are perfectly tuned to marketers, needs-and to innovate -- has never been greater.

The clear message is that geodemographic and lifestyle marketers should forget their differences -- as database providers are an incestuous bunch, mixing and matching each other's lists for collective and individual gain.

Bradford plans to launch new generic products on the back of its recent joint initiative with ICD -- Lifestyle Plus -- which marries the two of the main database sources of Census-based geodemographics and one-to-one lifestyle surveys. "But I believe the true benefit to clients is in individual customisation," he says.

NDL, which linked with its sister companies CMT and MIC to build the Lifestyle Census late last year, will unveil National Selector this month. According to Wright, it targets like a lifestyle survey and uncovers prospect groups as efficiently as a Census-based model, joining a growing number of surveys which claim to merge or collate data and modelling techniques from the two sectors. …

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