October 31, 2008

Promoting Non-Competing Brands In E-Mails, Catalogs, And Homepages

Alaska Air used their e-mail channel to promote a wine club.

REI is promoting ten songs in a recent e-mail campaign.

Per Alan Rimm-Kaufman, Wal-Mart ran ads for Presidential candidates on the homepage.

We used to be known as catalogers or retailers. Then we were labeled "multichannel". And now we're slowly becoming media companies.

When we become a media company, we have a new set of responsibilities. We ask ourselves new questions. Maybe the most important question is "What is the nature of the relationship between customer and brand?"

If the customer and brand jointly believe that it is acceptable for the brand to introduce wine and music to the customer, then the brand can further monetize the customer relationship, and the customer can theoretically benefit from new offers.

More important, we cannot trade short-term revenue for long-term customer mistrust.

Increasingly, we're going to be asked for access to an e-mail list of a million customers, or for access to a mailing list of four million customers --- we're no different than a network television executive looking to monetize a thirty second spot on The Office. We have an audience, we're like a television or cable channel. Brands want to get a message in front of our audience. Do we protect our customers, or do we open the door? And when we open the door, do we open it a crack, or is it wide open?

And as response rates plummet, the temptation to take the money will become greater.

Executives and customers will have to make joint decisions here, decisions that shouldn't be made solely in a board room.

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