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Database Nation by Simson Garfinkel

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Chapter 7. Buy Now!

Robert Ellis Smith, publisher of the Privacy Journal, was at a conference in New York City where he came face to face with the vice president of one of America's largest marketing firms. The man was indirectly responsible for flooding American homes with billions of unwanted letters and postcards every week. So Smith asked the vice president what Americans could do to help stop the torrent of junk mail they face every day.

"There is no such thing as junk mail—just junk people," the vice president corrected Smith, who was astonished by both the candor and the callousness of the remark.

The VP's statement makes perfect sense—if you happen to be a marketer. Those advertisements that stuff your mailbox, those telephone calls that you get during dinner, the incessant "spam" that clogs your email—it's all only "junk" if you aren't interested in what the advertisements are selling. To you, it's junk. To somebody else, it may be a golden opportunity.

Now turn around and look at the situation from the eyes of the marketer. If a person doesn't care for the particular product or service that's being advertised, then in the marketer's eyes that person is the junk. No sane marketer wants to send out mail that's going to be thrown away without even being opened. By merely existing, the junk customer makes marketers waste their time and money.

Good marketers know that it's pointless to advertise dog food to cat owners. But marketing is an imprecise profession. When a multibillion-dollar ...

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