Inbound Marketing

funnel spider Corporate marketing knows no bounds, respects no limits, does not and cannot cease expanding.

The latest frontier? Call centers, which are rapidly taking on the task practitioners call “inbound marketing”:

NEW YORK ( — Next time you’re on the line with a call center complaining about a product not working properly, don’t be surprised if you’re not rushed off the phone in record speed. The interactions between consumers and call center reps are evolving from hurried griping sessions to extended sales pitches and consultation meetings.

In fact, more and more marketers are looking to turn their call centers into revenue generating centers, according to a new study by Portrait Software, a provider of customer interaction optimization software. A number of factors are driving this shift but none more significant than the challenge of reaching consumers when a growing number of them are opting out of direct mail and email and opting into do-not-call lists. The study shows that 69% of large business-to-consumer marketers view their call centers as “business critical revenue generators.”

And, of course, the whole effort is being scientifically managed:

Portrait Interaction Optimizer is a packaged application that sits behind your existing systems to provide the most accurate, targeted sales, service and retention offer, for each individual customer, at the specific moment of interaction, whatever the channel. The decision of the “best-next-action” is performed in real-time, using an organization’s data, business rules and predictive analytics.

Portrait Interaction Optimizer enables customer data to be connected across siloed business units and disparate channels, without duplication, and multiple customer channels can be managed from a single view. Analytically driven recommendations take the guesswork out of interactions with contextual capability guiding live agents throughout the duration of the dialogue.

Apparently, endeavors like Nationwide Insurance are already using such methods “to sell more through inbound service conversations than we do through traditional outbound direct marketing.”

So, when the public-sector spies talk about TIA, they are merely hoping to acquire the beginnings of what our “private-sector” royalists already enjoy.

Shopper Marketing Marches On

Big business marketing never rests, never stops, always grows.

The latest Advertising Age reports on the ongoing expansion and refinement of what’s called “shopper marketing,” the effort to study, analyze, and reshape people’s in-store behaviors.

Currently an $18-billion-a-year branch of corporate marketing in the United States, “shopper marketing” is growing by more than 20 percent a year, Ad Age reports.

Since it’s one of the newest of marketing’s tentacles, it is still far from maturity:

The problem, according to Jon Kramer, CMO at Alliance Sales & Marketing, is that retailers and manufacturers don’t exactly have shopper marketing down to a science yet. “It’s the wild, wild West right now in terms of how you define shopper insights and how you turn those into action,” he said.

Andy Murray, worldwide CEO, Saatchi X, said that now is the time for retailers and manufacturers to be testing and learning. They won’t be done, he said, until they can mirror experiences like those on Amazon, which suggests complimentary purchases for every item put in the shopping cart.

Orwell’s Big Brother would be jealous of some of the new “shopper marketing” techniques.

Take a look at this video clip of the work done by the “ShopperGauge” spy camera:

click image to go to ShopperGauge website

Ever think those springloaded gizmos that push supermarket and drug store items to the front of the shelf are there just to keep the shelves “fronted”?  If so, you were wrong:  “Product takeaway from the shelf or display is recorded by digital ‘pushers.'”


Cameras could be monitoring the time it takes to you browse the aisle and put that box of Mac ‘N Cheese in your cart. The purchase itself might have been driven by one of Kraft’s “mom cues” designed to tug your heartstrings in the store. Or your motivation may have been an idea from its iFood Assistant that you downloaded in the store. Researchers might later examine your purchase data and household information and pair it with economic models to determine that the store is only getting 10% of your package-dinner dollar — and look for ways to build that up.

And, of course, what exists is never good enough:

Much of the work being done to measure a consumer’s mood or emotional state has been focused on the shelf, based upon the shopper-marketing old mantra that some 70% of purchase decisions are made in store. But Mr. Hoyt argues that shopper marketing must start in the home, with digital entreaties that reach consumers while they’re making out shopping lists. It’s insulation for marketers from “the wavering hand,” as consumers eye lower-priced or sexier merchandise. But, he said, it has to continue all the way to the point of purchase.

Here Comes RFID Spying…

The Washington State Legislature was the site this week of yet another major corporate victory. State Rep. Jeff Morris (D) had introduced HB 1031, which proposed to require businesses wishing to track people’s movements via the RFID (radio frequency identification) chips embedded in places like cell phones and store “loyalty” cards to first obtain “opt-in” permission.

Such RFID “skimming” — which is already being practiced, by the way — allows corporate marketers not only to track and time a person’s precise movements through retail (and other) environments, but also, via the data associated with RFID chips, to connect the knowledge of movements with large amounts of detailed, individually-identifiable demographic and financial information.

This kind of knowledge is immensely valuable in the big business marketing process, which is neither more nor less than the extension of Frederick Winslow Taylor’s “scientific management” principles into the effort to profitably control “consumer behavior.”

Well friends, guess what happened when Rep. Morris’ bill hit the floor in Olympia?

That’s right: The big boys came out to deliver their message. The bill passed, but, as passed, it only pertains to “skimming” by individual identity thieves. The new law “makes it a Class C felony [in Washington state] to intentionally scan another person’s identification remotely without his or her knowledge and consent, for the purpose of fraud, identity theft, or some other illegal purpose” — but leaves business skimming unregulated. The reason? Corporate capitalists got their way and had the bill’s proposed “opt-in” rule stripped out.

As reported by PR Web:

Images are conjured up of scenes from sci-fi movies like Minority Report. For instance, a shopper walking into a store could unknowingly transmit their identity and whereabouts via a membership card, while they pick out items and make their final purchases. That information then goes into a database for further analysis and targeted marketing schemes.

Morris admits it’s been an uphill battle to win even this small yet commonsense protection for consumers. After years of advocating for stronger protections, including an opt-in requirement for retailers to abide by that was included in the original version of Morris’ bill, corporate lobbyists have fought to kill it every step of the way. These business interests have remained steadfastly intent on allowing the spy chips to remain unregulated as they quickly move to embed them in any or all products imaginable.

Morris does not intend to give up the fight, however. “This is just one small step to stake out some boundaries around our individual consumer rights before it’s too late. The battle now that criminal acts are covered is deciding whether or not spying on consumers for marketing purposes without their consent is criminal.”

One bit of good news: Rep. Morris has agreed to do a short interview with me via the internet about all this. I’ll be posting his report here on TCT as soon as I get it.

Facebook Never Forgets

The second-most-emailed story today on is a report on the near impossibility of taking your personal data back from Facebook, the website that allows unwitting registrants to post bits of verbal and visual swag about themselves in exchange for letting Facebook “harvest” extremely precise and commercially valuable information about the users.

Turns out, once you walk into this trap, your data have no way to get out.

Are you a member of You may have a lifetime contract.

Some users have discovered that it is nearly impossible to remove themselves entirely from Facebook, setting off a fresh round of concern over the popular social network’s use of personal data.

While the Web site offers users the option to deactivate their accounts, Facebook servers keep copies of the information in those accounts indefinitely. Indeed, many users who have contacted Facebook to request that their accounts be deleted have not succeeded in erasing their records from the network.

“It’s like the Hotel California,” said Nipon Das, 34, a director at a biotechnology consulting firm in Manhattan, who tried unsuccessfully to delete his account this fall. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

It took Mr. Das about two months and several e-mail exchanges with Facebook’s customer service representatives to erase most of his information from the site, which finally occurred after he sent an e-mail threatening legal action. But even after that, a reporter was able to find Mr. Das’s empty profile on Facebook and successfully sent him an e-mail message through the network.

The Times reporter explains the reason:

Tensions remain between making a profit and alienating Facebook’s users, who the company says total about 64 million worldwide (MySpace has an estimated 110 million monthly active users).

The network is still trying to find a way to monetize its popularity, mostly by allowing marketers access to its wealth of demographic and behavioral information. The retention of old accounts on Facebook’s servers seems like another effort to hold onto — and provide its ad partners with — as much demographic information as possible.

As usual, the whole scam is cloaked in layers of dishonesty:

Facebook’s Web site does not inform departing users that they must delete information from their account in order to close it fully — meaning that they may unwittingly leave anything from e-mail addresses to credit card numbers sitting on Facebook servers.

And if you doubt the immense importance of this whole shebang to our overclass and its big business marketing juggernaut of behavioral and technological dictatorship, consider the fact that none other than Microsoft has already paid the creeps who own and run Facebook a quarter-billion dollars — for a mere 1.6% share!

Draw your own conclusions, but I will say this again: If our out-of-control overclass and its political representatives hadn’t been keeping the FTC in an induced coma over the past several decades, this kind of fraud and theft would be punished. As it stands, it’s all treated as a simple matter of “personal responsibility” — for those at the bottom only, as always, of course.

One hears the voices of mega-over-privilege tittering out from the “third homes” of the world: “Let them eat cookies, and caveat double-emptor! Forever.”

High-Tech Snake Oil?

If you pay attention to the news, you’ll have noticed the breaking scandal over anti-cholesterol medicines. One, Vytorin, turns out to be at least half fake. The other, Lipitor, has VERY deceptively employed “Dr.” Robert Jarvik, the Harvard Med School student who never completed his training, and is not a physician and cannot prescribe medicines, but invented the artificial heart.

Turns out “Dr.” Jarvik — who looks every inch like a marathon-running vegan — probably didn’t start taking the Lipitor he says in his ads that he’s been personally using thankfully “as a doctor, and a dad” until after he started shilling for the Pfizer corporation, Lipitor’s peddler.

This, of course, raises the obvious follow-up question about whether Jarvik has actually ingested the pills or merely flushed them down his heated, gold-plated crapper.

But whatever the details of these two huge, well-researched medi-frauds may prove be, the most important points are certain to go unmentioned. Among these are:

1) The human meaning of the fact that there was $4.8 billion spent on U.S. drug advertising last year. That sum is greater than the GDPs of each of the Earth’s 45 poorest countries. And $4.8 billion is only the ADVERTISING number, meaning it’s only the tip of the iceberg. As is known by those who take the trouble to comprehend what corporate marketing is and how it works, advertising is merely the endpoint of the marketing process. Before it comes targeting, marketing research, and “product management.” Those processes are much more expensive than even advertising, which, per minute, is by far the most lavishly-funded form of video and pictorial drama, Hollywood blockbusters included.

2) The amount of fraud and waste in the capitalist medical-industrial complex. This cholesterol fracas suggests the share of naked snake-oiling going on is far bigger than even most single-payer advocates have suggested. How affordable could we make single-payer if we also ended these criminal schemes?

3) The profound irrationality of the corporate capitalist health destruction/care process. The amounts big business investors spend on drug marketing are beyond dwarfed by the megabucks they allocate to selling fast food, junk food, television-watching, and automobile-owning/driving. It’s the perfect racket: With one hand, you create the epidemic dangers; with the other, you profitably throw (often fake) pills at the symptoms. It is what Joseph Schumpeter famously called “creative destruction” — but the entity involved in the process is none other than the supposedly (and actually) sacred human life/body. Can you say “blasphemy”?