Sunday, April 17, 2011

Three stories that show that anonymity makes people behave badly

1.  Many years ago now, I had a job where I had to drive every day for work from Killcare, on the Central Coast of New South Wales, to Castle Hill, a surburb to the north of Sydney.  It was an hour and a half each way, the first half hour along a stretch of road where the speed limit has since been lowered about 30 kph, but where at that time the morning radio traffic report frequently features stories of accidents, usually "car v. rock wall", that would take whole lanes out of action for the morning.  For most of that year I did the drive in an old Jaguar XJ6, two tons of British engineering with a powerful engine but aging brakes and no modern features like side mirrors or retracting seat belts or window defoggers or little luxuries like that.  It was a dangerous stretch of road, and in the morning everyone on it was a stressed-out Dad or Mum heading into the city to do some job they resented, and they all went way too fast as a rule and acted like jerks.  One of the worst tricks, to gain unfair position in traffic, was to speed up to right behind me in the left-hand lane, which is the slow lane in that part of the world, then when we came to an on-ramp, zoom around me on the wrong side using the on-ramp itself as a passing lane.  This maneuver was always startling because you don't expect someone to do something so egregiously wrong, and the first time or two it happened I was filled with a red-hot, blinding, quaking rage.  But after a while I learned that I couldn't let other drivers get to me.  They might cheat and do studpid, unfair, dangerous things to try to get to work a little faster, but I just had to take a Zen approach, ignore them and drive my own drive.  I also learned to slow my mental metabolism down like a lizard in a freezer, so that the hour and a half seemed to take only a few minutes.  Both of these skills came in handy for international air travel as well.  They were Bodhisattva skills I developed in that cauldron of road rage, the F3.

2.  The next job after the one with the long commute, I was manager for a global company of their Asia, Pacific and Latin America websites.  This was way before the days of "Web 2.0" so it was unusual to hear any direct interations from customers, but we did have a "Contact Us" mailto link on each site, and as manager of all the sites those emails came to me.  It was a time when the US market included a direct sales channel, so US customers could come to our website and order products directly, but in the rest of the world sales still went through a distribution channel, and at every hop there was something like a 13% margin added so the local prices got nowhere near the price available to US customers, and the issue sometimes got a bit sensitive.

One time I got an angry, angry email from a local customer, I think he was in Perth.  He'd installed our product, got an automated screen advertising an upgrade for $99, thought that was great, clicked to order it, and then oops, at some point during the purchase process it became clear that the offer was only available to US customers, and his own upgrade would cost something like $367 (I'm making all these numbers up).  He had a very good point, his own product on his own computer had prompted him to take advantage of the sale price and nowhere was it made clear that the dollars in question weren't Australian dollars.  He had a fair point, we were completely in the wrong, but his email was spittingly angry, vitriolic in the extreme.

So as the manager, I wrote him back, apologized as profusely as a I could, admitted that our ad was misleading, that it had only been intended for US customers but of course launched from his product as well, and offered him a free upgrade which we could mail to him.  I signed my name and gave my title and full contact details.

Well, I got the nicest email back from him.  In order to get his mailing address and sent out the upgrade we had a few messages back and forth, and he was always extremely cordial and grateful and complementary.  I think the vitriol he spilled was at a computer, a set of machines, an impersonal mistake that had enraged him, but when he got a message from me, in my voice, with my name - a message from a real person who listened and apologized and made good (and we also instituted a policy that I tried to police regularly forever of saying "Offer good in US and Canada only" on the .com site, even though consumers should know that site wasn't for everyone, so we put preventative measures in that would prevent anyone else having the negative experience he had), I know that solving his problem made him happier but I still think knowing there was a real person at the end of the email address immediately calmed him down and caused him to behave much better.

3.  More recently, I worked on a product that had launched a change in the market.  This product had been around some 80 years, and they knew from research they had a loyal core of fans, but hadn't really been able to hear from them directly.  In what was in retrospect probably not a wise move, they instituted product reviews on their website at the very time this product change hit the market.  It wasn't quite as bad as New Coke, but they did get what felt like an overwhelming number of negative messages on the new reviews page.  Yes, these were the loyal fans, but they were not happy at all that the product had been messed with.  They had liked it for years, just the way it was, and didn't see why it had to be changed.  Some time later, that same brand launched a Facebook page, and they were worried the same thing would happen, but this time, it turned out that the loyal fans showed up and said mostly nice things, testifying to their long loyalty and how much the brand had meant to them.  The theory among the managers was that because when you post something on a brand's wall in Facebook it displays your own name and your own photo, it prompted people to be nicer.  When they were posting on an anonymous wall with a screen name as an alias, they were much meaner.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Emily Dickinson weighs in on whether internet relationships are real.

The Fourth Annual Fox Cities Book Festival is on this week, and I have volunteered all four years, although this year I was late to sign up and only worked at one session, which happened to be last night.  The session was called "Turn Up the Volume: A Riff on Creative Writing and Music", and it featured three different writers who incorporated music into their work in various ways.  Stephen McCabe was first - he would lay down repeated loops of guitar sounds with electric vibrophone or something as percussion and then read poems over the top of them; it was all very jazzy and beatnik and I loved it.  The last speaker was Bill Gillard, who read some poems and one story with themes drawn from his previous experience as a musician, including in the opening passage of the story the most perfect, moving description of a girl playing guitar (a Gibson 335 ES through a Fender Twin, to be exact) to make sounds in order to forget the boy she had lost, and also to remember him.  I went up to him afterwards to tell him that it was a perfect description of why girls play guitar - to make a sound that a boy made once.  It nearly made me cry when he read it.

But the one I want to talk about here is Ron Rindo, a Professor of English at UW Oshkosh down the road.  His thing is to set poems of other writers to original music.  Two of the pieces he did were Emily Dickinson poems, and to introduce one of them, poem 249 that starts "Wild Nights - Wild Nights!", he was talking about the different theories of her relationship with Susan Gilbert, the woman her brother had married and then they moved in next door.  There were many theories about this relationship and of what the poem was about, but he was in the camp that read it as a love poem, and believed Dickinson had a lesbian attraction to Susan Gilbert that was intense and passionate but also could never, never be requited.

Emily and Sarah used to pass notes between the houses, they lived next door but would communicate in writing, Emily in the end wrote more than 300 letters to Sarah, and he quoted her view that people in their flesh and blood were always disappointing, but she believed that in writing we are lifted up, and are our highest selves.

So, I thought, here is another vote for verbal relationships


Seeing an academic speak and then thinking of commenting on his work made me think about academic work and its research and rigor.  These little pieces haven't had much research or rigor.  I do know how to write properly rigorous academic prose, supported by full reviews of the existing literature and fully footnoted, revised and refined over months or years, carefully argued and vetted for being an original contribution to the field.  My dissertation was rigorous enough that the good people of the University of California thought it was worthy of giving a Ph.D.  But here, I am working to put out these little pieces for you at a higher frequency.  I read other people's blogs and know they have worked harder to refine their entries, and these in contrast are going to seem tossed off and casual.  I just wanted to make sure you realized that I know this.  I guess what you'll get here are many swift passes through a subject, like many cuts from a rapidly rotating blade.  Eventually I should get to the bottom of them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Prioritize Quarterly

I'm drifting off of social media topics for the moment, and onto something more businessy, org-designy, productivity-y, but since I heard the following advice on the radio this morning it has stayed with me.

I was bored with NPR (Wisconsin state politics has reached a kind of stasis with nothing new to report), and switched over to the online stream of my old favorite talk radio station from Sydney, ABC 702.  Since morning here is night there, I listened to Nightlife with Tony Delroy, and one of his guests was an expert in organization and efficiency and time management.  I didn't catch the guest's name but will look it up and try to include it here soon.

The lead topic was how to manage an email Inbox, but this didn't grab me because I conquered the Inbox problem many, many years ago and it gives me no trouble at all any more - my technique is that I read emails, but I never delete or file any of them, I just wait until Outlook shouts at me and I move the whole lot of them into a folder called "Inbox - Old".  Then two or three times a year I group the messages into batches and create archived pst files, extract them back out again, and bang, I can find everything I ever need using Search.  This has saved me countless hours, and I recommend the technique to anyone.  It also helps if you sort of think of projects based on the people who were working on them, but what kind of Relationship Marketer would I be if I didn't do that?

No, it was the second topic that really grabbed me.  Tony was asking about prioritizing tasks, and said, "So, do you pick certain tasks to focus on that day?" and I was nodding in agreement because this is something I've been trying to do recently, to just focus on the most important accomplishments that need to get done, fill in with other little things but really pick just two or three things that day which should get done before day's end, and which will feel like real achievements.

Well, no.  This expert thought that a daily priority list was far too small a unit.  In order to really work on the most important tasks, rather than work reactively on shorter-term urgent tasks, he recommended that you work quarterly.

Quarterly.  Every three months, pick out two or three things which will be your main focus for that three-month period.  Then go back into your schedule and make sure at least 60-70 percent of your time is scheduled to spend on those two or three most important goals.  Then fill the rest in with other smaller term or even reactive tasks, but the bulk of your time should be devoted to the main things you want to accomplish.  And then the big goals can be reviewed annually.

This is how objectives are set in workplaces, but I'd never even thought of operating on that time scale in my personal life.  Quarterly objectives!  What do I hope to accomplish three months from now?  It seems almost fancifully far away.  But when I think of the kind of thing that would be an appropriate three-month goal, I do find myself drawn to much more grand and ambitious thoughts than when I think of daily ones ("Get the tax return in the mail, for real, by 5pm."  "Load of dark laundry including towels."  "Buy milk."  That kind of thing).

It resonates with another principle I heard some years back, advice for people going through difficult times, especially those who might be close to despair and giving it all up.  If you can get the person to agree to hang on for three months, usually things will turn around and they will gain a different perspective.  And this person said it's because within three months, the seasons usually change.  The world looks different, either sunnier or snowier or more autumnal or verdant, and it can give a different perspective and that in itself sometimes gives hope.  People work well quarterly.  I'm going to try this new approach and see how it works.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What you get when you hire a philosopher

The last time I spent any length of time on the job market was after I finished my MBA.  I remember thinking at that time about leaving my Ph.D. off of my resume.  In addition to making me appear about ten years younger, I thought it might also have made my career history look more like a typical Marketer, a better fit for the mold.

But in the end, I have always left it on, because when you hire me, you get a Ph.D. in Philosophy, and if that's not what you want, then you don't want me.

What do you get when you hire a philosopher?

1.  The philosopher will question assumptions.  All assumptions.

If your new employee has spent a while in academic Philosophy, be warned that they are going to question everything.  Every little thing.  No assumption will be left in place, unexamined, and your new hire is going to be constantly asking why, about everything.  Remember that we spend at least seven years, and in my case 11 years, being trained to uncover and test every assumption that can possibly underlie a human thought.  Everything.  Whether time and space exist, whether pure thinking exists, whether if it did it would prove that anything else exists, whether cause and effect exist or all of history has been a series of coincidences, whether sentences can be both true and false at the same time.  We comfortably spend all our time questioning things like these.  So do you think we're going to be afraid of questioning the steps in your latest process flow chart?  Do you think we're not going to bring the full machinery of our highly trained analytical minds to the question of why, exactly, we have to fill out time sheets?  Did you think we would be too busy to bring you numerous alternative paradigms for your departmental organizational structure?  Nothing is safe, with a philosopher around. 

Some bosses appreciate this approach.  I had one boss who had a signed posted right outside his office door that said, "If you've always done it that way, then it's probably wrong."  It was no accident that he hired me, I don't think.  But the poor manager who inherited me when that boss moved on probably didn't realize what he was in for.

2.  Prepare to be contradicted in public.

Philosophers respect authority and hierarchies, but not in the standard ways these are recognized in the corporate world.  When I was a young academic, one of only two women, both of us first-year teachers, in a department full of white heads and grey beards, I had to learn how to speak up and ask questions and be seen to be testing the strength of ideas presented in departmental meetings or when visiting speakers came to give presentations.  This was hard for a young female academic to learn to do, partly to gain the confidence that my own, junior ideas could stand up to those of more senior and experienced colleagues but also because I possess a typically female conversational patterns of saying "Mm-hm" when someone else is talking, which they sometimes take for agreement when in fact it just means I'm waiting for my turn to talk.  So I had to learn to speak up and speak my mind, even in formerly intimidating and uncomfortable circumstances.  I picked up one of the greatest phrases I ever learned - "I disagree with you."  It certainly lacks the ambiguity of the "Mm-hm", and it always stopped people in their tracks because they want to hear why.

However.  When I moved over to the corporate world I found this very useful phrase had a different effect on my superiors.  "I disagree with you."  In the middle of a meeting, or on a conference call.  Especially in front of others.  Corporate bosses are definitely not used to being spoken to like this.  I remember some raised eyebrows, some exasperated sighs, and once a full, angry dressing-down.  I am sad now that I have had to un-learn "I disagree with you."  I much more often respond these days with a variation of "Sir, yes sir!", which seems to be how corporate bosses want to be addressed.  But it took years - if you are hiring someone who has worked more recently in academia, be ready to be confronted with a contrary opinion, even in front of people.  This is how we used to have to build our professional credibility, so it takes a while to realize that we're in an environment with different rules.

3.  You will never hear us say, "I'm really a visual person".

Philosophy is done with words.  Words are our only tools.  Sometimes the words are in Latin.  And I suppose there are the occasional images like Wittengenstein's duck-rabbit, but mainly, philosophy is done with words.  Furthermore, it doesn't matter at all to the validity of the argument what font those words are in.  They could be Courier, Times New Roman, Comic Sans, serif, non-serif, printed on the head of a pin or in skywriting hundreds of feet high.  The appearance of the words don't matter.  The words matter.

So we end up a bit handicapped in other forms of communication that do require visual elements, like graphic design or the construction of a persuasive PowerPoint.  Don't let the philosopher approve the creative for a new print ad or package design, because they can't tell the difference between balanced and busy, kerned and unkerned.  And try to be patient when they struggle to understand the point of meetings to develop models and frameworks for those PowerPoint slides - those hours spent hashing out whether the process should be depicted with a triangle pointing up or one pointing down, or maybe a set of three circles, or maybe it's three overlapping circles, or a stacked pyramid of bars of different lengths.  Even just typing this I'm having combat flashbacks to meetings like this, and a red fog of frustration and rage passes over my eyes and makes me unable to think.  If you want to know what the organization is like, why don't you just ask me?  I can talk it through in about 50 minutes (I learned to explain things in exact 50-minute increments when I was teaching), or I could write you an essay about it, why won't that work?  That will get you closer to the truth.  Philosophers think words describe truth, at least as well as anything can (see #1 above), and that geometrical models are just pictures of nothing, and that therefore no one can be the right model or even better than any other one and so any meeting about which model to use in a PowerPoint slide is a complete, expensive waste of time.  Be prepared for this, all you visual people in business.  You are going to be bombarded by words, so please do what you can to help translate this into a medium that other business people speak.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Creating Value

I've been reading the new book by Gary Vaynerchuck, called The Thank You Economy.  And then only just yesterday put together its thesis with something I've been talking about for a couple of years - "Ooooh, the Thank You Economy".

The basic thesis of his book is that companies who out-care their competition will win, and that the new Social Media tools available for communicating with customers will amplify this process.

The thing I've been talking about for years is how building a two-way relationship with customers over time can create equity that will make customers pay a premium price without hesitation, and never even consider buying from anyone else.  I truly believe this is true, and I know it's how I shop, but it can be hard to convince business people and brand managers, especially brand managers of products that are traditionally considered "low-involvement".  But I know even for the lowest, most comoditized product, there is a loyal core out there who love it, and that love can be fostered to encourage loyalty and reduce the need for discounting and promotions.

All of that is in CPG-Marketing-Speak, but here is my point in simpler terms:

The very same transaction can be valued very differently by the buyer, depending on how the seller sells.

I did a brilliant training course at work about a year ago called "Influence Without Authority" (the instructor was wonderful, a great presenter and demonstrator of principles who also had great insight into the structural features of Corporate America that create barriers - I will find his company name and update the link here) in which during several role playing exercises we got a really vivid feel for the difference.

In one example, the instructor played the Busy Senior Executive and had three class members come up and pitch an idea to him while the rest of us observed.  His rendition was perfect - he was reading a paper the whole time, barely acknowledged their presence, cut them off brusquely and generally was unwilling to give them any time or attention.  The poor classmates started in on the pitch for their product idea, talked about what it would mean to their own department, talked faster and faster as the Senior Exec turned off, and ended by offering bribes of plane fares and expense-paid trips to their facility, but none of it worked.  In the debrief, he pointed out that they had missed an opportunity to go in and start with questions, so that they could establish what the main priorities of the Exec were, what problems were keeping him up and night, so that they could position their idea as a solution.

Later in the course when we were doing exercises in pairs, I was assigned to play the role of Employee B in a series of three negotiations. I knew, from reading my briefing document, that in Exercise 3 I was going to ask Employee C if he'd be willing to meet monthly with three members of a combined research team.  We were on Exercise 2, in which Employee A was trying to sell me an idea.  Suddenly I heard him say, "What if I were to give you three members of my team, say once a month, to meet with senior leaders on this project?"  I knew from the script that that was exactly what I would need for the next exercise.  Oh my!  Here was this thing that was exactly what I needed, being offered to me on a platter!  I tried to keep a poker face and not act too excited about it, so that I still had some leverage in the negotiation, but the main thing I remember was the feeling.  I was not going to have to push and cajole and hard-sell and finagle and maneuver or bully Employee A, the offer and what I needed were perfectly matched!

When we did the debrief with the whole class, it turns out our little group playing the roles of Employees A, B and C were the only ones who'd actually come to an agreement.  Credit to my classmate for taking the time to find out my interests and issues, and pitching the solution to me as he did.  Others in the class had gone in hard with demands, and met resistance.  Same exact transaction, since all of us had received the same briefing documents.

So, the conclusion I draw from this, which I only really just figured out yesterday, is that the very same transaction can create feelings of relief and happiness in a buyer, or it can create feelings of resentment and resistance.  The background situation is the same.  The parties are the same.  The product is the same.  The only difference is the words the seller uses, and the order in which the seller says them.  "I have this thing that can help you with your problem" is different from "I need you to buy this thing right now."  Same thing.  Same speaker.  But the first approach actually makes the buyer value the thing differently.  For example, makes the buyer willing to pay a premium, and sets of a feeling of gratitude and trust that will make the buyer turn to this seller in the future for more solutions.

The buyer values the same thing differently.  The customer-centered approach creates value.

Ooooh.  Thank You ECONOMY.

Some cool things found via my new Twitter followers

I have just returned home from the Bazaarvoice Social Commerce Summit, where I connected with all sorts of colleagues in the field of Social Media.

Now that I'm home I'm taking the opportunity to review the profiles of some of my new Twitter contacts, and I've found a couple of sites that are really cool and in keeping with this blog's themes, so I wanted to share them with you.

My first follower from Finland.  I clicked through to the site and found the coolest thing, Digitalkoot is a joint project  by the National Library of Finland and Microtask to digitize and index the library's archives to preserve the country's cultural heritage and make it easier to access.  So, to help them in this project, they have created several interactive text-matching games that, by playing, you can actually use to improve the accuracy of their scanning and indexing.  They're all in Finnish, of course, but even a non-fluent human reader could probably do better than a machine on some of the older and degraded texts.  If you want to check them out, visit the site above and you'll need to log in using Facebook.

Barkley manifesto
Clicking on another new follower's link I found myself on the homepage of Barkley ad agency in Kansas City, and the introductory video (which doesn't auto-play, so full marks for that).  If you weren't reading it, it might come across as the usual fast, high-impact boldly colored text animation that designers throw together in five minutes and show along with some kind of dance music underneath at the start of their show reel or right before their CEO comes onstage at an awards ceremony.  Same old same old.  But the words are different.  They actually call on the industry to keep to a higher standard, remember the responsibility that comes along with the messages we put out, and to remember that for everyone who reads them they are personal.  Do they mean it?  If they do, this is the kind of message I can get behind.  Communication, even marketing communication, is a conversation between individual human beings.  If they mean it, I'm glad to see this message out there.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Walking the Talk

The field I work in goes by various names - Relationship Marketing, Social Media Management, Community Management, Conversational Marketing.  But whatever you call it, the role I'm supposed to play in my company is to listen to customers, understand everything about them, anticipate their needs and feed those insights back into the strategy and innovation teams. so that they can build products that delight customers and are exactly what they're looking for to solve their biggest problems (ideally, things they don't even know they're looking for but that delight them once they get them, because then we're more likely to be the first to market with that thing), and can build marketing communication programs that deliver exactly the right message with the right offer to the right customer at exactly the right time.

Because I work in this field, I am the key point person for tons of agency partners who are in that same business.  They do strategic analysis and insight work to help us understand our customers.  They build programs and tools that help us create and execute marketing communication programs.  They sell stuff to me so that my company can more effectively sell stuff to our customers.

So we're all trying to do the same thing, and everyone in the field can write articles and retweet tweets and create PowerPoint slides that convey the fundamental principles of doing this well. 

But it's really, really hard to actually live by all the principles we espouse.

And I think all of us forget how many levels of "customers" we really need to treat in the full, open-eared, interactive, caring Relationship Marketing way.  I need to devote lots of time and energy to understanding and conversing with our end users, but we also have a layer of distributors who are also customers in a way, and have their own distinct set of needs and characteristics and problems to solve.  And then since I work in a department that acts as an internal consultant to several departments, those are my customers as well, who will have a completely different set of things that keep them up at night that I must understand in order to sell in my recommendations as a solution.

So it shouldn't be surprising when the agencies that sell me the tools and services I need to manage all these various customer constituencies forget the princples espoused in their own PowerPoints and tweets and t-shirts and coffee mugs, and instead focus on the features of their tool and the applications they have dreamed up for it.  But they, of all people, should really be forgetting this less.  I am your customers.  You need to listen to what I say, mine data about me, truly understand my objectives and strategies, identify the things that keep me up at night, and then bring me your tool or service as the ideal solution to help with that.  If you can sell your products to me in a way that helps me sell products to my customers, all those various diverse layers of customers, I will pay a premium price and buy additional services from you in the future and have such ferocious loyalty that I would never think of buying anything like it from anyone else.  This is what you tell me is the level of loyalty I can achieve with my own customers if I use your tools and services, right?  So if you believe your own white papers, you should believe that you and I can have that same relationship.  So why don't you live it?  Why aren't you better at Relationship Marketing or Social Media Management or Community Management or Conversational Marketing to your own customer, who is me?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Direct Marketing, Magic and Creepiness: I create a 2x2 grid!

In a meeting last week we were talking about geofencing, the technique of identifying someone's location based on the signal from their mobile phone, and the use of geofencing for pushing targeted marketing messages.  The marketer's dream use of this tool is that a customer who wants to buy your product, say a hammer, is walking by your store and they get an alert, "Hey, we have hammers inside! Come right in!"

Rightly so, though, someone in the meeting mentioned that with these kinds of messages,there's a line between "magic" and "creepy". 

It's a line that all Direct Marketers need to respect, whether using SMS communications or another medium like email  We collect information about customers and are growing increasingly efficient and sophisticated about using it to target products and offers to specific individuals.  When this works well, from the customer's point of view it's like we knew what they wanted before they even wanted it, but when it works badly we can come across as presumptuous idiots or creepy stalkers.

Later in the meeting someone else gave an example of a text campaign he opted in to that didn't work well at all - he'd just bought a new car from a dealership and signed up for regular text messages, but all the ones he received were trying to get him to buy a new car.  This fell on a different spectrum, between "magic" and "really not magic", and so I set my mind to trying to figure out the model that would show the relationships between these example.

And lo, I ended up creating my first ever 2x2 grid!  I first ran across these in business school, and was the most impressed when I once participated in a consulting competition among my classmates.  We were in groups of four or five, received a case study and had a limited time, I think it was a couple of hours, to develop a response to the case and present it.  My team was kind of dysfunctional because we had no brilliant ideas and everyone was waiting for someone else to jump up and lead us, but another team I watched present included a graph that perfectly explained the universe of the business situation and crisply locked in their concepts.  I remember the presenter making a passing snide comment about, "a 2 by 2 grid, of course", and I realized that this was a business "thing" and that I didn't really know how to spin them out.

That was my first exposure to the 2x2 matrix but it is actually quite famous and well-known, with its own website, Wikipedia page, and whole book you can buy from Amazon, and articles calling it "a consultant's best friend".  I realized it was just a b-school technique, a model you could whip out and apply to business situations to look smart, but it really did make my classmates look smart.

And I never got the hang of using them, until this meeting last week!  Because as I was thinking about "magic" vs "creepy" and "magic" versus the really not magic texts the new car owner had received, I realized that they weren't arranged on a single spectrum, they were arranged along two axes!  Voila!  The sides of a matrix grid!

The two axes are, one, whether or not the messaging is targeted based on data the company knows about the consumer.  And two, whether or not the consumer actually wants the thing the company is offering.

Dividing these axes into two, you get these four quadrants:
  • Magic - when the company, based on knowing the customer well, sends an offer for a hammer just exactly when the person wants a hammer
  • Creepy - when the company targets a message based on what it knows about the customer but the message is unwanted - this is when customers start to wonder how the company knows these things and starts to feel stalked and exploited.  It's a failure of using targeting outside of an established trusting relationship, and it's just as inappropriate for business as it is for personal relationships.
  • Lucky - Companies who don't use targeted messaging or who don't even collect customer data still advertise, but they have to do it by pushing out mass messages using vehicles like TV advertising and newspaper inserts, "Sunday! Sunday! 10% off all hammers!", and just cross their fingers and hope that some member of their target market happens to be listening.  The fact that any advertising messages meet their target at all is a bit of a miracle in this system, and it necessarily involves incredible amounts of waste.
  • Spam - That leaves the last box, when a company blasts out a mass untargeted message for something the receiver of that message doesn't want.  This is spam, this is noise, this is clutter, and this is the thing targeted Direct Marketing is mainly designed to prevent.
 Here is my grid!