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Johnson’s World—Bad Data Needs a Scrub: Clean up Your Data Before It Takes You to the Cleaners

Steven Johnson shows how customization and personalization based on bad data can lead to ill will, poor publicity, and even lawsuits.


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About Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson is a successful print owner and digital pioneer. Each month in Johnson’s World, he offers up his take on the day-to-day world of graphic communications.


By John Zarwan on Oct 26, 2021

I did an inquiry to a cooperative retailer, (one which is generally pretty good at multi-channel marketing and data) so they had my membership number, email, and name.The rapid, accurate, and polite email reply said "Dear Brian". Huh?

But personalization will always have the potential for error, even when the databases are clean and the marketing on point. "Celebrate your anniversary with us." Received the day after your spouse has left you or died.


By Pete Basiliere on Oct 26, 2021

A Ford dealer sends marketing postcards addressed to one of my sons, using my vacation home's street address, purchased in 2012. Not only did he move out of our home in New Hampshire in the year 2000, but he lives in Colorado and has never lived in Maine. Duh!

All of us have examples such as these. Steve, can you share examples of the lawsuits that you call out in the article's summary?


By Steve Johnson on Oct 27, 2021

It is unfortunate when contact is attempted for someone recently deceased. It could just as easily be an email, text, or phone as a direct mail piece. Databases take time to be updated. It is inexcusable when mail is sent to someone who died years ago and never even lived at the address.


By Steve Johnson on Oct 28, 2021

Pete Basiliere, I do not have examples of lawsuits emerging from bad data (thank goodness!) I'm merely alluding to the potential exposure that results from poor or mangled databases. Sadly many marketers consider a small percentage of missed sales from some bad data acceptable, without considering permanent customer ill-will, not to mention potential legal exposure and ensuing negative publicity.



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