Sunday 30 December 2012

midata – dumb marketing

Do you feel resentful? Permanently? About everything?

Are you susceptible to blatant mercenary manipulation?

Are you a helpless consumer? You see it and you have to buy it?

Then midata is the scheme for you. Here's the Daily Mirror on 17 November 2012 trying to sell the scheme to you in its Money • Personal finance • Shopping section:
Quids in: How new Midata scheme will create your own personal data bank

Imagine always getting the cheapest deal on anything you buy, from clothes to energy bills and mobile phone contracts.

Imagine never having to worry about keeping receipts or warranty documents when you buy something new for your home.

And imagine being able to check that you are always buying the healthiest and cheapest food.

That is what the future may hold under a new Government scheme to make firms give you the data they keep on your spending habits.

At the moment firms can gather information about a customer and use it for themselves – without sharing it with the person whose details they have stored.

The scheme would allow people to access this information and download it on to their “midata” web account.

They could then key the data into consumer websites to find money-saving deals on everything from bank accounts to a big night out.

It is hoped the scheme will eventually include supermarkets to help customers eat more healthily by showing the fat and salt content as well as all the best food deals.

Consumer affairs minister Jo Swinson said that the “midata” scheme is about turning the tables on big retailers and putting power into the hands of consumers.

“Many businesses reap huge commercial benefits from the information they gather from consumers’ daily spending patterns,” she said.

“Why shouldn’t consumers also benefit from this by having access to their own data to enable them to make better choices?”
Perhaps when Lord Leveson's recommendations are implemented all journalism will be like this – from Whitehall PR handout to printed page/iNewspaper app with nary an intervening intellectual delay.

Until that day, remember that with midata the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) are luring you into a dangerous place, putting all your personal data on the web, in the cloud, with a trusted third party you've never met and have no reason to trust. You know that. You know that the web is a dangerous place. There's no reason to believe that midata will save you money or help the UK economy to grow. BIS know that. They're just doing GDS's dirty work for them. (GDS is the Government Digital Service.)

You may have some residual doubts. Perhaps the banks and the major retailers really do know so much about you that they can predict your every whim and take advantage of you? There are mooncalves who believe that. But do you?

You shouldn't.

Consider four cases:
  1. Three months ago DMossEsq booked a stay at a hotel in Madrid. He made the booking on the hotel's website. Then he opened the Guardian newspaper website. And there, alongside the article he wanted to read, was an advertisement for that very same hotel. Spooky? A bit. Maybe. Clearly Google was keeping track of his web browsing and serving up ads accordingly. But never mind spooky, it was just stupid. DMossEsq had already booked the hotel. The ad was too late. And useless.
  2. That's Google. How about a brilliant retailer like Amazon? Maybe they're better at this marketing lark? Not obviously. Some years ago, DMossEsq bought a TV through Amazon. Then Amazon started sending him emails trying to inveigle him into buying a TV. Too late. He'd already bought one. As Amazon should have known.
  3. OK, if not the retailers, how about the banks? They know just about everything DMossEsq spends his money on. Are they more effective? No. One of DMossEsq's bank accounts went dormant a few months ago, there had been no movement for several years. The bank informed him that they were going to close the account. We agreed where the balance should be transferred to, an active account, the money was duly transferred, the old account was duly closed – everything tickety-boo. Then a glossy sheet of marketing turned up in the post identifying the closed account and saying "you have been pre-selected for a Barclaycard Cashback Business credit card". Brilliant. A credit card on a closed account that the bank knew was closed because they'd just closed it.
  4. Do you know anyone who has ever bought anything from an ad-server? Goods? Services? Anything? Ever?
Do you still feel resentful at the power these suppliers have over you in virtue of their knowledge of your spending habits? That's what GDS and BIS want you to feel. They think you're stupid.

Or do you just feel sorry about all us schmuks paying higher retail prices because hotels, shops and banks are wasting their budget on useless marketing services from search engine companies, on-line retailers and whoever Barclays have outsourced their direct marketing to?


frugal said...

"It is hoped the scheme will eventually include supermarkets to help customers eat more healthily by showing the fat and salt content as well as all the best food deals."

This is from the same government that are funding a regulator (with taxpayer's money), governed by Hampton principles of "light touch regulation" (already proven to have failed in the financial industry with banking collapse) rather than the laws of the land.
Trading standards have confirmed (in private message) that they have not prosecuted asda a single time in the past 5 years on anything, as they now "work with" the supermarket.

How can giving them access to our own information improve anything for the consumer?
The same asda that are currently spending over £4 Million in 2012-2013 on marketing that they are for the "local community" - this is £4 Million from profits that come from OUR pockets and no doubt tax deductable in some way as a business expense?

THE most competitive markets are those that do not know about a customer's spending habits.
This also lowers prices, giving better value to the individual. We know this as the government tell us this when they want to increase competition.
Yet, when they want to sell on OUR information, competition aspects go out of the window.

Jo Swinson is plain wrong. If Jo was correct in her marketing, she would back up her claims with answers to the various questions being asked from all sides.
Her case for midata lacks any credibility and relies on marketing to push vague and generalised ideology.

The British public are walking blindly into a trap that once put in place, can never be reversed.
As a test, ask any politician why they will not reverse, modify or remove the Hampton principles of regulation from any enforcement body or regulator.... your question will be met with complete silence.
The Hampton principles references are currently being removed from most regulator's websites as we speak, even though they are in force and on the statute book.
Keep up the good work.

David Moss said...

Thanks for that, Frugal. You too, you keep it up. Best wishes

Mike Broken said...

Imagine never keeping receipts or warranty documents. Then imagine a third party losing them all. If I want paperless guarantees, I'm quite happy to have them emailed to me, and I'll look after them myself, thanks

Imagine always getting the cheapest deal - which would be facilitated by publishing comparable product and pricing data (no ID required)

Imagine being able to check you are always buying the healthiest food- again, this would be facilitated by publishing comparable product data (no ID required)

And as for the idea of miData becoming some uber-recommendation engine ("I see you bought baked beans from Tesco. Boots has the best price on anti-flatulence pills") - how exactly does this empower me?

This incoherent sales pitch only makes sense when you realise it's not aimed at us punters, but at companies who profit from data mining. The gov wants 3rd parties to bear the costs of its ID initiative. The quid pro quo for being an ID provider is that you get access to the data.

miData will only empower us to become more obedient consumers

David Moss said...

Thanks for those comments, Mr Broken.

The sales pitch for midata is incoherent.

midata only makes sense when you realise that Whitehall need us all to have electronic IDs so that public services can be delivered on-line.

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