Even the USPS is Having a Sale!

Posted by truecreek on May 2, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

This is just huge.  Even the USPS is having a sale.  This is from their hot press release.

Today we filed a notice with the Postal Regulatory Commission for a Summer Sale. The Sale will provide a 30 percent reduction in postage for qualifying Standard Mail customers mailing letters and flats. The Summer Sale will run from July 1 through September 30, 2009  .   The Summer Sale offer is subject to review by the Commission for up to 45 days following May 1.


The United States Postal Service has issued further specifics on its proposed “summer sale.”

The sale will run from July 1 through September 30 and will be open to mailers who mailed more than one million Standard letters and/or flats from October 1, 2007, through March 31, 2008.

The USPS said eligible mailers will receive a rebate of 30% on any mail volume in the summer sale period, which is over the past threshold.

The rebates will be adjusted if the mailer’s October 2009 volume is less than their October 2008 mail volume adjusted their mailing trend.

Mailers will pay full postage during the summer, and their rebates will be determined by the USPS after October 31. Rebates will be credited to the mailer’s permit account before December 31.

The USPS will be sending eligible mailers letters that will provide the threshold as determined by USPS data systems.

Once they receive their eligibility letter, mailers may enroll in the program on the Web on or before July 1.

The summer sale proposal must still be approved by the USPS board of governors and the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Summer Postal Rate Rollback May Make Big Mailers Big Winners.

Posted by truecreek on April 20, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Richard H. Levey

If a proposed test rollback of mail rates this summer goes through, listen for the sound of corks popping in Plano, TX. That’s because J.C Penney Co., which makes its headquarters there, was the biggest mailer during summer 2008, and stands to reap the largest benefit.

On Friday, word began circulating through the direct mail industry that The U.S. Postal Service was mulling temporary postage discounts for high-volume mailers that schedule drops between June 15 and Sept. 15. While the details of the program are still being worked out, discounts are expected to be between 20% and 30%.

This assumes that the highest-volume mailers haven’t negotiated separate, individual discounts with the U.S.P.S., or that those that have won’t be allowed to participate in the program. There has been no comment, official or unofficial, on either speculation at deadline.

istock_000004747819smallBut assume that the largest mailers pay the going rate. Penney mailed at least 119 million letters and catalogs in at least 23 separate campaigns, as far as could be ascertained from several editions of the U.S.P.S’s Postal Bulletin.

A positive decision by the Postal Service could give an effort-free extra bit of income to the $572 million the company earned during its most recent fiscal year, which ended Jan. 31.

Information within the Postal Bulletins can be a little dicey: Among the June 15-Sept. 15 mailings scheduled for 2008, a few mailings, such as a 2.65 million-piece drop identified only as “Summer Sale and Clearance Postcard”, was not included in Direct Newsline’s calculations And since the Bulletin only lists individual campaigns in excess of 1 million pieces, it’s very likely high-volume mailers with smaller-yet-regular drops were overlooked as well.

While the Postal Service’s fourth quarter doesn’t exactly correspond to the period being scrutinized (the quarter starts and ends 15 days later), for comparison’s sake the Service carried just over 23.7 billion Standard Mail pieces during the quarter, which generated $4.94 billion in revenue.

Should the program be implemented, discount levels will be based on mailers’ meeting individually calculated levels based on the volume of mail they sent out between June 15 and Sept. 15, 2008. Because of the manpower needed to calculate each level and discount, the sales may apply to only the 4,000 largest Standard Mail users, according to a Direct Marketing Association (DMA) statement speculating on the discount program.

If it does go through as currently on the table, mailers that have reduced their volume during the first two quarters of the Postal Service’s fiscal 2009 year may have the levels needed to quality for discounts reduced as well, according to the DMA. The Postal Service’s fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2008.

Time for a Data Diet? Deciding What Customer Information to Keep — and What to Toss

Posted by truecreek on March 19, 2009 under More Dam News | Read the First Comment

From Knowledge@Wharton:

Heartland Payment Systems, a credit card processor, may have had up to 100 million records exposed to malicious hackers. Payment processors CheckFree and RBS Worldpay, and employment site Monster.com have all reported data breaches in recent months, as have universities and government agencies. Experts at Wharton say that personal data is increasingly a liability for companies, and suggest that part of the solution may be minimizing the customer information these companies keep.

Indeed, according to Wharton marketing professors Eric Bradlow and Peter Fader companies should deploy a technique called “data minimization.” The concept: Keep the customer data a company needs for competitive advantage and purge the rest. “I think there is a fear and paranoia among companies that … if they don’t keep every little piece of information on a customer, they [can’t function],” says Bradlow. “Companies continue to squirrel away data for a rainy day. We’re not saying throw data away meaninglessly, but use what you need for forecasting and get rid of the rest.”

The problem with the data hoarding approach is that companies can’t use most of the information they keep, adds Fader. Meanwhile, they become data pack rats, chasing an illusory dream of one-to-one marketing, which he says “is a myth. The best thing to do is aggregate information so companies can predict something like, ‘Among all people who bought five times or more, how many times are they likely to buy in the next year?'”

Fader and Bradlow discussed data minimization concepts when they presented papers at the recent Wharton Information Security Best Practices Conference. Their papers illustrate how companies can still predict customer behavior even if they minimize the customer data they keep.

However, data minimization isn’t a panacea, argues Wharton operations and information management professor Eric Clemons. Some industries — such as insurance or credit card companies — may need to collect detailed customer data for competitive advantage. Meanwhile, companies that serve as pack rats for customer data are focusing on installing better defenses and procedures to protect information.

“The dominant argument of the day is that more data improves the accuracy of targeting,” says Andrea Matwyshyn, a legal studies and business ethics professor at Wharton. “But there are additional risks associated with storing that information. More may not always be better.”

Indeed, the cost of a data breach in 2008 was $202 per compromised record, up 2.5% from $197 per record in 2007, according to the Ponemon Institute, a Michigan group that researches and consults on privacy and information security issues. Ponemon’s estimates are based on interviews with companies that have suffered breaches to customer records that include credit card numbers and, in some cases, personally identifiable information. Following a data breach, companies often must hire security consultants, engage legal counsel and offer credit monitoring services to affected customers. The Institute also found that companies will lose customers in the year following a data breach. For example, health care and financial firms lost 6.5% and 5.5% of customers, respectively, after such incidents.

Fader and Bradlow argue that companies are taking on undue risk to their reputations by hoarding data with little business benefits. While companies generally disclose what data they keep in little-read privacy statements, consumers can still be surprised when breaches occur. “Companies are actively collecting data without realizing the work involved,” says Fader. “And given how companies are stretched thin, they can’t manage the data correctly. Keeping detailed data is a blessing and a curse.”

What to Keep?

The real challenge for companies is assessing what customer information they need to retain, says Fader, who adds that firms may be keeping an excessive amount of data because they can’t pinpoint what they actually want. “Data minimization involves more than just the data. You can’t minimize data until you know what to do with it. What data elements do you need to predict customer behavior?”

The inability to answer those tough questions, says Bradlow, could be one reason why companies default to storing as much data as possible — not the best strategy when it’s clear that many companies don’t know what to do with this data even when they have it.

Fader and Bradlow recommend a simple approach to data minimization. First, companies should figure out what information they need to track consumer behavior. Then, aggregate that information — including, for example, grocery bills, shopping frequencies and e-commerce sales for a retailer — over a defined period such as two to four months. With that aggregated information, a company can create histograms — graphical representations of aggregated data –and throw away original data.

Fader suggests that histograms offer accuracy rates close to individual targeting — without the risk. Purging individual information lowers costs because companies don’t have to secure information in transit, store and analyze data, and navigate a bevy of regulations across the globe. “Maintaining data warehousing is costly because the minute you keep data, you have to protect it,” says Bradlow. “Most firms realize they can’t do one-to-one targeting so why not only keep data that’s relevant?”

According to Matwyshyn, the discussion by Fader and Bradlow was an eye opener for privacy and legal experts at the Wharton security conference. What remains to be seen is whether privacy experts, marketers and security professionals can agree that data minimization is an important step. “The key is that there is discussion on the issue,” says Matwyshyn. “Marketers and privacy experts may not be as far apart as people presume.”

Fader and Bradlow acknowledge that the argument for data minimization is only just beginning. For data minimization to become the norm, a company’s management, privacy officers, legal counsel and marketing team will have to reach consensus on customer data collection. Legal and privacy experts are likely to support data minimization, while marketers will argue for keeping all the data they can collect.

Poaching Profitable Customers

In addition, data minimization practices will vary by industry. Clemons says that data can be a competitive advantage for many companies. For instance, Capital One used customer data to better segment its most profitable customers and poach similar ones from larger rivals. In this example, customer information led to varied pricing models — such as interest rates that varied by customer credit ratings — that maximized the profit from the top decile, or 10%, of customers. “Under the uniform pricing models of the mid 1990s, the top decile of customers produces 150 times more profit than average,” says Clemons. “Capital One found a way to attract the best customers away from other issuers.”

In a co-authored study, Clemons found that Capital One used what it calls an information-based strategy that allows the company to try varying approaches based on differences between itself and rivals. This strategy allowed Capital One to deploy a mass customization model. That model also generated returns, says Clemons. Capital One sustained double-digit returns on equity and double-digit increases in sales and profit growth due to its approach.

Clemons argues that storing customer data in bulk could lead to new pricing strategies. He agrees that one-to-one marketing is illusory at best, but a move to precision pricing — or figuring out exactly what an individual customer will pay — may warrant being a data pack rat. “I am not talking about pursuing some sort of illusory one-to-one marketing relationship with customers,” says Clemons. “I’m talking about making the transition to precision pricing, which does indeed require understanding your customer.”

Meanwhile, there’s another conundrum companies face: Data purged today could be valuable tomorrow. “Ten years ago, one of my clients wanted to purge his database. It was an insurance company, but once you purge your database, you know no more about your customers than a new entrant,” says Clemons. “That was okay under existing pricing models, but after any form of insurance deregulation, the information they were purging would have been enormously valuable.”

Ultimately, the choice to follow data minimization practices boils down to one question: What will a company do with the data?

“If you are collecting data just for its own purposes, follow a minimization approach,” suggests Matwyshyn. “If a company is doing something else with data, like selling it, then there’s no incentive to minimize the risk.”

Bradlow says data minimization has the potential to be one of the key security tools used by companies, even if it remains largely an academic concept today. “Security professionals will buy [data minimization]. Next, you have to convince the marketing world and begin giving talks outside the ivory tower. I think firms will start buying in.”

Infomercials Find Their Way to Television’s Prime Time.

Posted by truecreek on February 16, 2009 under More Dam News | Be the First to Comment

By Stephanie Clifford
Published: January 26, 2009

THE last two Saturday nights, CBS’s prime-time lineup included “Game Show in My Head,” “48 Hours Mystery” — and lots of infomercials.

The two-minute commercials, for a DVD set of “The World at War” and a CD of relaxing classical music, both from Time Life, ran during almost every show on the network’s recent Saturday nights.

It is a sign of just how bad the advertising market is: infomercials are running during network prime time, filling slots that automobiles and banks once owned.

“The economy is the No. 1 focus for everyone, and it affects the advertisers and the rates,” said Pat Boos, the senior vice president for broadcast, acquisition and marketing at Direct Holdings Americas, which licenses the Time Life brand.

“When someone pulls off the air, like a pharmaceutical or medical company or a sports company, the networks sometimes find themselves with last-minute dead space,” she said. “We can come in and say, we’ve got a tape ready, we’ve got the product ready.”

Ms. Boos said that Time Life was running double the number of prime-time spots that it did a year ago. Networks try to avoid infomercial advertisers, because they pay “a fraction of what general advertising costs,” said Nancy Duitch, the chief executive of Vertical Branding, which runs infomercials for its products like the Steam Buddy and the Nicer Dicer. Although her rates vary, she said she often paid as little as 5 percent of what a general advertiser would.

What’s Up With Billy Mays?

Posted by truecreek on January 28, 2009 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | 2 Comments to Read

Thanks to Cindy Perman for a great article about the supposed “King” of TV sales.

How long is this recession going to last? That’s the $6 million question.

Well, look no further than your television for the answer.

Infomercial guru Billy Mays, known for his signature yelling and, um, beard, used to hawk the Ding King, the “body-shop secret” that would help you bang out the dents in your vehicle like a pro.

Then everybody stopped buying cars.

Mays pitched the miracle of Oxiclean: This 2 ½-pound tub will do 75 loads of laundry!

Then everybody lost their jobs and suddenly, no one gave a $#!+ about the red-wine stain on their shirt.

Then, this summer, the clouds rolled in and the Billy Mays indicator seemed to hit rock bottom: There he was on TV, trying to sell me low-cost health insurance.

I was never completely comfortable with Mays’s transition from my tub to my doctor’s office.

That was right before the bottom fell out of the market and the economy started hemorrhaging jobs at the rate of half a million per month.

But, wait! Don’t answer yet.

You also get—not one—

Not two—

But THREE cans of hope!

Check him now: Mays is hawking Mighty Mend It, a fabric glue that can hem your pants, reaffix the pocket on your jeans … even repair your torn American flag!

“Just apply. Gently touch … and mend it!” Mays cheers as the flag is restored just before the big finish: Mays and the flag in a wind tunnel.

“It has the strength to withstand storm-force winds!” Mays brags of Mighty Mend It, but we all know what he really means: the economy. Mays will help us hold it together until the storm passes.

And the economy’s red glare!
The flag rippling in air!
Gave proof on this infomercial
That our economy is still there
Oh say does tha-at star spangled pro-du-uct ye-et wa-ave …
O’er the la-and of the free
And all for just $19.95.

Call now. And when Billy starts offering you things you don’t need again, you’ll know the economy is back on track.