LISTS AND DATABASES: Christmas wish list - Wealthy OAPs, arcade gamers, millionaires and shopaholics ... Peter Crush asks marketers exactly who would make it on to their ultimate mailing list

If you want to know who's been turned down for planning permission

or who suffers from flatulent dogs, there's a list out there which tells

you. The sheer variety is staggering and new lists are appearing all the

time. The latest range from the UK Shareholders File, a new record of

financially astute stakeholders, names of people who buy Feng Shui

crystals and adjustable beds.



But just how reliable these lists are for matching prospects with

products is a recurring question. According to Mark Arnold, data broking

manager at Zed Data, finding more relevant information has never been

easier.



But take a look at what some direct marketers have been up to recently

and the picture is somewhat different.



Honda's direct marketing manager Matthew Coombe is working with Team LGM

to review its lists, while Lexus has appointed Partners Andrew Aldridge

to build a new one rather than doing what partner Phil Andrews describes

as "simply buying lists of BMW owners. This strategy fails to understand

how people respond to the Lexus proposition."



The perfect list, it seems, just isn't out there, no matter how hard

brokers try to persuade you otherwise. And, as Matthew Kelleher, general

manager of Claritas Interactive, says: "Good ones end up exhausted. They

start well at the beginning of the year, but they finish by being

marketed to death by cash-strapped list owners."



Everyone's idea of a dream list is, of course, very different. But when

exclusivity is key, there's no harm daydreaming. With the season of

goodwill and unexpected presents upon us, we asked direct marketers who

would be on their Christmas wish list.



Making lists work



"I'd love to mail all those people who really look forward to Christmas

but yet again get really naff gifts like kipper ties and diamond socks,"

says Christian Robinson, marketing manager of gadget e-tailer,

firebox.com.



Firebox, which launched in April 2000, has had mixed responses from its

lists. "We started very niche," Robinson says, "hitting the lads market

with products like a shot glass chess set. It meant we bought readership

lists from magazines like Maxim and Stuff, which generated a four per

cent response rate. But as we move towards being more mass market,

targeting more females, we've had only half the response with equivalent

magazines." Robinson wants to start tackling the lifestyle databases as

a source of prospects - an area some still criticise for not being as

dream-inducing as they used to be.



"The one thing there's a shortage of," says Arnold, "is good attitudinal

data. But the latest lists aren't coming from Claritas or Experian, but

from customer surveys. One of the newest is from What Car? magazine. It

asked why people want to buy certain brands rather than just saying they

own x or y car."



What one direct marketer has on their database can be somebody else's

entire dream list for very different reasons. Martin Capel-Smith is one

such person. Marketing communications manager at pocket PC maker

Handspring, he says something like the Firebox list would be his dream

purchase. "We've hit an interesting crossroads," he says. "Our latest

product has a built-in wireless receiver which means users can surf the

web without needing a separate mobile phone. We need to define whether

our prospects are phone or computer users, as the product cuts across

both groups."



Among the list experts there's recognition that clients are becoming

more demanding but, according to Jacqui Rolands, head of data at Lowe

Live, the classical methodology is still appropriate. "We've sourced

lists on people with hair loss problems to overseas expatriates in the

UK, and there's still a very good range to collect from. It's more the

list's accuracy that determines whether it's a 'dream list'."



Keeping it simple



Amazingly, very simple data is still a dream for some. Among Rolands'

dream lists would be one of student addresses during term time (rather

than their home addresses). Patrice Bendon, senior product manager for

Experian's Prospect Locator, the popular list recently updated with

consumer and MOSAIC demographic material, also believes simple is

effective.



"A list of job titles that actually reflect what people do would benefit

those who send mailers to the wrong people because of their inflated

titles," she says. "B2B lists that grade people to their purchasing

power, lists of millionaires' buying habits, and home and business

addresses on the same record so firms can target people based on their

careers would all be dream lists."



But it's when the obvious is overlooked that you realise what's 'really'

coveted by a company. "Rich people, high rollers, people intent on

making loads of money - these may be who you think I'd want on my dream

list,"says Peter Simpson, head of direct marketing at telephone banking

firm First Direct."What I want are those lofty souls who disdain the

mundane, avoid hassle at all costs, and frankly have better things to

do."



If this sounds like an impossible brief, then maybe it's what brokers

and data managers ought to expect to hear more of. So says Chris Clarke,

account director at interactive marketing agency Abel & Baker, which has

collected new data for the likes of Virgin Mobile and Virgin Trains.



"I was in a pub last Saturday when I was texted to buy tomorrow's Mail

on Sunday to receive a free Sting CD," he recounts. "I was targeted

because I read papers, but why group Sting and MoS together? This shows

the science of list-buying, but looking at the wrong relationships."



Clarke believes the answer to your dream list is to add data only when

you've built up an understanding of why it is people think they need to

buy your product. "The whole language of lists is very war-like and

anti-personal - from 'sniper's rifle lists' to 'scattergun lists'," he

says. "My dream list would rank people's sense of humour. For a stand-up

comedian this is second nature - you either get booed off stage or

accepted. Mailers are no different."



Lateral thinking can reveal interesting wish lists. Jinny Hutchinson is

UK country manager of iobox.com, where phone-buffs can download mobile

ring tones. "We're expanding our product offering to games that can be

downloaded to palmtop computers," she says. " Our ideal list would be

people who remember how to play early 80s arcade games and know the

rules to Mortal Combat!"



The easiest way to get hold of this would be to buy lists from other

firms, such as computer game designers. But there's wariness to

prostitute valuable data. John Porter, direct marketing manager at The

Woodland Trust, has a clever solution: "Our dream list would be all

people who love trees. We swap data from mutually benefiting associates,

no money involved, such as environmental organisations."



But some wish lists border on pure indulgence. "My dream list would be

of wealthy 90-year-olds keen to support charities with a legacy and who

are reviewing their wills," says David Burrows, planning director at

TDA.



Lorraine Brannan, head of product marketing at M&S Financial Services,

is also in a playful mood. "My fantasy list would be a perfect set of

look-a-likes for the most profitable customer in the M&S Financial

Services database. Lots of loyal members, who'll shop until they

drop ... Bridget Jones comes to mind! So here's a test for

Equifax/Claritas/Experian. Can you find me single women, in their

mid-30s who live and work in London in the media, buy more than just

'big knickers' from M&S, and live on Chardonnay, cappuccinos and

chocolate croissants?" You heard it here first.



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