CONSUMERS WIELD DATA POWER

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ORLANDO-A changing consumer-empowered, pioneering and hungry for control-is significantly altering the landscape in database marketing.

Consumers are increasingly taking a more active part in the management of data about themselves and their transactions, Esther Dyson, president of information technology company EDventure Holdings, New York, told the National Center for Database Marketing conference. The conference, co-sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association, was attended by about 1,600 people here last week.

The coming of new media means more power for consumers and less power for marketers, Ms. Dyson said.

"As marketers, the way to win in the future is to give away control," she said. First, ask consumers for the information and then communicate to consumers the benefits of disclosing the information.

Consumers will likely join online discussion groups and trade information about products, services and brands, Ms. Dyson said. In those situations, consumers may not always be positive about products, and marketers will have little control.

"A marketer with a good product stands behind it," she said. "There needs to be a willingness to go out there and receive feedback and interact and communicate."

That view was shared by Barbara Caplan, partner at Yankelovich Partners, Norwalk, Conn.

Consumers are increasingly distrustful of government and business, she said. But there's also a trend away from consumers as vigilantes-angry and anti-brand-and a move toward consumers as straight shooters, she said, with their philosophy being "Level with me and I'll give you my business."

"Quality, respect and integrity pay. They beget the pot of gold, customer loyalty....A little respect goes a long way," Ms. Caplan said.

Consumers' recent mind-set had been one of denial, marked by uncertainty, finger-pointing and victimization, with survival being the goal, she said. Now, they're embracing reasonable expectations, a pioneering spirit and a goal of gaining greater control of the future.

Home, family, leisure and fun mark the hot trends of the mid-1990s. "One of the seminal developments of the mid-'90s, for consumers, is that home is where I want to be," Ms. Caplan said.

Ramifications for database marketers: Consumers are spending more dollars on home and family; about 20 million to 40 million are working at home; entertainment is increasingly home-based, she said.

"Relationships are the need for the '90s-family, friends and co-workers-and in the marketplace-brands, retail channels and media," she said.

Laura Loro coordinates Direct Marketing. Reach her at 904 Champlain Dr., Voorhees, N.J. 08043 or by phone at (609) 784-9090 or by fax at (609) 784-9119.

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