The Importance of Data Curation

A curator at a museum is responsible for the acquisition, care, and in some cases the removal of items from the museum’s collection.  Data curation is a similar concept, but instead of museum pieces the data curator is responsible for the data used for marketing efforts.  With good data curation, amazing things can be accomplished.  Sometimes so good it is a little scary.  With bad data curation, let’s just say that can be scary also.

A classic example of good data curation (combined with excellent execution) is the Target case in which the data archived and utilized was incredibly good.  So good, in fact, that the Target data people had figured out that a teenage girl was pregnant.  Even before her father knew.  Based on the types of products purchased by the girl, Target was able to determine that the girl was pregnant.  From the Forbes article:

. . . .So Target started sending coupons for baby items to customers according to their pregnancy scores. Duhigg shares an anecdote — so good that it sounds made up — that conveys how eerily accurate the targeting is. An angry man went into a Target outside of Minneapolis, demanding to talk to a manager:

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

It happens the other way also.  Bad data curation can alienate a customer in a heartbeat.  In case you have not figured it out yet, my name is Michael.  You can imagine my surprise when I saw this e-mail the other dat with the salutation “Dear Larry”.   Dear Larry!!

Bad Data Curation

!!  Sorry Teradata – but you lost me.  The irony here is this e-mail has the sub head “How to understand and use data to drive customer engagement”.  WOW!  The first question that came to my mind was “whether this just one off in some list.  I got Larry’s e-mail, Larry got Amy’s, Amy got Justin’s, etc.  Maybe everyone in their list had a bad “to” field.

Bad Data Curation Can Undermine Your Best Direct Marketing Efforts.

You can’t make mistakes like this folks!  There is no recovering from it.  Do yourself a GIANT favor and hire good data people, (or a skilled, reliable agency).  Either way, TEST and RETEST your e-mail blasts and other customized communications BEFORE you send them out.  Especially if you are soliciting business in the area of data management.

You can’t do good things with bad data!