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A friend recently asked me about my opinion on the use of postcodes as a predictor of social grouping, and their subsequent effectiveness as targeting method for direct marketing. He had been reading Dave Weinberger’s Small Pieces and had been debating their lack of granularity with a postcode guru, particularly when compared with the accuracy of online groups.

The problem I see moving forward for *traditional* marketers is that the self-defining online-interest groups, which definitely makes them better targets to market at (whether this defines them better socially, or not, I can’t help you with) are very granular, making location (of said groups) and marketing deals (with whoever hosts the shared interests) labour intensive. And naturally these groups are also deeply opposed to unsolicited communication. These two conditions break the mould of the direct marketeer, who would otherwise select geographically and use the one distributor (the Royal Mail, in the UK) to deliver the message, and have got very efficient at it.

I haven’t read Dave Weinberger’s book, but have found him compelling in the past, particularly in the guise of Cluetrain co-conspirator, so am not sure how he proposes these social groups are reached, although I have a reasonable idea. Which takes me back to the point above.

It strikes me that the postcode guru is chasing the dinosaurs of the marketing world. At the moment post codes are a blunt but not ineffective method, and no doubt their tools sharpens it up some, but just suggest to him the power of eBay‘s data relating user login’s with their browsing, watching, buying and selling classifications. These are examples very small, but highly powerful pieces of data, which in due course will wipe the floor with post codes as an effective means of marketing.

These dinosaurs also have absolutely no reliable means by which they can associate post codes with email addresses or user identities online. Consequently, as the reach, effectiveness and productivity of online marketing increases – which *won’t* be based on post code – these dinosaurs will lose their way in the world because they will be too expensive and too ineffective.

Filed in Blog, October 19th, 2004. Leave a comment, or trackback from your own site. Follow comments via RSS

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