Back to “The One to One Future”: Permission Marketing and the 2011 S&P Market Coup

Peppers and Rogers (1993), in The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time, argued that some customers were more valuable than others, and that all customers should be individually marketed to, and that share of wallet was more important than market share. This meant differentiating customers, not products, and selling multiple products to the same customer over the customer’s life. Their argument was based, in part, on media-tech changes that would alter the work and advertising consumption habits of customers. Seth Godin (1999), in Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends, and Friends into Customers, followed suit, recognizing that the old ad platform, television, had now multiplied like mosquitoes on a humid summer night in Minnesota, for the Web had created “[millions of] TV networks instead of ten” (p. 145). It might seem counter-intuitive at first, marketing to the new hatch 1:1, but getting their attention, Godin argued, means first getting their permission, and permissions are only granted one at a time.

One of the changes Peppers and Rogers imagined was a work-from-home, flex-hour (over a 7×24 work-week), consumer whose purchasing habits would be revealed and predicted over time via Web host systems. This is why the individual information Facebook most covets is a real name and a real date of birth. What Peppers and Rogers did not predict in the heady start to the Roaring 90’s was a stay-at-home work force at home because it was unemployed (see September, 2011 The Atlantic magazine’s “Can The Middle Class Be Saved?”, taken from Don Peck’s new book PINCHED: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It, to be published tomorrow).

Peck sees what Congress apparently cannot, that control of the future is about getting permission today, and that permission requires a one to one lifetime marketing commitment. This is why S&P’s David Beers in a video interview this morning with Reuters strongly suggests that a necessary step toward solving the US debt crisis is ending the Bush tax-cuts for upper income citizens. And to accomplish that task, Congress should start contacting their most valuable customers one to one and getting their permission (and we might point out what should be obvious but apparently is not to Congress, that their most important customers are not members of the so-called Tea Party, whose behavior mimes characters in Alice’s Wonderland).

The coup d’état is not a military coup, but a market coup. The market, led by S&P’s downgrade, has usurped Congress in taking action to solve the debt crisis and save the middle class. As Beers says in his interview “…get some buy in” to spending and revenue decisions. In spite of the anti-S&P sentiment, largely the result of misunderstanding of the rating agency’s scoring system, the S&P decision (and in spite of their lack of credibility resulting from their pre-crash decisions), should lead to repeal of the Bush tax-cuts, and that’s good news for the middle class, which in turn should be good news for the market.