Public Policy Issues in Direct and Digital Marketing – Concerns and Initiatives: Public Policy in Direct and Digital Marketing

Public Policy Issues in Direct and Digital Marketing – Concerns and Initiatives: Public Policy in Direct and Digital Marketing

Pratap Chandra Mandal (Indian Institute of Management Shillong, Shillong, India)
DOI: 10.4018/IJPADA.2019100105
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Companies require information about customers to understand them, know their preferences, and develop relationships with them. Companies employ a number of direct and digital marketing channels to collect information and intelligence about customers. Marketers adopt a number of unfair practices for collecting information through direct and digital marketing and this raises concerns about consumer privacy. The article discusses the various aspects of consumer privacy and the need for protecting consumer privacy. The article further focuses on the various regulations enforced by regulatory bodies and governments of countries to protect customers. Various initiatives taken by companies to protect customers are discussed. Direct and digital marketing channels allow companies to collect information and intelligence about customers and to influence them. However, companies should be sensitive to customer concerns. This will help companies in building long-term customer relationships.
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1. Introduction

Companies require collecting information and intelligence about customers for analyzing, understanding their requirements and preferences, and targeting them (Stone & Jacobs, 2007). Success in business depends to a large extent on the mutual relationships between customers and companies. Companies understand the importance of customer satisfaction and developing customer relationships (Martin & Murphy, 2017). Again, companies also need to be aggressive to perform and sustain in the competition. This becomes even more important in direct and digital marketing where the competition is intense. In direct marketing and in digital marketing, company employees or people appointed by companies maintain direct relationships with customers (Duhigg, 2007). Companies collect information and intelligence about customers through different direct and digital marketing channels. Sometimes, direct and digital marketers may adopt aggressive approaches which may not be liked by customers or may even bother or harm customers. Consequently, customers become suspicious and speculative about the intentions of direct and digital marketers and the policies adopted by them (Appuzo & Perlroth, 2014). This may also affect the reputation for the company and for the industry as a whole (Asllani & Halstead, 2015). Customers may get irritated and frustrated because of the actions of direct and digital marketers (Moraes & Michaelidou, 2017). The actions of direct and digital marketers may in extreme cases result in instances of unfair practices or even outright deception and fraud (Bonfrer & Dréze, 2009). Critics accuse the industry of invading the privacy of customers, breaching the codes of conduct to be maintained while dealing with customers, and threatening the security of customers (Hamidi & Moradi, 2017). The issues of privacy and security of customer information are of prime importance especially in online and digital marketing. Critics accuse that marketers violate the codes of conduct for customer privacy and security in digital marketing (Ikonen, Luoma-aho, & Bowen, 2017).

Direct marketers and digital marketing are convenient and beneficial for customers (Martin & Murphy, 2017). Direct and digital marketers usually enjoy mutually beneficial and rewarding relationships. However, although customers mostly benefit from direct and digital marketing, like various other aspects of marketing, they have a dark side as well. Marketers sometimes adopt aggressive and shady tactics for their selfish motives and these motives can harm customers (Ikonen et al., 2017). Such actions result in a bad reputation for the entire industry. Abuses range from simple excesses that irritate customers to instances of unfair practices. Sometimes, to overcome the competition, direct and digital marketers adopt certain practices which result in outright deception and fraud. The direct marketing industry has also faced growing privacy concerns. Digital marketers must deal with internet and mobile security issues (Martin & Murphy, 2017). It is the responsibility of both marketers and customers to guard against irritating and harmful effects of direct and digital marketing practices (Singer, 2012). The paper focuses on various public policy issues in direct and digital marketing, responsibilities of direct and digital marketers and customers, and various initiatives taken by companies to protect customers against such issues. The discussions in the paper are important from the perspective of public administration because the policies adopted by companies, governments, and regulatory bodies and agencies will have immediate effect on consumers which in turn will affect the general public. The policies implemented require to be regulated. So, the policies will have direct effects on public administration. Also, consumers have access to the internet and all types of informational technologies in this digital age. Consumers are active on the social media, browse through company websites, do much of their shopping online, and access the internet on their mobile phones. Because of all these reasons, the topic is of relevance in the digital age.

The paper is structured as follows.

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