The recently announced Plenti card that replaces Rite Aid’s Wellness card is great example of  how brands now value data over relationships. A few years ago, I wrote a post about how data-driven decisions are dangerous, possibly damaging to relationships, and how today’s marketers need to ensure balance between short-term sales needs and long-term relationships. Clearly Rite Aid and American Express didn’t read it.

The idea behind the Plenti Card (which is managed by American Express) is that all the Plenti partners (which currently include: Rite Aid, AT&T, Exxon, Macy’s, Mobil, and seplenti of bsveral others) offer a single card with which registered members can earn points towards discounts. From a data geek’s perspective, the concept has my tiara quivering with excitement. Imagine all the volumes of data they can now share and analyze!

But from a customer’s perspective this is marketing equivalent of a vaginal probe. Here’s what data they will be extracting, according to their privacy statement:

  • Browsing history (including what you search for, the pages you view, how long you stay, and how often you come back);
  • How you search for their website/apps, from which website/app you came from, and which of their Business Partners’ websites you visit;
  • Which ads/online content from them and their Business Partners you view, access, or click on;
  • Whether you open their electronic communications and which parts you click on;
  • Location of your mobile device (for example, to help prevent fraud or when you register to receive location-based content on their mobile websites/apps).

What makes it even worse is what they can do with the data. Again, according to the privacy notice they can use my data and yours to:

  • Advertise and market their products/services – and those of their Business Partners;
  • Send or provide you with ads, promotions, and offers;
  • Help them determine whether you may be interested in new products/services;
  • Use it in other ways as required or permitted by law or with your consent.

My favorite “benefit” that they list is: “allow you to give feedback by rating and reviewing our products and services and those of our Business Partners.” What part of social media do they not understand? Do they not know that I can give all the feedback I want on Twitter, Facebook, or this blog?

The bottom line is that AT&T, Exxon, Macy’s, and Mobil are brands that I inherently do not trust, so the notion that they now can track me down and pester me with marketing data makes my skin crawl. However, I almost never buy anything from any of those brands so they aren’t losing a customer. But Rite Aid is. I’ve shopped at Rite Aid for years because it’s convenient and with the Wellness card, prices were pretty affordable.  But the notion that my pharmacy that is supposed to be all about health has partnered up with some of the world’s biggest polluters is revolting. Thus, I will revolt as well. From now on, I’ll have my prescriptions fulfilled online, and buy my shampoo from the competition that conveniently just opened a new store just down the road.

Brands need to learn that big data analytics and marketing science are great tools, but true value comes from good relationships, trust, and loyalty.

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