Data Corruption in Direct Marketing Campaigns – Consequences and Fixes

Posted on: May 5th, 2016 by IDG No Comments

What is data corruption?

Data corruption occurs in a database where data is stored in an unintended format due to some change compared to the original data. This could be caused by a variety of issues such as storage, transmission, reading/writing errors, data input errors, etc.

What data corruption is not

Data corruption should not be confused with data loss, i.e. data being lost from a hard drive. Data corruption is also not about duplicated data and goneaways. In these cases the data isn’t corrupt; it’s accurate but not usable from a marketing perspective.

How corrupt is your data?

How corrupt is your data?

Examples of data corruption

There are a number of ways in which data can become corrupted, these include:

  • Symbols – Certain symbols can corrupt when stored in a direct marketing campaign. This is particularly the case with some foreign names which include symbols such as ^, É and ü as examples.
  • Power outages – When using a computer a power outage can cause an issue with areas of data on a hard disk. It’s definitely advisable to use UPS (uninterruptible power supply) to prevent this issue
  • Normalisation issues – These issues are not strictly corruption but are an issue irrespective. Normalisation could include issues such as:
    • Inputting data inconsistently – e.g. for a postcode “BD18 1AA”, the data could be entered as “BD18 1AA”, “BD 18 1AA”, “BD18 1 AA” or “BD181AA”, etc.
  • User input errors – Users are only human and are prone to “human errors”. These can sometimes be totally deliberate or innocent. Whatever the errors they create a corruption in data which needs to be fixed
Postcode data needs to be entered in a consistent format

Postcode data needs to be entered in a consistent format

Fixes for corrupted data

Here are some suggestions for fixing corrupted data:

  • Prevention is better than cure, if possible it’s better to prevent data from being corrupted from the outset:
    • Prevent fields which don’t comply with a prescribed format from being entered into capture systems, e.g. postcode and telephone number fields have to follow a prescribed format
    • Emphasise the importance of data quality to staff, provide training o staff in data entry. Audit data regularly so staff are aware that work quality will be checked
  • Data cleansing – Fixing data corruption post-event is just another form of data cleansing. Checking for data corruption should just be another part of the data cleansing regime
  • A data agency such as the Intelligent Data Group could be used to cleanse corrupted data for an organisation. They will have the specialist skills in-house to complete this work, much more easily than in-house staff would be able to

Let’s Talk!

We’d love to talk to you about any aspect of data requirements or Email / Direct Mail campaigns. IDG are data experts and can help cleanse corrupted data. Let’s talk, give us a call on 0333 030 6636, or why not Email to start discussions.


Image Credits: Alex Waston and Kathryn Ward

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