DataLode to Message to Users’ Desktops for HP

Several Hewlett-Packard divisions will begin sending marketing messages to customers through an expanded relationship with San Rafael, Calif.-based startup DataLode.

The personal computer and consumer technology giant plans to use DataLode’s solution in its PhotoSmart digital camera unit, and its DeskJet, DesignJet, LaserJet and PhotoSmart printer lines.

For the past three years, DataLode’s flagship offering, RealConnect, has served as a system to handle online product warranty registrations and build customer profiles in 21 different languages. Now, the product will also begin serving as a way for Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP to distribute special offers and marketing messages to customers.

RealConnect can design and distribute marketing messages via fax, email, or postal mail, based on profiles generated through users’ registrations with HP.

The service also can distribute notices from HP via an application installed on customers’ system while they install the product — in this case, a printer or digital camera. The application, dubbed DirectDisplay, displays an HTML-style pop-up window (or blinks an icon, at the consumer’s option) with a message from HP. Consumers can specify how often they want to receive communications from the company.

Clicks and other interactions with DirectDisplay or DataLode’s other communication channels can be fed into CRM platforms like those marketed by Siebel, PeopleSoft, E.piphany and others.

RealConnect also includes a commerce module that allows for consumers to make purchases within the application’s pop-up.

The concept of using a desktop application as a channel to distribute marketing messages is an old one, but has yet to garner major traction. A number of players have arisen offering specialized applications that deliver special deals and marketing messages to consumers, but most have failed to gain a significant following because consumers need to be incentivized to keep the channels open.

Last year, New York-based startup iWeb signed a deal with Japanese ad giant Dentsu and investment conglomerate Softbank to market its product, which is similar to DirectDisplay, in Japan. Earlier this year, the company issued a statement indicating it was selling the unit to its Japanese partners and ceasing all non-Japanese business.

Indeed, many companies that rely on consumers to keep open a dedicated application, window or Web browser add-on to receive marketing messages have fallen on hard times — such as AllAdvantage, mValue and the like.

But DataLode is banking that consumers will want to receive communications from HP, since they’ll not only have some control over the number and frequency of messages, but because HP can use the DirectDisplay application for customer support — sending out reminders to upgrade or install an updated driver, for instance.

DataLode said it that in fourth quarter it plans to release a dedicated module for delivering automated answers to troubleshoot user problems, and to automatically deliver and install upgrades and patches.

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