News of the breakup emerged when MapInfo announced that it would begin using demographic data from The Polk Company.
Until the breakup, MapInfo used Claritas demographic data in its products.In interviews conducted since that date we have confirmed the "divorce," and learned a bit more about the intentions and products of Polk, the third company in this triangle.
The relationship between MapInfo and Claritas is still bound by a contract; it is unclear when that contract will expire.
The "divorce" of Claritas and MapInfo was an inevitable result of two companies moving in different directions, explains Andy Paul, president of Claritas Data Services, a division of Claritas, Inc.
"MapInfo continues to be an important and valued Claritas partner," Paul says.However, MapInfo was "moving in business directions in which Claritas couldn't participate."
The catalyst for this "divorce" is a relatively new product, MapInfo's TargetPro, which was introduced in May 1998.Since its introduction, TargetPro helped to boost MapInfo sales of demographic data products by 137 percent for the fiscal year that ended September 30, 1998."The latter two quarters of that year (1998) were trending even higher," adds Michael Hickey, vice president and general manager of MapInfo's Information Business Unit.
TargetPro contained Claritas demographic data until the November breakup between the two companies.According to Hickey, "There's nothing wrong with Claritas data.But through their acquisitions, Claritas acquired most of the industry.We couldn't succeed in the marketplace with TargetPro because [everyone we'd meet] were already Claritas clients or clients of one of their acquired companies."
Consequently, "MapInfo became a direct competitor of Claritas," Hickey says.
Today, MapInfo's Hickey is enthusiastic about the packaging of the Polk data and the Polk segmentation system (Psyte) with TargetPro.
"Polk has been in business for more than 127 years.They have the most comprehensive and detailed household level data available for US households.They have much better data about spending habits, the types of cars people drive," and so forth."This allows for the formation of better clusters and better cluster design."
The integration of Polk data into TargetPro is a landmark move for Polk."This is the first time Polk has allowed this data to be sold by another company.We're the first to have access to this," Hickey adds.By all indicators, both Polk and MapInfo are embracing this new relationship: MapInfo is planning to release an add-on to Target Pro called Cluster Analyzer, which will make it easier to work with Polk's Psyte clustering system.
The segmentation system that Polk has developed shares a name, "Psyte," and other aspects of its lineage with a Canadian clustering product that is available from Polk's Compusearch division.According to Compusearch President Jan Kestle, the new U.S.system from Polk was developed with the same approach by much of the same team (including Bruce Carroll, Robin Page, and Ian Mosely) with similar types of data input (demographics, shopping behavior, automobile purchase data) that was used in the Canadian product.However, Kestle says, "cluster systems have to reflect local demographics and infrastructure.The data dictate the schema."
Despite its experience and preparation, Polk will face stiff competition against the micro-marketing resources that parent company VNU has assembled around Claritas.Paul of Claritas makes a very powerful argument with respect to the quality and depth of data now available to that team, called the Strategic Resources Group, which includes veterans such as Linda Jacobsen, Fred Wilcox, and Ken Hodges.
In making the acquisitions which consolidated the demographic resources of Claritas, National Decision Systems, and Donnelley Marketing Information Systems, the Claritas organization gained "the bandwidth to do a stellar job" in developing "an improved product, with better accuracy," Paul states.
"Knowing 'who,' with 'what interests,' and 'where' are what's critical, and the 'where' is as important as the 'who.' The 'where' is mapping, and without the 'where', you only have half of what you need to make decisions in the world of micro-marketing," Paul says.
Note: The "Internal Release Notes" on Psyte, authored by R.Bruce Carroll, senior vice president at The Polk Company, have been made available to us, and are published as a linked appendix to this article.In addition to elucidating the methodology behind this product, these notes serve as a good background on the role of clustering in geodemographic analysis.