Sometimes you want it…sometimes you don’t

The topic of ultra targeted marketing was discussed in a recent article in Internet Retailer (November, 2012) Peeking for Profits: Balancing targeted marketing with privacy, retailers walk a tight rope trying not to be creepy.

 

I have linked the article above because it is very much worth reading. The featured marketer, Zappos.com has gone to great lengths to gain specific data on consumers, but then, in the words of this article, “dumbs down” the data to cloak how much they really know.

 

As the article goes on to point out, consumers are more than a little “creeped out” by offers that hit too close to home because of specific data they supplied or an inquiry they made. Additionally, getting too much into the mind of the consumer is correctly viewed as possibly inviting governmental oversight and intervention.

While these are both legitimate concerns for marketers, I wonder if the even more creepy part of all of this is the approach using deception, rather than being straight up. In my mind, this is somewhat akin to the old Monty Python skit where the architects disguised the design of an abattoir to seem like an apartment complex.

There are indications that some consumers actually have the expectation that you know a great deal about them. I think the key is not so much to hide what you as a marketer knows, but rather to know when it is appropriate to use what you know and when it is not. And unfortunately, the only way we may be able to know that is by actually crossing the threshold, and learning from the fallout.

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