Predictive Analytics Isn't Bad, Bad Marketing Is Bad

  |  March 15, 2012   |  Comments

The problem is not that companies are using data to try and sell you things, it's that they are doing it badly.

Privacy one again reared its ugly head as a marketing stumbling block when The New York Times published "How Companies Learn Your Secrets" on February 16, 2012.

Target sent store coupons for baby clothes and cribs to a high school student, under the statistical impression that she was shopping like pregnant women do. According to the story, her father was first outraged and then abashed when he found out she was, indeed, expecting.

With the exception of this segment from Stephen Colbert, the hue and cry was predictable.

They've gone too far!
That's a clear breach of privacy!
That technology should be banned!

Yes, and the automobile should be banned because bank robbers use them to make getaways.

There are bad ads on TV. There are bad billboards. There are bad ads in magazines. There are good ads that are sent to the wrong people.

The problem is not that companies are using data to try and sell you things, it's that they are doing it badly. Much worse than bad targeting is wrong targeting.

This week, I got a letter addressed to the previous occupant of my home. That may be a common occurrence for you, but I've lived in the same house for 21 years. Whoever paid for that must be oblivious when buying direct mail lists. (The letter came from the Braille Institute.)

sterne-letter

I once spent two weeks on the phone convincing AT&T that I did not speak Spanish. Its web server simply did not believe me.

at-t-site

The New York Times article, when read for information rather than angle, reveals that the people in Target's marketing analytics group are doing just what they should. They are trying to send the right message to the right person at the right time. The problem is not the predictive analytics technology, the problem is the message.

Target recognized the error of its ways and modified its messaging.

"With the pregnancy products...we learned that some women react badly," the (Target) executive said. "Then we started mixing in all these ads for things we knew pregnant women would never buy, so the baby ads looked random. We'd put an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers. We'd put a coupon for wineglasses next to infant clothes. That way, it looked like all the products were chosen by chance."

This is good marketing. This is the art of selecting a market segment, devising an offer, and testing it. If the test doesn't work, you modify your efforts and try again.

Using the power of analytics, the logic of a good analyst, and the magic of marketing creative, companies can get the right message to the right person at the right time.

But they'd better be darned careful because with great power comes great responsibility.

Tags:

ClickZ Live Toronto On the heels of a fantastic event in New York City, ClickZ Live is taking the fun and learning to Toronto, June 23-25. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live offers an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Register today!

ClickZ Live San Francisco Want to learn more? Join us at ClickZ Live San Francisco, Aug 10-12!
Educating marketers for over 15 years, ClickZ Live brings together industry thought leaders from the largest brands and agencies to deliver the most advanced, educational digital marketing agenda. Register today and save $500!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne is an international consultant who focuses on measuring the value of the Web as a medium for creating and strengthening customer relationships. Sterne has written eight books on using the Internet for marketing, is the founding president and current chairman of the Digital Analytics Association and produces the eMetrics Summit and the Media Analytics Summit.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Analytics newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce
This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.

Paid Search in the Mobile Era

Paid Search in the Mobile Era
Google reports that paid search ads are currently driving 40+ million calls per month. Cost per click is increasing, paid search budgets are growing, and mobile continues to dominate. It's time to revamp old search strategies, reimagine stale best practices, and add new layers data to your analytics.

WEBINARS

Resources

Jobs

    • GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator
      GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator (British Consulate-General, New York) - New YorkThe GREAT Britain Campaign is seeking an energetic and creative...
    • Paid Search Senior Account Manager
      Paid Search Senior Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring a strategic Paid Search Senior Account Manager...
    • Paid Search Account Manager
      Paid Search Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring an experienced Paid Search Account Manager to...