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 New York What's New for 2015?
You spoke, we listened! ClickZ Live New York (Mar 30-Apr 1) is back with a brand new streamlined agenda. Don't miss the latest digital marketing tips, tricks and tools that will make you re-think your strategy and revolutionize your marketing campaigns. Super Saver Rates are available now. Register today!

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

UPCOMING TRAINING

Featured White Papers

Google My Business Listings Demystified

Google My Business Listings Demystified
To help brands control how they appear online, Google has developed a new offering: Google My Business Locations. This whitepaper helps marketers understand how to use this powerful new tool.

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line
82 percent of shoppers say they would buy more items from a brand if the emails they sent were more personalized. This white paper offer five tactics that will personalize your email beyond the subject line and drive real business growth.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Lead Generation Specialist
      Lead Generation Specialist (The Oxford Club) - BaltimoreThe Oxford Club is seeking a talented writer/marketer to join our growing email lead-generation...
    • Health Marketing Editor
      Health Marketing Editor (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreCome flex your intellectual muscle as part of Agora, Inc’s (http://agora-inc.com/) legal team...
    • Technical Business Analyst
      Technical Business Analyst (OmniVista Health) - BaltimoreOmniVista Health is looking to add a Technical Business Analyst to our expanding team...