Are You a Disciple of the Targeting Cult?


The idea of knowing what people want to buy before you serve them an ad is genuinely revolutionary. Or at least it would be if it actually worked, says Richard Huntington. Making assumptions about people based on past behavior is a good way to be exactly wrong.

I've brought it up before. Many do research on behalf of clients, or for a relative, or to write a blog post. Although we use search to get stuff done, search, alone, is not a dead on indication of purchasing intent. In other words, it is missing context.

Let me give you an example to drive this home.

I just received an offer to sign up from an energy provider that uses the U.S.Air Mileage Plus incentive to get me to take action.

Although his signature is on the offer, the Managing Director of Loyalty & Marketing Programs at U.S.Air has no idea that a better incentive for me would be to be able to use the oodles of miles I *already* have to board early on domestic flights.

Want to target me? Give me a way to use those points for something *I* value. Let me pay for flights. Give me early boarding. I might be inclined to search for his contact info to let him know. Want to serve me fries with that ad?

Yup, the marketing teams got in a room and decided that what is best for the respective companies is to push a product people are not buying (switching electricity provider headaches are not worth the trouble, apparently), by rewarding them with something they don't want (I fly Southwest wherever I can because they give me the option to have early boarding).

Anyone want to venture the cost to conversion for this little adventure? Add the copy writing and legal review costs to those for printing, mailing, landing page design, potential banner/search ad campaign thrown in, and that of annoyed customers who have been poorly targeted for good measure.

It's a great deal only if it's relevant.

Otherwise it's just wasting money.


Because they still have this inventory fulfillment approach to marketing and promotions, brands constantly miss opportunities to connect with true fans in social. Sharing information can be an indication of higher relevance. There is a third, better indicator of intent: involvement.

For example, I have mentioned I am a huge fan of Adidas running shoes and products in social networks (even to the brand's agency). My involvement with the brand started when I was playing in a soccer league back in Italy many years ago. My coach recommended Adidas. I never looked at other brands.

I guess Adidas doesn't have a listening program in place. Or maybe they expect I "like" their Facebook page and jump through their next promotional campaign hoops to say hi. Okay, forget that. It's all over my purchasing history. Adidas running shoes. People are not waiting to be targeted to follow a brand, they follow their wants and habits (and the recommendations of trusted sources).

For other brands that want to woo customers: Is digital interaction enough to influence runners to switch? The answer to when is a good time to reach out without targeting people is: when they're talking to you. Use @ reply.


Are you a disciple of the targeting cult?

Sorry if you feel that way…


[image by Ludovic Bertron]


0 responses to “Are You a Disciple of the Targeting Cult?”

  1. Yes we’re “into” the Targeting Cult…in reverse. We trudge along singing our song to the jobless…the jobhunters…jobseekers…jobsearchers who skip the step of researching what the prospective employer wants so the resume…the cover letter….the profile….the bio sketch is tailored….customized….to the needs of the prospective employer….recruiter….screener….over-worked human resource operative….hiring official….search firm person. Radical thoughts not often embraced by the unemployed. When adopted…interviews ensue. Stunning. Revolutionary. Doable. Thanks. sQs Delray Beach FL

  2. to me, your example speaks more to being relevant vs. gaming the system. Or am I to infer that you’re teaching candidates to cheat on their resume, stretch things a little (or a lot), so they can get to talk to someone at the hiring company? Every great opportunity I had in my career came through relationships and relevance…

  3. Yes, it’s so hard for so many companies to change their mindset and truly become customer centric, as opposed to customer focused, which to my mind is a totally different animal. Just keep on pushing the stuff out is still the mantra and to get with the flow, let’s just add this “social thing” on top of it. How long will it still take for them to turn this around, I wonder?
    As for your reply, I totally agree. Have never gotten a job by sending around a resume and applying for it and likely never will.

  4. there’s a thriving industry working hard to be the gatekeeper between you and hiring managers 😉 While I have met some incredibly talented recruiters and a few who were generous and long-term in their thinking, I’ve been underwhelmed by the large majority. I tend to think bigger than choosing keywords for a resume and screening people out.
    Businesses should be focused on trade. That for many means they need a model to trade promises. Most of the issues would be corrected there.

  5. There sure is. No doubt there are talented recruiters out there among the many gatekeepers. I’m not one who needs their service. The majority wouldn’t know how to deal with a “strange bird” like me based on my non-traditional background. The formula approach followed by most doesn’t apply. Will continue to depend on relationships and referrals.

  6. strange birds ruffle feathers. They do get stuff done, though. The misunderstanding is continuing to think that best practices and being successful with “what was” are an insurance for the future. They are not. And one usually pays dearly for insurance.

  7. They sure are! This is my personal mantra:
    “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
    You will recognize it from the memorable Apple campaign, Think different.
    There won’t be a commercial and testimonial that reads: Here’s to the timid ones. The ones who follow rules. The defenders of the status quo. The bland conformists……
    Alas, that’s what the majority of companies still are and probably will be for a long time to come.

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