Worshiping at the Targeting Altar

Targeting People
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.

This propbably happened to you as well. A couple of years ago, I kept receiving offers from an energy provider that uses the U.S.Air Mileage Plus incentive to get me to take action and sign up with their company.

Although his signature was on the offer, the Managing Director of Loyalty & Marketing Programs at U.S.Air had no idea that a better incentive for me would have been to be able to use the oodles of miles I *already* have to board early on domestic flights. Whenever I called to ask their customer service line, there was no item on anyone's checklist to deal with that question, so they did nothing about it.

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?

The marketing team got in a room and decided that what is best for the respective companies is to push a product I am not buying (switching electricity provider headaches are not worth the trouble), by rewarding me with something I don't particularly want (Southwest is a preferred provider because they offer the  early boarding option for a small fee.)

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…


[reblogged. image by Ludovic Bertron]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.