In what may be the ultimate example of George Orwell’s prediction about Big Brother knowing everything about everyone, Target Stores figured out a teen was pregnant before her dad did.
The story is a sobering tale of how ‘rich’ data has become, how sophisticated algorithms are nowadays and, yes, how devious major retailers are in anticipating our every want and need.
In Target’s case, the clues included the teenaged mom-to-be’s ordering such items as vitamin supplements, large quantities of lotion and hand sanitizers. That buying pattern, said a Target statistician, is typical of a pregnant woman. As a result, Target’s uber alert Department for Guest Marketing Analytics (DAGM) automatically mailed print ads to the young lady heralding sales on baby products. And that, in turn, outraged the girl’s dad (who was still unaware she was with child).
The father later apologized to the store manager who had initially apologized to him for the seemingly offensive mailing.
But, where was corporate communications as this strange, but true, tale was making its way up the media food chain?
Target needs to be much more transparent about how sophisticated their data has become. The PR and marketing folks need to tell consumers they may be receiving targeted offerings that anticipate a life event they may not even be aware of. Talk about fortune telling!
If the CCO doesn’t step up soon, I could see Target ruining a marriage proposal by sending the unknowing bride-to-be coupons for china patterns based upon the groom-to-be’s purchase of expensive women’s jewelry.
Or, I could see Target’s superbly-named Department for Guest Marketing Analytics putting the final nail in the coffin of a dying marriage by unintentionally sending the soon-to-be divorcee coupons for lingerie, stiletto heels and lubricant.
I can’t think of a better case for an organization to embrace the principles of the Page Authentic Enterprise white paper. To do otherwise is to invite the wrath of future unsuspecting grandfathers, brides and lotharios.
As for me, I’m just praying I don’t come home to find Target coupons addressed to my wife and trumpeting discounts on grave blankets and funeral wreaths. That’s one life event I’d rather not learn about from Big Brother.
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