Monday’s Food for Thought: Target Knows All Our Secrets

Having had no background in marketing, economics or sales,  this article from the New York Times Magazine totally amazes me.  The calculations that go into product sells are a bit frightening.  Read it and you will be absolutely astounded at what the world knows about you from your shopping, without you ever being aware of it.  The case study on febreeze is incredibly interesting and the explanations of how habits are formed and are broken is really insightful.  Much food for thought.

Are you pregnant?  I bet Target already knows about it. :)

-M.C.

“Specifically, the marketers said they wanted to send specially designed ads to women in their second trimester, which is when most expectant mothers begin buying all sorts of new things, like prenatal vitamins and maternity clothing. “Can you give us a list?” the marketers asked.  “We knew that if we could identify them in their second trimester, there’s a good chance we could capture them for years,” Pole told me. “As soon as we get them buying diapers from us, they’re going to start buying everything else too.”

“One Target employee I spoke to provided a hypothetical example. Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There’s, say, an 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August. What’s more, because of the data attached to her Guest ID number, Target knows how to trigger Jenny’s habits. They know that if she receives a coupon via e-mail, it will most likely cue her to buy online. They know that if she receives an ad in the mail on Friday, she frequently uses it on a weekend trip to the store. And they know that if they reward her with a printed receipt that entitles her to a free cup of Starbucks coffee, she’ll use it when she comes back again.”

Our relationship to e-mail operates on the same principle. When a computer chimes or a smartphone vibrates with a new message, the brain starts anticipating the neurological “pleasure” (even if we don’t recognize it as such) that clicking on the e-mail and reading it provides. That expectation, if unsatisfied, can build until you find yourself moved to distraction by the thought of an e-mail sitting there unread — even if you know, rationally, it’s most likely not important. On the other hand, once you remove the cue by disabling the buzzing of your phone or the chiming of your computer, the craving is never triggered, and you’ll find, over time, that you’re able to work productively for long stretches without checking your in-box.”

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2 thoughts on “Monday’s Food for Thought: Target Knows All Our Secrets

    • I know, it’s so strange isn’t it? I can only imagine all that companies like Amazon know about us. :) Think of all that they track from our viewing. It’s crazy to think of all that goes into it, and it really is kinda scary too.

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