“Target” Market

15 03 2012

I came across this article by Forbes the other week “How Target Figured Out a Teen Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did”.  Basically, Target could determine if a woman was pregnant and when she was due based on her purchase history, then they would send her coupons for maternity and baby supplies.

The article is a review of a second article which reviews how the study of habits and statisticians have become such an aid for marketers. It also provides the creepy details of how Target finds new entries into their target market of new parents. It’s a little long for internet reading, but a really interesting article. Charles Duhigg interviewed one of Target’s  top statisticians, until Target shut down communications on that front.  But hey, why would they want to give up all of their secrets?  The quote below explains just why Target is focusing on new parents as much as they are. The only thing missing is an evil laugh at the end:

“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. If you’re rushing through the store, looking for bottles, and you pass orange juice, you’ll grab a carton. Oh, and there’s that new DVD I want. Soon, you’ll be buying cereal and paper towels from us, and keep coming back.

(emphasis mine) also MU-AH-AH-AH-AH!!!

I do wonder if the “pregnancy formula” can be tricked.  Say a woman buys the unscented lotion, cotton balls, some baby toys, and also lots of booze or other things that pregnant women shouldn’t be buying. Does the formula say, “Oh, she bought a rifle, those must have been a gift for a baby shower.”  (Does Target sell guns, or is that just Wal-mart?)

In the beginning, Target realized that sending out “Congratulations! We’ve been watching you!” literature wasn’t the best idea.

What Target discovered fairly quickly is that it creeped people out that the company knew about their pregnancies in advance.

Target it watching you!

No joke, people get creeped out when you know things you didn’t tell them.  That’s why you have to keep your Facebook findings to yourself and pretend you didn’t already know stuff when it comes up again.

So, Target began watering down the tailored ads, so consumers would be content to keep their heads in the sand.  As long as we don’t know how much information you have on us or how you obtained the information, we’re okay with it. Right?

They might be cute, but they are also sneaky.

There is a way to opt out of the “targeting” program, if you are paranoid like me.  But hey, who doesn’t love coupons they can use?

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