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A blog about, frankly, anything

People Want To Be Marketed To

Let’s face it. We all have needs. We have needs for things beyond those things we need simply for survival (shelter, food, sex, etc). Once we meet Maslow’s foundational needs we begin wanting things that aren’t as easily attainable (relatively):

New tools, things to help in recreation or things to help us save time, to do something better or feel better about ourselves.

Common sense says that when you identify something you want from another person you should make a request of them. Why does this same principle not hold true commercially? Shouldn’t people make requests of brands when there’s something they want? We do this already, when we walk into a retailer or navigate to amazon.com. The whole notion of permission marketing is founded on this idea.

But does it work the other way around?

Should brands make requests of consumers?

“Hi, this is Walmart. The economy really sucks right now. Is there anything you need that we can help you with?”

In one sense brands already do this via advertising. The difference is that they make some intelligent (hopefully) guesses as to what we might want and then offer it up to us. But this is also inefficient, especially as the needs and wants fracture further into smaller and smaller niches. Even more so, as the places people go (in terms of media habits, behaviors, etc) also splinter.

So what’s left?

How about people being transparent with respect to their wants and needs, such that brands can observe them and, if there’s a match between a request and an offer, the brand can respond. Seems to make sense. The best way we have of doing this now is behavioral targeting (BT). However there’s a lot of anxiety around the use of BT. The prevailing concern is that the information gathered by BT could be used for nefarious purposes. These concerns tend to be exaggerated and can be easily addressed via anonymizing tools, equivalent to how retailers mask all but the last 4 digits of your credit card on your receipt.

I doubt this will happen within the next 5-7 years, mostly because most people still live in fear of the web when it comes to issues like privacy. However as younger generations, who grow up accustomed to granting more transparency online in exchange for its benefits, will move us beyond our generation’s willies about the web.

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Category: Marketing

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2 Responses

  1. I have wondered about this as well. For instance, I am a male who loves German cars. Showing me tampon and Pontiac commercials achieves nothing. However, my demographic information is worth something to somebody. If I was compensated for allowing myself to be targeted that changes things. Now advertising moves closer to information and it’s more useful and effective. I have not figured out that bridge yet, much less the privacy issues.

    • Nick says:

      The compensation piece is interesting. I think compensation will manifest itself not in dollars, or even micropayments, in my pocket but rather the freedom from non-targeted, irrelevant advertising.

      Clever how that works.

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