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Personalized Marketing: Cool or Creepy?

For many years we have wondered whether personalized advertising (retargeting) was cool or creepy (perhaps a bit of both?). Essentials of Marketing (Chapter 19) includes a boxed element titled “What’s Next? Marketer’s use big data and analytics–cool or creepy?” which shares a fictional account of two college students’ experience with such marketing practices.

A recent Fast Company (April 5, 2024) article by the always insightful Rob Walker addresses recent trends on this topic. Rob cites a recent study by the consulting firm Marigold that shares results from a survey of more than 10,000 consumers worldwide. The report provides a lot of information, but Rob drills down on something that marketing instructors may find interesting.

Page 39 of the report shares data on a question, “Do you find these brand interactions creepy or cool?” And while, “Displaying ads based on indirect tracking tools, like third-party tracking cookies” was mostly viewed as “creepy” (61% vs. 49% as cool), a “Personalized birthday offer” (84% cool) and “Recommending products that align with your past purchases” (80% cool) were more favorably received. The implications are interesting for privacy and targeted marketing practices.

You might find the article worth sharing with your students. And the Marigold report might be worth more of a deep dive as it also includes data on a range of interesting Promotion decisions including media mix, messaging, loyalty, and social media pessimism.

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