They know your age, what part of town you live in, your estimated salary, if you have kids or pets or both and even what credit cards you have. No, this time we’re not talking about Facebook or even Google. All of this information is known by Target.
You may have heard the story of how Target knew a teenager was pregnant before her parents did. Target outed her by sending the teen coupons for only baby products. If you missed out on this story, check out the link in the paragraph below.
I was pretty interested in how Target obtained this information before the teen had even told her parents, so I did a little research. From reading Charles Duhigg’s New York Times article on Target, it turns out they — among other big box companies — have shelled out beaucoup of cash to find out everything they can about you in order to market to you better.
Why is Target working so hard to target new moms? Simple. It’s one of the few major events in life when a person’s buying habits change. Instead of our single-selves having the time to run from store to store, we now have — or will soon have– a very dependent soul attached at the hip. New parents will be on the look-out for a one-stop-shop for everything they need. So, when they used to only venture to Target for socks and DVDs, new parents are now looking for a store where they can pick up all the groceries, cleaning supplies, clothing and baby’s needs in one easy stop.
Target wanted to know how to get coupons and offers to new parents before the baby’s born. Most companies find out about new additions at the same time as everyone else — through birth announcements, which are public record. To be ahead of the pack, Target brought in a team to analyze the buying habits of soon-to-be-moms. They noticed pregnant women were stocking up on unscented lotions, coco butter and larger or maternity clothing around their second trimester. From there, the baby mailing list was created.
Which leads me to the real point of this blog: I understand how buying habits change when you’re expecting but I have no idea how MY buying habits gave Target the impression I’m engaged.
I have to admit, I got pretty excited when I received a fairly thick envelope from Target. “COUPONS,” I thought. Yes, I’m a nerd and get excited about things like coupons to my favorite stores. Much to my surprise I opened the envelope to a congratulatory card that read, “CONGRATULATIONS! We Heard You Said Yes!” I proceeded to flip through the inserts for wedding registry items and ended on a card that read, “That’s Love.”
Sorry, Target, even with your free $25 gift card, I’m not feeling the love. Because if you REALLY knew me, you would know I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost 7 years, and am patiently waiting for the day when he pops the question…waiting and waiting as all my other friends have gotten married, have started celebrating anniversary milestones and have started having babies. Needless to say, this mailing was kind of a slap in the face because I’m NOT engaged.
What about my buying habits make you, Target, think I’m engaged? Is it because I recently moved? If so, do you think, because of my age, I must have moved in with a male? Or what if you do know who my boyfriend is (as creepy as that seems, I’m sure you do) and you know what credit cards he has… Maybe he DID make an expensive ring purchase recently but HASN’T popped the question yet? What if you just blew one of the biggest moments in my life? What about the pregnant women you are targeting? What if something happens with the pregnancy? You could be sending coupons to a woman for baby things while she is devastated about no longer expecting a baby.
Being in the marketing industry, I understand wanting to get to the consumer first. But at what cost? Being creepy and knowing too much about me, only to possibly blow big events in my life, is something I would rather not be a part of.
To set the record straight, I’m not desperate to get married or even truly angry with Target. I just want to be the one to make the announcement about major events in my life…when I’m ready. Not when a company thinks I should be. I would caution you, Target, and all marketing professionals to tread lightly!
San Francisco-based Goodby, Berlin, & Silverstein (now the 500+ employee-strong Goodby, Silverstein & Partners) launched their agency in 1983, running an ad with the headline: