Crazy Like A Fox

Creativity | Communications | Computers | Consequences

From Stork to Stalker – Data mining predicts pregnancy.

Posted on | February 17, 2012 | 1 Comment

A recent article on Forbes magazine’s website tells the no-longer-surprising story of Target stores in the US knowing a teenager was pregnant before her father did. 

For those disinterested in clicking on the link, Target stores in the US track every purchase an individual makes on their credit card, and from analysing the purchases, they can tell not only if a lady is pregnant, but also the sex of the child and the probable due date. They then use this information to target (no pun intended) expectant mothers with direct mail offers for lotions, nappies, strollers and so on.

What is freaking people out is that they can predict the due date with such accuracy. Mothers were getting perfectly-timed “Congratulations on the arrival of your baby boy” messages without ever telling Target they were expecting, or that it was a boy… all from analysing the type of lotions and cotton-balls they were buying.

Now a perfect stranger rifling though your trash and making deductions about your life from the refuse is enough cause for a restraining order! Yet when a multi-national organisation does it, and does it so well they have to hide the evidence, its referred to as a convenience, as marketing-related activity and therefore justifiable and legal.

This is far from an isolated case, and Target are not the only ones doing it. And this technology is also available for small local corner stores as well as large chains.

I raise this story for two reasons:

1. To help convince my clients and future clients that data mining is powerful, scalable, ubiquitous and you will be left behind if you do not embrace it in some fashion very quickly.

2. To convince my friends and family that data mining is powerful, scalable, ubiquitous and if you want to maintain a comfortable level of privacy in future, you need to take active steps to achieve it.

The future of marketing has already arrived – and some of it is scary. You don’t see it yet because it’s hiding behind the old familiar brands in the shop window…

 

Comments

One Response to “From Stork to Stalker – Data mining predicts pregnancy.”

  1. Chris Taylor
    February 18th, 2012 @ 9:22 am

    Great points (both 1 and 2) and thank you for referencing my post. I think we need to be aware of what’s happening and decide where it is in our interest to participate. There are benefits to having our merchants know our tastes: My drycleaner knows how I want my shirts to be done and my cashier knows we never take plastic bags.

    In the age of the big box and online retailing, this is the next step in personalization.

  • About

    This is the personal blog of Shannon Woodbury, a creative brand communications and IT consultant based out of Perth Western Australia. This blog explores the subjects of creativity, communications and technology in general, and all the consequences and challenges they entail.

    Everyone with a creative and inquiring temperament is welcome here. Further information on the author and his firm is available via his corporate site.

  • Contact Us

    Crazy Like A Fox
    33a Nicholas Crescent
    Hilton WA 6163 Western Australia

    Phone: +61 (0) 466 901 841
    Email: shannon (at) crazy-foxes.com
    Time zone: GMT +8.00
    claf.com.au

  • Mandatory Legal Bits

    All contents of this website was created by and is copyright of Crazy Like A Fox, unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved. All other works are the property of their respective copyright holder(s) and their inclusion on this website is purely for educational and/or illustrative purposes. All advice given is of a general nature only. Comments are welcome, but please play nice. Discussion threads are closed shortly after posting to keep the Spam monsters at bay...