How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did
February 17, 2012 1 Comment
Or how Big Data is the wild wild west – where the saloon owners knew a lot more about who walked into their saloon than they themselves knew.
This article: How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did explores a real incident about the way that Target’s marketing and information based corporation targets its customers (and dare I say keeps even its own store managers at the front line in the dark.)
So Target started sending coupons for baby items to customers according to their pregnancy scores. Duhigg shares an anecdote — so good that it sounds made up — that conveys how eerily accurate the targeting is. An angry man went into a Target outside of Minneapolis, demanding to talk to a manager:
“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”
The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.
On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”
What Target discovered fairly quickly is that it creeped people out that the company knew about their pregnancies in advance.
“If we send someone a catalog and say, ‘Congratulations on your first child!’ and they’ve never told us they’re pregnant, that’s going to make some people uncomfortable,” Pole told me. “We are very conservative about compliance with all privacy laws. But even if you’re following the law, you can do things where people get queasy.”
So we’ve gone POS (Point Of Sale) to gleaning information about clients from the patterns they exhibit. Information has been so free in the past that it sounds like it is going to become a whole lot more expensive.
Though what I loved best about this article is the way that the Forbes writer included a picture of Andrew Pole of Target Corp (linked from LinkedIn) in the article itself. A bit of reverse information gleaning…