Ever feel like you’re being watched?
It’s that vaguely disconcerting sense that, without permission, someone has entered into your personal space. And it’s every bit as creepy as it sounds, in both physical and virtual worlds.
Yet many marketers continue to cross the line.
Why? Call it the tyranny of targeting, the consequence of the wide availability of audience data and the tools for tracking users and orchestrating solicitous messages. Combine this with the simple fact that it works—often quite well, over the short term, at least—and you see the slippery slope we’re negotiating here.
Tyranny comes with the abuse of power, when systems are corrupted by overreaching appetites or distorted views of what’s fair and right. It’s sometimes the case that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with these systems, but shortsighted, selfish ambitions overtake reason as boundaries blur into oblivion.
I know this all may sound like a politicized screed on the perils of modern marketing, but that’s really not the intent. My point is that we’re at risk of corrupting an otherwise good system by failing to take a longer view on the best use of many of these techniques.
Take retargeting, for example, which is undeniably effective as a technique and, for many consumers, ineffably creepy as a practice. Here, your Google search becomes the equivalent of unfortunately misdirected eye contact as you’re reminded of your fleeting interest ad infinitum.
Such overzealous targeting is certainly not how you earn my affinity for a brand. With each retargeted impression, I rue the moment that I barely conjured the original thought.
But, as I said, tyranny can come from the corruption of otherwise good systems. That’s no different here. Marketers should ask themselves whether they’re reading audiences correctly. Don’t confuse a fleeting search with commercial intent. One signal does not a pattern make.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you necessarily should. Hold fire, dear marketers.
Exercise some restraint. Your audiences will surely appreciate it.