The Secrets Life Of Marketers

Must-read cover piece in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, detailing the means and methods marketers exercise to extract consumer information that nails you to the selling post:

How Companies Learn Your Secrets

Andrew Pole had just started working as a statistician for Target in 2002, when two colleagues from the marketing department stopped by his desk to ask an odd question: “If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that? ”

Pole has a master’s degree in statistics and another in economics, and has been obsessed with the intersection of data and human behavior most of his life. His parents were teachers in North Dakota, and while other kids were going to 4-H, Pole was doing algebra and writing computer programs. “The stereotype of a math nerd is true,” he told me when I spoke with him last year. “I kind of like going out and evangelizing analytics.”

As the marketers explained to Pole — and as Pole later explained to me, back when we were still speaking and before Target told him to stop — new parents are a retailer’s holy grail . . .

The Times piece proceeds to detail how marketers capture that grail – and a whole lot of other ones.

It’s called “predictive analytics,” and you should know as much about it as you can. The Times piece is a good start.

Campaign Outsider Bonus Sidebar (pat. pending):

Interesting post from Nick O’Neill’s blog:

How Forbes Stole A New York Times Article And Got All The Traffic

Seems swooped in and swiped the story from the Times, posting its basic elements on the Forbes website with better Search Engine Optimization:

The original title was “How Companies Learn Your Secrets”. Kashmir Hill, a writer at Forbes, realized this and quickly developed a condensed version of the article with a far more powerful title: “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did“. It cut out the crap and got to the real shocker of the story. As of the writing of this story, the New York Times article has 60 likes and shares on Facebook versus 12,902 which the Forbes article has. The Forbes article also has a mind boggling 680,000 page views, a number that can literally make a writer’s career.

But not necessarily his good reputation.

Originally posted on the Newer! Improveder! Sneak ADtack!

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2 Responses to The Secrets Life Of Marketers

  1. Sounds to me like the Forbes writer should be offered the NYT editor’s job. If he can figure out how to take the raw material from a NYT writer, cut to the core, and make it a better story, then he should swap jobs with the actual NYT editor who missed it all.

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