Somebody’s Watching Me: How Marketers Can Win with Data

Somebody’s Watching Me: How Marketers Can Win with Data

Article By Emily Grunseit, strategist, OgilvyOne


First, a confession – I am in my second pregnancy in under two years. Obviously there’s a lot going on in my offline world. What’s less obvious is the changes in my online world.

See, I’ve been growing ever more suspicious when Google adds ‘during pregnancy’ or ‘when pregnant’ to each suggested search.

Like, ‘Can I wear white shoes… during pregnancy?’

Or, ‘Where can I buy a pure-bred cavoodle… when pregnant?’

Can it be that Google has figured out that I am pregnant?

Well, in a word, yes. And there’s no mystery in how.

I wantonly Google questions about my pregnancy on a regular basis and my search profile is getting more and more specific. But on the flip side is pure appreciation – appreciation for relevant results and content more specific to my needs. The same is true for online marketing.

Recently, a sociology professor in the US experimented with whether or not she could hide her pregnancy – and all of its related data – from marketers. She used Tor, a private browser, to visit sites like She sacrificed loyalty program points in favour of anonymity. She used gift cards to avoid a visible credit card transaction. She even un-friended an uncle who mentioned her pregnancy on Facebook. Clearly it was hard work. It also clearly highlighted our acceptance of the exchange of private data for services from Internet companies.

From my point of view, attitudinally I am more aligned to Millennials.

I am acutely aware of my need for data privacy security is at odds with my flagrant disregard for it. I freely throw around my digital data until it comes back to bite me. As long as I can search infinitely, connect with friends and gain access to all types of content – then you can have my data.

And I am not alone in: 67% of Millennials agree companies using their data for more targeted marketing is OK as long as they ‘get relevant offers, advertising, or information.’ And this survey looked specifically at a tech savvy audience, which you’d expect would be more cynical about the whole exercise and more aware of how to opt-out.

While some people are blocking retargeting efforts via their browsers or advertising opt-out programs, the majority are opening themselves up to a whole range of targeted – if not slightly eerie – messages based on their online behaviour. Their searches, their Facebook messages, the content of their emails and the content they consume on websites are all being used to play back relevant offers from brands.

While I continue to be surprised when I see my own ecommerce search results being displayed back at me in a banner, I am much more likely to revisit the site, particularly when I see it accompanied by an offer.

I value what targeted marketing provides me.

On the other hand, untargeted marketing has the effect of completely repelling me. The fact I stay home with my bub one day a week and may indulge in Ellen occasionally does not mean I respond to a deluge of ads for cleaning products and home deodorizers. I resent the assumptions about my priorities and my interests. And, as a marketer, I am baffled by the need to rely on assumptions when there is all this data out there, readily available.

If your organisation hasn’t begun to leverage customer data then it’s essential to begin now – you’re getting further and further behind. You have a generation of customers open to receiving targeted messages. And offers. And will respond better. So how do you get started?


  1. Review your sources. Big Data sounds intimidating, but it needn’t be. It’s an issue your organisation is probably tackling already. Forbes defined Big Data as ‘data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis’. Get that? Inside and outside. So the place to start is within your own four walls. Build a single view of customer data. Add external sources like financial or social media monitoring.


  1. Assess your segments. How does your available data enhance or even add to your segments? You may even find your traditional key segments are not as important as you thought. You can then build out customer personas so you see the customer more clearly – their needs, behaviours, drivers, device usage, social media habits, and search keywords.


  1. Identify your tools. The end goal is to create a dialogue. And I don’t mean a brand led, one-way social conversation. I mean responding to every action your user takes with your online marketing. Nothing’s quite as frustrating as tailored search ads and emails that lead to a generic landing page. Instead, every interaction with your website should help evolve the messages I receive. Let’s see just how far we can push the targeting envelope.

The challenge, of course, is this takes work. And time. And manpower. Careful segmentation, planning and analysis of data is not easy. It requires a mindset that genuinely places data at the heart of marketing strategy. Marketers need to act on data insights rather than react to results.

Especially if you want to get people like me who, as it turns out, is currently worth 15 more times as a customer than I was just a few months ago.

I wonder if I can operate heavy machinery… while pregnant?

This piece follows on from OgivlyOne’s ‘In the World of Data, Every Little Interaction has Big Implications’

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