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Lured by the promise of Big Data, organizations sometimes segment audiences too narrowly and unintentionally end up abandoning large groups of potentially lucrative customers.

About This Trend:

Last year, I made the mistake of purchasing a bow tie. To be more specific, I made the mistake of searching for a bow tie online. It wasn’t really the bow tie that caused the problem. It was the ads. For weeks after I had conducted that online search, everywhere I looked online, ads for bow ties seemed to be following me around like banner equivalents of the paparazzi, and it was just as annoying.

The automated ad sequence was working so hard to convert me into a buyer, I even coined a term to describe the situation, joking in a blog post that I was being adver-stalked. According to any metric, I should have been an easy customer to convert. When I had trouble finding one that could be shipped fast enough to arrive in time for my event, I abandoned my online search and drove myself to a local store and bought a bow tie in person instead. At that point, I was no longer a bow tie customer.

And all the marketing dollars spent to reach me were wasted. This is Overtargeting, and the sad truth of online marketing today is that this is surprisingly common—and it is not accidental. There are plenty of unscrupulous people and companies who are profiting from this arrangement.

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