How to… ahem… disseminate your advertising materials

An intriguing article by Charles Duhigg, published a few months back in the New York Times magazine, talks about the value to large retailers of knowing when their customers are pregnant:

There are, however, some brief periods in a person’s life when old routines fall apart and buying habits are suddenly in flux. One of those moments — the moment, really — is right around the birth of a child, when parents are exhausted and overwhelmed and their shopping patterns and brand loyalties are up for grabs. But as Target’s marketers explained to Pole, timing is everything. Because birth records are usually public, the moment a couple have a new baby, they are almost instantaneously barraged with offers and incentives and advertisements from all sorts of companies. Which means that the key is to reach them earlier, before any other retailers know a baby is on the way. Specifically, the marketers said they wanted to send specially designed ads to women in their second trimester, which is when most expectant mothers begin buying all sorts of new things, like prenatal vitamins and maternity clothing. “Can you give us a list?” the marketers asked.

Well worth reading the whole thing. Gives a whole new ring to the phrase ‘targetted advertising’!

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Frequently I buy womens shampoo, not for myself of course. Anyone who has been down one of these aisles will appreciate the difficulty in making a logical decision as to which hair detergent to buy. The cost per unit volume decision is complicated by the perceived need of Mrs Young for the bottle to contain extracts of “x”, where “x” may be aloe vera, coconut, lime, turnip and so on. Frankly the “chemists” of Laboratoire Garnier make homeopathy experts look like a fairly honest bunch. So where am I leading to with this. Well, washing hair is routine, and you would think people know what is needed. Babies are fortunately infrequent, and to be honest, until you’ve actually had one for a few weeks you have no idea what is actually needed to maintain it. In general food, air, water and nappies are essential. A method to transport baby a short distance without causing too much damage is also useful. Some people may be familiar with the ‘test drive’ of a buggy (pram or what ever you call them) at babies-r-us. There is plenty of choice. If you feel slotted disc brakes are important on a buggy then, yes, they are available for those who fear the brakes may overheat due to excessive use.
Sorry, I think I’ve gone a bit off topic, and not sure it’s all that relevant, but I’ve written it now.

I first heard about the Target story as a cautionary tale to engineers: even if something is technically feasible, make sure you consider the social implications before releasing it to the public. Facebook, for example, could use a lot more thought about the social ramifications of some of their features.

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