The Day I Became the Target

After 20+ years in marketing, I thought I understood and empathized with the people we court. And then last October my husband and I moved to a new home in a new town. 

Mind you, I get marketed to everyday just like everyone else. I’m loyal, care more about quality and service than price, and have my list of acceptable brands pretty much culled. It turns out I took for granted the effect of pattern and routine, because we had lived in Santa Monica for almost 20 years.

As soon as we got our mortgage from Bank of America, the movers were all over us along with furniture brands such as Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel, as well as home services such as ADT and DirectTV triggered by the data connections evident in my BofA cash rewards Visa. Then I bought boxes on Amazon Prime, and I was bombarded online with offers from other moving and home improvement-related brands such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. And then we filed a change of address with the Postal Service, and almost instantly became acquainted with every store in our new neighborhood.



For the 10 weeks when we were supervising renovations, I’d drive to the new house before going to work, with stops at the hardware store in between. That defined me as someone in market for renovations. So, mobile providers sold my data to dozens more companies.  

And then came the second tier of marketers, the home guides who sell the local businesses. Even the local dry cleaner showed up at the front door. 

Promotion came at us from everywhere – online, phone calls, texts, in the mail, at the front door. I knew that my data was bought and sold, but I was shocked at how many different companies apparently had access to it in different ways. Some knew exactly who I was, others just knew our address. But they knew us.

And it’s still happening. I just didn’t realize the magnitude of what being an intender signifies to marketers. And I never thought I’d learn so much about my own profession in the process. While I appreciated that there’s a fine line between being helpful and making someone mad, I’d never viscerally experienced it.

Whereas some turned me off with tenacity, others invited me with availability. Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and Restoration Hardware spammed me relentlessly. Meanwhile, gourmet market Bristol Farms sent me coupons so I’d know they were just up the road.

As my stress level rose with the logistics and renovations, my behavior patterns changed. Convenience became a priority. I’d normally never go near Home Depot, but they had everything we needed in one place, from doors to pruning shears, so they got over $8,000 of business. And the everyday Von’s won out over more upmarket locations because it was 10 minutes closer.

In each case, though, they gained a customer by delivering. Just like the local pizzeria and Subway, where we ordered meals (something neither of us had done since college) for our contracting crew. I came to appreciate the importance of delighting someone with the right trial at the right time, and just how delicate a proposition it is.

It’s harder than we tend to think to deliver on the right offer, because it has to match the emotion of the moment. I’ve always thought about what my intended consumers are doing, not what they’re feeling. From now on, I’ll be looking hard into what people are going through. Because the why changes everything.

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