How to stay clear from creepy marketing...

‘You’re only 2 mins away from our store!’

I’ve been in marketing for long enough to remember the early days of geofencing, when the novel cool idea was to catch people passing nearby a location and notifying them to pop in… How intrusive! Try floating this idea with your marketing team, for a vast majority of businesses, you will get a resounding “That’s creepy, we can’t do that!”

The fact that mobile phones at the time would allow this practice without a user’s explicit consent shows how far the legal and technical landscape has changed, and so has the consumer’s perception about what’s cool and what’s just creepy.

The first point in this context, is that just because it’s possible or legal to do something, does not mean it’s a good idea to do it!

It all swings back round to the data…

Just a few days ago I was reading a 2024 Global Consumer Trend index which presented the result of an original “cool vs creepy” survey . The practices that came out as the coolest were “Personalised birthday offers”, “Recommendations based on past purchase” and “Abandoned basket email”, whilst the creepiest were “Ads from brands you don’t recognise based on geographic location” and “Ads based on indirect tracking tools like third party cookies”.

It might be self-evident but I find really interesting that those top 5 practices are exactly on par with the opposite sides of first vs third party data. What I mean is that the cool practices are solely relying on zero and first-party data, whilst the creepy ones are based on indirect or third-party data.

I have no doubt that it is possible to create cool customer experiences based on third party data and creepy ones based on first-party data, but I do believe that from the get-go there is a foundational understanding between a trusted brand and their clients. Both sides know the scope of the data explicitly or implicitly shared, and there are unsaid expectations about how it should be used.

‘My phone’s definitely listening to me!’

The creepy feeling comes when consumers can see something is happening, but can’t see how it’s been done (like a friend seeing an ad on Meta about something we were discussing on WhatsApp a few hours before), or because the topic is too personal (why do I keep seeing ads about hair loss?!).

My two pennies worth is to avoid doing anything that is so clever that it makes people uncomfortable, and instead to be upfront with why they are seeing the content presented to them. For example, recommendations can be introduced as “based on your last visit” or “good alternatives to the out-of-stock product you left in your basket”.

None of those concepts are intrinsically complicated, but implementing them well is not as straightforward as it seems. As always, I encourage you all to look at your data quality and completeness, and your ability to activate it sensibly through the most pertinent channels in a timeframe that makes sense. I also understand that’s not as straightforward as it sounds either! If it’s something you’re struggling with you should drop us a note, we might be able to help.

More reading – 

For more resources you can check out the survey I mention here, and explore our eBook, Why Marketing Clouds are Failing CRM Teams

by Mathieu Lavedrine, VP of Customer and Technology