Please Don’t Stalk Me

July 3, 2012by Ann Dencker

Dear Brand, Please Don’t Stalk Me

When does a brand cross the line from being helpful to being a stalker? I’m talking about those situations where a brand is following you where ever you go. It’s brand retargeting run amok. There is a lot of talk about the privacy in the online world, but marketers also need to be thinking about the extent to which they are getting on people’s nerves.

I was shopping for shoes online recently. The next day, the banner ads bordering my web searches were from the shoe site I visited and showed the exact shoes I had been looking at the day before. The third time it popped up, I clicked on the ad out of curiosity. My shoe size was already filled in on the product detail page. When the banner ad continued to appear again and again days later, I was vowing never to go back to that site.

Helpful? On a different occasion it might have been, but not this time. I had decided not to buy the shoes.

Invasion of privacy? No, not to me. I knew it was an automated response to my shoe browsing.

Annoying? Yes! While it was interesting at first, it quickly became obnoxious. This was blatant, flatfooted (excuse the pun) marketing. Overuse of retargeting is equivalent to saying “hey you, buy me.” It felt like political robocalls invading my online space.

Brands have an amazing array of targeting capabilities today, and it was smart to offer me a second chance to make that purchase. But making it so obvious that a brand is following me is just a turnoff. Successful brands need to be thoughtful in how they build relationships with consumers. None of us want the stalker brands in our lives.

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