Look. I get it. Smart marketers take a look at their demographics and make assumptions about how to target certain kinds of individuals. In the new era of “private is public”, it seems that people already know lots about me. My work. Where I live. What I enjoy. Where my sports loyalties lie. And through this blog, and my public Twitter account and Tumblr I indeed volunteer a lot of information for “the Google” and the rest of the world to make whatever deicsions they like about me. And I’m usually fine with that and the spam and the baggage that comes with it.
But, right around this time of year, when the mass rush to “get mom the perfect gift” comes around, I take pause. This is the part of the story where I share that I lost my mother about 2 and a half years ago, and think of her often, and this one time of year is when the grief that I have over her loss gets confused and remanifests itself in very strange ways.
Because I get e-mails like this, that remind me of the joy I used to get getting and giving gifts to my mother. And of the joy she would get receiving them. And, above all, of her.
And this is when segmentation can go horribly wrong. Because, there’s no way for marketers to know whether or not my parents are alive, or if I’m speaking to them, or if they are someone I think of often. And, frankly, I don’t think it’s any business of theirs in the first place.
Because they just make this assumption that:
- I would want to get a gift from her.
- That I have the means to buy a gift
- I would want to get her a gift from you
- The “cost” of mistargeting this message to me is low.
Yes, I admit, the sensitivity to 1 and 3 are definitely a driving factor behind this post, but I think the sensitivity to this use case is one that is missed by a lot of marketers. And, yes, I can deal with e-mails that are most logically intentioned (like the copies of magazines I’m getting because I’ve stopped at Babies ‘R Us so much for friends with recent babies), but this case has a particular set of baggage.)
Why? Because I have no way to tell marketers I’m not interested in these messages. They just come. One good example of one place where I could, the one place that DOES know I had a mother that I had a good relationship with — my online florist — would require me to go in and delete her address from my contact book, not the most elegant solution on a literal or metaphysical level. But then I realize, I shouldn’t have to opt-out of having a mother who’s alive to avoid callous e-mail reminders that she isn’t.
It’s ironic when you compare the other milestones of her life, her birthday, which doesn’t have quite the spam impact and the anniversary of her passing. Which, no marketers are interested in. It’s a day I choose to mourn in different more deeply personal ways, and no marketer is interested in that.
So I’ve decided to start opting out of e-mails from any advertiser who makes this assumption about me and encourage you to do the same. And I encourage those of you who are marketers to consider this use case more carefully. Because, someday, sadly, we’ll all be on the other end of this last segment. And the loss will always supercede the gain.