Target Like Target Without the Creep Factor

Target Like Target Without the Creep Factor by Michael Bendit
{2:50 minutes to read} What caused the 2012 sales explosion at Target?

An angry father storms into his neighborhood Target store outside of Minneapolis brandishing a handful of store advertisements for maternity clothing and baby furniture. He demands to speak to the manager.

“Why is Target sending ads for baby furniture and maternity clothes to my teenage daughter?” he asks.

“Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

Target Like Target Without the Creep Factor by Michael Bendit

As Charles Duhigg recounts in his 2012 New York Times article, the angry father apologized to Target after learning that his daughter was already pregnant. Target had been analyzing her purchases to predict that she would soon be in the market for the advertised products. According to Duhigg, Target’s sales of mother and baby products exploded as a result of this ad campaign.

Target isn’t the only company using reams of purchasing data to “target” consumers who are primed to buy a specific product or service.  

According to Jonathan Silver, CEO of Affinity Solutions, similar techniques are deployed by other organizations. Silver, a purveyor of purchase data analytics services, claims these methods are used by everyone from national retailers to small and mid-sized consumer businesses. Even culture and art institutions are jumping on board the digital micro-targeting bandwagon. For example, some of them are gravitating to a new targeting platform for live entertainment marketing from VRRB Media headed by Michael Hirsch, a veteran of the industry.

So how does a small company get in on the digital micro-targeting action?  

Fortunately, the two 800-pound gorillas in the industry have not forsaken the millions of small businesses which drive a significant portion of their revenue. Google Analytics enables advertisers to target consumers based on five dimensions:

  •    age
  •    gender
  •    lifestyle
  •    purchasing and
  •    interest.


Facebook targets audiences based on those same five, plus: 

  •    location
  •    language
  •    Facebook connections and
  •    a broad range of other parameters made available through partner provided data.


WARNING – the power of these audience-targeting tools is immense. Improper use could backfire (like it did with Target in its maternity campaign) or cause you to waste a lot of money reaching the wrong audience.

What new methods are you using to reach your target audience?

If you want help getting started with audience micro-targeting, contact us and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Michael Bendit


Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011