What have you bought that was the result of online marketing?

Summary:I've started asking this question but I'm not getting any answers...

I've recently been asking people a simple question at parties: "What have you bought lately that was marketed to you online that you probably wouldn't have bought anyway, like a favorite brand of jeans, etc.?"

People smile, some of them giggle at the question, but none have managed to give me an answer.

It has been a very small number of people so far, that I've asked this question, so I'm not claiming any statistical evidence that the emperor of big data in advertising is wearing no clothes but I'm curious to see the evidence of the emperor's claims.

You would think that the enormous amounts of behavioral data, and personal interests and connections that are accumulated on individuals  by commercial entities, from Google to Procter and Gamble, we would see the results of all that knowledge in the form of an increase in our spending on things we didn't know we wanted.

Yet I can't think of anything that I've bought that was marketed to me online and that fits that description. I buy the clothing brands I always buy because I know they fit me; I buy the same brand of computers, phones that I have for years. I buy the same food in the supermarkets, the same beer, the same everything.

The only times I might wander off and try something new it's when I'm in a store and something catches my eye because it's novel and I haven't seen or heard of it before. But for the life of me, I cannot recall anything that I've gone out and bought because it was marketed to me online. Is that true for others?

Sell me something…

I'm disappointed that marketers are unable to create markets and cause me to buy new products and have new consumer experiences. It was fun anticipating something new, fantasizing how it might enrich my life in some mythical way. But there's nothing out there that I've seen marketed to me online that I've felt the need to want.

Am I alone?

Disruptive technologies…

There's a massive amount of investment into supposedly sophisticated ad networks and advertising technologies, and marketing technologies, inbound, outbound; public relations, earned media, owned and bought media. All designed to improve the sales of products and services. Big data, contextual data, personalized marketing, and more…

Surely I should be seeing the result of these improvements in the technologies of marketing? The disruption must be immense given all that's been written and said about these matters over the past few years.

The end result should be that I'm spending money on products and services that I didn't know I needed but the algorithms knew that I did. But I'm not.

I'm still waiting. I've put aside $500. It's yours — you algorithmic gods of consumer consumption — bring me your best, best suited, best targeted products and services so that I can give you my money.

I suspect the emperor is a skimpy dresser if not an outright nudist. That people are creatures of habit and buy mostly the same products and services regardless of online marketing.

And that many will insist the emperor wears the finest silks and ermine because it puts food on their tables. 

Topics: Amazon


In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to become a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley. Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leading comput... Full Bio

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