For some of us being greeted by name when returning to a website can catch you off guard and you can feel spied on – and for others it’s a warm welcome. Whichever one you agree with, you will at some point experience brands online who do personalisation well by adding value and those who jump in un-expectantly and creep you out. An example of personalisation perhaps going a step too far occurred with a US company called “Target” a few years ago. Their personalisation efforts were intelligent and proactive – but results slightly backfired unexpectedly. After data analysis of a website visitor they started sending baby magazines and coupons through the post, and here is what happened next when a distraught father intervened when his daughter received this targeted collateral.

“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

The manager didn't have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologised and then called a few days later to apologise again.

On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

Target knew about the daughter’s pregnancy before the father did – now that’s creepy!

Did you know?

  • Personalisation gives 10 - 30% better conversions
  • 8 x times more likely to believe a brand who knows you
  • 6 x more likely to love a brand
  • 7 x more likely to believe the communication is relevant to you
  • 70% of the market struggle to find the right tool for personalisation.


The future of digital and content marketing is very much focused on personalisation. In the years’ ahead we will be able to expect more targeted messaging to suit our behaviours and needs in such an intelligent way that the feeling of that ‘creepy spy’ will be history. There are clear benefits to businesses when they use personalisation effectively:

  • Add value
  • Helps the customer
  • Captures data to build relationships
  • Bring customers back who don’t buy the first time
  • Ability to cross sell across email and social media
  • Strengthen the brand by gaining reviews and ratings


Personalisation is here to stay and will become more and more impressive to the end user. Email, social, marketing communications, mobile, in store and web experiences will become much more integrated and will move from that creepy spy to our helpful friend.

Comment below to share your creepy brand experiences!