Micro-targeting doesn't always drive better results

While segmenting and micro-targeting sounds like a brilliant idea, it doesn’t always work out the way you’d expect. 

Here’s an example of how even the biggest Big Data can let you down, fresh from last week’s New Scientist magazine.

Election micro-targeting fail

Obama and Romney’s recent election campaigns took targeting into account, using clever algorithms to slice the electorate into segments then sending each segment a specially targeted message.

But counter intuitively, research by a team at Yale and the University of Massachusetts proved that the micro-targeting did more harm than good.

  • Targeted messages offered little or no advantage over general appeals
  • When a voter got the wrong message they were much more likely than average to ditch the candidate in question

85% of people don’t want to see targeted adverts

At the same time a piece of research by the University of Pennsylvania found that a whopping 85% of people don’t want too see tailored adverts, full stop. Logic says they should. So what’s going on?
Who knows. It’s probably because humans don’t act logically. When faced with a decision we’re usually the diametric opposite of logical: unfocused and contrary, driven by emotions, hangovers, the weather, the common cold, our favourite team’s performance, the state of our relationships, bad hair days…

Big Data? Hm

Talk is easy. Results speak louder. There’s a huge amount of fuss being made about big data right now. But in a marketing context it makes sense to take it with a nice, big pinch of salt.