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Marketers know everything about us, but it’s more fun when they get it wrong

The modern world is a trade-off of sorts. I use my phone for nearly everything at work or at home – and other than the cost of the phone and service, it doesn’t pay for anything else.

Going to a new place? Google Maps gets me there and it’s free.

Looking for something to eat? Ask one of several apps what’s around me.

Too lazy to go get food? I have several that ensure a variety of food is brought to me.

I know this stuff isn’t really free. Tech companies harvest all sorts of information on me and then use it to market stuff to me to buy.

And Google does who-knows-what with all of the information they get from me. So much of my information goes through them that they could easily re-create me like They did that one guy in the Black Mirror episode.

Sometimes I’m impressed with what they come up with. Like the time when my girlfriend clearly spent a lot of time researching wedding stuff, and I started seeing advertisements on Facebook for engagement rings. I’m kind of impressed with that one, although I haven’t ruled out that my non-wife had bought them and specifically targeted me. I’ll get back to you on that.

Or like the time I went looking for fountain pens – my guilty pleasure and the only time I don’t hate spending money – and suddenly my email was filled with advertisements for bottles of ink.

Again, that makes sense.

I’ve been inundated with advertising most of my life, so at this point it has to make a splash to get my attention.

Mostly, I just notice things that don’t have anything to do with me. Like earlier today, an advertisement on Reddit was telling me where to buy hijabs. I’m not opposed to hijabs, don’t get me wrong, but I know I’m not the target demographic.

I never have been and never will be.

Sometimes I’ll get emails from my bank that tell me how to apply for a mortgage. I’m not saying I’m in the poor house, but this email is offering me mortgages that Citizen Kane could scarcely afford. I want to tell the bank if they know everything about me, why would they think I need that big of a house?

Elections are when they really get it wrong. Campaign staffers like to think they have it down to a science, and I might have believed them until everyone everywhere got it wrong in 2016.

I get so many ads of all sorts for different candidates, none of whom I really
like that much. Come November, I’ll always vote, but I’m not going to be happy about it.

I heard on the radio earlier this week that the company with the golden goose laying golden eggs left and right is Amazon. Unlike companies using Facebook data, which is just a series of likes and other demographics marketers can use to predict what we like, Amazon has a massive record of what we’ve actually bought.

Past performance should predict future performance, right?

The Amazon app on my phone just suggested a cordless phone for me. I haven’t used a land line since I went away to college, and I’ve never had a land line phone number.

I’m glad they get it wrong so often. It would be weird if they got it right all the time. For starters, I’d savor the enjoyment of the little shopping that I do. It’s a little bit of exploration, even if I’m not the first to discover things.

I also don’t want Madison Avenue in my head quite so much, either. You can debate free will vs. determinism from here to Sunday in what would be one of the nerdiest bar arguments of all time, but I don’t know anyone who would enjoy the thought of not being in control of their own actions.

Amazon shouldn’t do my shopping for me. Just because they recommend a book to me based on past purchases and stuff currently in my wish list, I still want the final say in the decision.

It’s only a matter of time before we start getting notifications on our phones at certain times of day or certain locations advertising things to us. An alert from a restaurant at the time we usually take lunch, or from a store just as we’re driving by. My phone already knows when I usually leave for work and gives me commute times as I’m packing up in the morning.

I won’t mind as long as we can still say “No.”

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