How to creep out prospects:

  • Schedule a first time meeting at your prospect’s favourite cafe
  • Send push-notification every time they walk by the store
  • Send a prospect an email, even though they never opted-in for your newsletter or to be your subscriber
  • Retargeting ads, you search for a product or service on Google, and everywhere you go online you see ads for that same product or service

Have you ever experienced some form of creepy marketing?

A few weeks ago I flew to Brisbane, Australia to visit family. The weather was spectacular in the sunshine state of Queensland. I had a wonderful trip. One day during my trip I was on Snapchat watching Snapchat Story, and a video appeared. I forget what the ad was selling, but I remembered feeling surprised to see an Australian ad because it was unexpected. Even though the ad was unexpected, I am not entirely surprised that Snapchat knew about my location and used my location to show me a local Australian ad.

Creepy marketing could be the result of personalization done the wrong way. Personalization is a marketing strategy where companies leverage consumer’s data to deliver a customised marketing message to existing clients. when personalization is done the wrong way, it becomes creepy due to over familiarity without explicit permission. Similar to the way Snapchat used my location to show me a local ad.

There’s a plethora of data that is collected from the consumers by marketers. The request for information is relentless. With new technologies, companies can track your location and behaviour data (time spent on a website). With all this data, marketers can offer personalized experiences/messaging to the consumer.

If you are going to use a personalization marketing strategy here are some key points to remember:

Inform your customers

Let your customers know why you require certain information from them. Also, explain how you will use their information and how you will store it. Assure your customers you take their privacy and the security of their data seriously. If customers know what to expect from you, they will be less surprised when it happens.

Don’t take advantage

We have access to more information and data than ever before. If organizations are collecting information from their customers, they have the responsibility to protect it. When a customer signs up for your service, what kind of information do you ask for? Make sure the information you are collecting is essential to maintaining a business relationship with your client. If the information does not seem necessary, then don’t ask for it.

Show restraint

It is easy to go overboard with personalization to the point of being creepy. Show your customer you are paying attention to them but not stalking their every move. If an ad is over personalized that is meant for one individual; it is creepy. For example, in 2012 Target sent out coupons for baby items to customers according to their pregnancy scores. Target has a history of everything their customers have purchased and used that data to predict pregnancy. This Target example is creepy because these customers never explicitly told Target they were pregnant, rather Target just assumed they were based on their purchasing behaviours.


Constant notifications, emails, and too many interruptions are annoying. Don’t annoy your customers, limit the number of notifications or emails you send out in a day. Effective personalization is about timing. Providing relevant information at the right time to the right customer will result in more engagements and conversions. If you send out irrelevant promotions/offers, your customer will ignore it, begin to tune you out or even unsubscribe.

There’s a wealth of data available for marketers to analyze and to generate insights. Smart marketers will use data-driven insight to create a more personalized experience that addresses customers on an individual level. Personalization is useful when used correctly. Personalization is not only about leveraging consumer data; it is also about timing.

Christine is the Marketing Assistant at WindWater Marketing, a Toronto marketing firm specializing in helping small B2B businesses grow. WindWater Marketing helps our clients develop marketing campaigns with a personalized experience. Visit or email for more information.