In the era of Big Data, companies are making a fortune out of selling information to other companies.  However, what are those companies really paying for?  Is it worth it and what does it do to customer relationships?

I don’t mind getting information for stuff that I want, but when I am barraged with things that are clearly not relevant, sometimes I get mad.  Case and point, the other day I received in the mail this “newborn nourishing” kit from Similac.

Why would I receive baby formula in the mail?  I would have blown it off, but it was the latest in a series of parenting items that I have been receiving, from baby registries to parenting magazines to cord blood information.  The problem is, I am not having a baby and at this point, the constant onslaught of baby items is becoming offensive to me.

I am surmising that it’s Target who thinks that I am expecting.  I say this because of the way that the name is registered on the mail items (consistent with our Target credit card), that some of the items have been Target-specific (like a Target baby catalogue) and based on this article about Target doing this to someone else.

However, in that case, the teenage girl was pregnant.  In my case, where does this data come from?  I am again guessing that it’s my frequent purchases of baby oil, which I happen to use in the shower (TMI), not because of an actual baby.

How much did Abbot, the makers of Similac, pay for this data and to send me this formula because I was erroneously on this list?  Moreover, I am not too happy with Target and it may damage my relationship with them as a customer.

Google is another entity that does target marketing. They sell “ad words” that they serve up based on age, gender and location. You can see the demographic profile that Google has inferred for you here.

According to Google, I used to be a man in my mid-40s to mid-50s that lives in New York.  Recently, my age has increased to 65+ (really)?  Now, I do read the print version of Barron’s, which could give someone that impression, but Google definitely does not know that.  However, I have a Google+ page, a Twitter account and a pretty large online footprint that makes it clear that none of those demographics are accurate.

So again, companies are paying for data and precise advertisement targeting that is just plain wrong.

Whether you are a company big or small, be very wary of data and how it’s cut.  You may be targeting a male senior citizen or an expectant mother and end up targeting me instead.