Selling Your Soul to Marketing

Marketing is a huge part of our lives whether you like it or not. Marketing costs money, so every bit of junk mail you get through the door these days has been sent to you because the originator believes you fall into that group. I once heard a figure that 50% of the money spent on marketing is wasted: it’s just knowing which 50% is wasted that’s the key. Whether the figure is perfectly accurate or not, you can certainly understand the concept.

Bearing this in mind, it’s interesting to just look at what adverts are in front of you every day: whether in the paper, in the breaks of the TV programmes you watch, on the radio, adverts on the train, etc. That can tell you an awful lot about what group marketing types think you’re in.

So where does all this information come from? A lot comes from consumer surveys: the sort where you could win a holiday if you answer all 100 deeply personal questions. Vast quantities of information comes from supermarket reward schemes: Tesco clubcard and the Nectar card schemes are a couple of the biggies. They also know where you live (you almost certainly filled-in a form when you first joined and gave them your address) and this can be tied in to more information about average earnings etc.

Consumer profiling looks at what you spend, where you spend, what you spend it on, etc. to build up a fairly accurate picture of you. For example, in a couple of weeks’ time, Sainsbury’s will suddenly realise that I’ve become a parent, based on the fact that (under my Nectar card) I’m buying nappies for a tiny baby and infant formula. Not rocket science, but science that’s worth lots of money.

Another source is all those little tick-boxes at the bottom of forms which say “Please tick here if you don’t want us to pass your information on to carefully-selected partners”: they usually mean “say no to us selling more information about you”.

What is interesting is to look at the profile for your own area and see how well you fit into it. has a section where you can enter your postcode and it will produce a breakdown (in quite accurate detail) of the general type of person who lives in that area. Obviously, not every person perfectly fits into the area’s standard profile, but on average it’s very good.