Opening Up: Times Brands Missed the Mark When Using Customer Data

We asked Acquians to share times when a company or marketer missed the mark on personal customer data use and privacy.

misused customer data

It’s no secret that brands today often know more about us than some of our closest friends or family members. Marketing in the era of customer data presents brands with great opportunity and great responsibility. Knowing things like an individual’s buying preferences, geo-location or device type can help brands understand what kind of experiences customers want to have.  

However, concerns over data privacy and ethical consumer data use have ramped up recently as customers demand more control over and transparency into how companies use their personal data. States such as Virginia have recently proposed their own data privacy laws, following the lead of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). 

Without a strategic customer data strategy, brands risk mistargeting customers with poor experiences or violating data compliance standards and facing legal consequences. We asked Acquians to share times when a company or marketer missed the mark on customer data use. Hear some of their not-so-personalized customer experiences below. 


“I know that Amazon probably knows more about me than I know about myself, so imagine my surprise and confusion when I started seeing Amazon ads for Depends! I don't need them yet, thankfully, and I don't know anyone else who does either!”

- Amy Morris-Clark, Software Engineer


“One time, I shared info with an insurance comparison site for research. Since then, I’ve been getting multiple calls, messages and emails from unknown insurance companies for unwanted insurance policies. I definitely feel that they compromised my data.” 

-Rahul Mulchandani, Product Manager 


“I regularly get companies emailing me invites to West Coast events even though I live on the East Coast.”

-Anna Bruning, Senior Manager, Demand Generation


“Even though Amazon is widely regarded as a business with advanced customer data capabilities, there are examples where they could create better experiences through better use of data. For example, if you move countries, Amazon still shows news and current events from the country where your Amazon account is registered, even after you've lived in the new country for a number of years. Amazon is aware of your geo-location, so they should ask the user which news they would prefer.” 

-Phil Coop, Marketing Cloud Director, APJ


“I get advertisements on Facebook from websites that I haven't visited, but my boyfriend did, even though we live in separate houses. This is typically small niche brands that sell things like supplies for sewing/making stuff for your boats.”

-Karen Angelli, UX Manager 


“Within my first week at Acquia, I received a connection request on LinkedIn with the note, ‘I was browsing your website and noticed that it is built on Hubspot CMS platform, but not to its full capability.’ This was followed by a sales pitch for consulting services for Hubspot's CMS. I let him know he was wrong, and that I wasn't interested as we build on our own platform. Ugh!”

-Trish Keenan, Senior Marketing Operations Manager


“Once I was a frequent customer and an employee for a popular athletic wear company. Even though they had incredible data on my buying preferences (we maintained pretty detailed customer profiles), I would still get emails, promotions for other genders or activities that didn’t match my preferences. I somehow would always get a ‘Ladies, Jump in line, don't miss this opportunity’ message.”

-Patrick Goulet, Consultant, Partner Marketing


“I used to get regular geo-targeted ads for the hotel directly next to my apartment from Hilton Hotels. Why would I book a hotel room next to my home?”

-Zach DiFranza, Account Executive


“I randomly browsed a flower service from my Chrome browser to get flowers for a funeral, and that was picked up by the Instagram account of a flower company to target me with ads for Valentine's Day flowers and gifts. That use of data, I thought, crossed many lines!”

-Shrinidhi Jahagirdar, Engineering Manager

To learn how you can successfully turn customer data into meaningful insights that lead to long-term customer relationships, check our e-book: Working with Customer Data: From Collection to Activation

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