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Behavioural marketing - new? I don't think so

Behavioural marketing - or behavioural targeting [BT] as it is more often called online - is another 'latest thing' that is attacting attention. This is one that I think will stick around. Why, because it makes sense - and it is yet another offline concept that has moved online using the technology that is available [see my views on this in there is nothing new in marketing on the web]

Online the buzz is about how technology can collect data that points to a certain behaviour on the part of the surfer. It works like this. A user visits a website and they collect a cookie - so enabling the site's publisher to track future visits. Let's say its an e-tail site that sells electrical goods. On the first visit the user - Bob - sees the same ads as all other visitors - maybe toasters, laptops and DVD players. But on that first visit Bob spends around 15 minutes reading about surround sound TV and audio systems, but leaves without purchasing, or looking at any other product.

It is not rocket science therefore to use technology to make sure that if Bob returns to the site the ads he sees will be for surround sound systems. If on his second visit Bob again concentrates on high-end TV systems - perhaps clicking on one of the ads on the front page - but still doesn't make a purchase then data from that visit can be fed into the system so that if he comes back again the ads can be even more specific.

All clever stuff. Spooky even. Perhaps shades of Big Brother [the book, not reality TV show] - but hey, if the punter gets the TV system he wants at a good price then everyone is happy.

But new ... Narrr.

I recall when I worked retailing car parts and accessories. Such shops - even the busy ones - hardly have the footfall of Tescos. It's relatively easy to remember individual customers: what they look at; what they buy; what car they buy it for. So when they return to the store you can match them up with products - and promotions - in which they would be interested.

Sound familiar?

Sounds like good sales technique to me. And that was around several thousand years before the Inter-webby-cyber-highway ... and all those folk [non-marketers?] who think sales and marketing only started in the mid 1990s.

How to cite this article:
Charlesworth, A. (2006). Behavioural marketing - new? I don't think so. Retrieved [insert date] from

This page was first published around 2006 but may have been updated since then
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