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Home » The Dark Side of Our Personal Marketing Data: Kirk Grogan (Transcript)

The Dark Side of Our Personal Marketing Data: Kirk Grogan (Transcript)

Kirk Grogan is a marketing and sales strategist in Seattle, WA and has worked with multiple Fortune 500 companies.

Here is the full text of Kirk’s talk titled “The Dark Side of Our Personal Marketing Data” at TEDxSeattle.


We are all being stalked, and we know it. You shop for a pair of shoes online, and for the next several weeks, ads for brown tassel loafers follow you across the internet. Well, if you’re my grandfather.

For me, it was a pair of Chuck Taylors.

Now, we’re sophisticated enough to know that this cyberstalking has something to do with ad tracking, big data, maybe even AI.

But what made you feel the need to buy a pair of brown tassel loafers in the first place? Just preference, right? You needed new shoes, you know what you like, what colors would go with your wardrobe, so you picked those. Are you sure?

What if I told you you were groomed, step by step, to prefer and purchase those exact shoes from that exact website, and that those same grooming techniques could be used to make you commit atrocities? I’m not paranoid. I’m a marketer and I have a theory.

Consumers don’t fear that their data is being aggregated, because consumers don’t understand how it can be used to manipulate them, to groom them, to change their behavior. The average consumer is likely to believe they’re a unique individual, that they have unchecked free will, and that there is nothing inherently special about them to be worthy of tracking or collecting.

From a digital perspective, however, all of these assumptions are false. As consumers, we are not unique. While each individual may exist in a small circle at their own quirks, constant and pervasive collection of data has allowed us to place them into a group of thousands or millions of others with similar traits and beliefs.

It’s these very similarities that allow marketers to review what worked on consumers in the past and then guide new users onto that same path. No free will is required. My job entails advising billion-dollar corporations how to most effectively guide their customers through these steps.

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