A few weeks ago, I attended the Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit (DMFS) in New York. During the brief two-day event, I sat in on a number of interesting presentations and panel discussions and, as someone representing Evergage, I was thrilled that personalization was top of mind for so many attendees. However, I was also oddly surprised how often the word “creepy” – as in, don’t be a creepy marketer – was mentioned.

Perhaps it’s because the conference brought together many leading banks and insurance companies who, by the nature of their business, maintain a lot of personal information on customers. Or, perhaps it’s because those that work in the Fiserv industry want to avoid many of the overly creepy tactics used by marketers in other industries. Whatever the case, attendees clearly wanted to distance themselves from the negative connotations associated with many questionable forms of digital marketing.

You might be a creepy marketer if…

But what exactly is “creepy marketing” and what were the folks at the DMFS show so concerned about? Well, as a marketer myself, I’ve seen my share of creepiness and thought I’d use this post to share a few examples. A few of my colleagues weighed in as well. Riffing on Jeff Foxworthy’s “You just might be a redneck” bit, here are a few signs “You might be a creepy marketer”:

  • If you don’t immediately honor my email unsubscribe request, you’re a creepy marketer.
  • If you’ve purchased my personal information from another website, you’re definitely a creepster.
  • If you ask me to subscribe to your newsletter the moment I land on your site, you’ll definitely creep me out.
  • If you ask for my location – without a justifiable reason, you’re a creepy marketer. (Ever heard of geo-targeting by IP address?)
  • If you show information about me like my marital status, income level, favorite movie, name of my first born, etc. – you’ve certainly crossed the line.
  • If you update your privacy policy more than once a year, you’re probably up to no good.
  • If you insist I tell my Twitter or Facebook followers what I just purchased on your site, you’ve crossed the creepiness line.
  • If you use anything I’ve posted in social media to target me, the creep patrol might be knocking on your door soon.
  • If you rely on remarketing ads that follow me around the internets (yep, internets) – especially if I already purchased the product you’re showing me! – we need to put you on the list of creepy offenders.

Avoiding the creepy factor

In this digital world we live in, it’s easy to collect information on prospects and customers. However, just because you have access to these details, it doesn’t mean you should resort to creepy tactics. In my opinion, the best marketing tactics are like officials at a well-refereed basketball game – you know they’re there and they add value, but they don’t get in the way of what everyone came to see.

This is one reason I find personalization to be such a powerful marketing technique. The best personalization solutions give you the ability to, first and foremost, listen, and then respond to people individually. For instance, rather than ask someone to join your mailing list the moment she lands on your site, personalization can help you gauge true interest and intent so you can be more strategic when asking someone to subscribe (e.g. after they’ve viewed a certain number of pages or on their third visit).


When possible, marketing should be subtle and, when done well – like with a well-refereed game – it adds value and does not distract people from natural browsing. Anything else just comes across as desperate. The good news is that personalization, done well, can help save you from going down the creepy marketer path.