I’m trying out something new here: book reviews. No, I don’t intend to gun for Michiko Kakutani’s job. Rather, I can’t help but draw parallels between what I read and what I do.
So let’s begin with the only book I’ve ever read to devote an entire chapter, and then some, to setting dimensional and material standards for shipping containers.
Hey, this was a major plot point for Season Two of “The Wire!”
Marc Levinson’s The Box covers the roughly half-century in which the hidebound world of ocean shipping transformed from rugged stevedores placing each and every carton in the hold of a freighter by hand to the current era where nearly all shipping except bulk commodities and motor vehicles takes place in a metal container moved by giant cranes. While the topic only indirectly broaches marketing, it has important ideas for marketers nevertheless.
A friend and former colleague coined the term “taboo data” recently, and I intend to steal it.
By way of background, my friend Trey Peden started seeing wedding ads online after visiting wedding-related sites ahead of his upcoming nuptials. This targeting should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the current state-of-play of online targeting. Only one problem: none of the couples in the ads resembles Trey and his intended because his intended is also a man.
Without diving into the churning debate about gay marriage (I’m very much in favor of it, if it makes a difference to you), I find Trey’s take on the situation enlightening. He knows enough about online targeting to know that if they could divine his imminent (within two months) wedding by his web tracking, they could also glean his sexuality. In turn, there’s no reason he couldn’t have seen ads with two groom or two bride figurines on top of the cake. He assumed that these marketers made the decision not to target this way to avoid controversy. Hence, he coined the term “taboo data.”
Have we created a class of data that we can derive easily but that we can use only at our peril? Let’s talk about the implications of taboo data.