Creative vs Creepy


I have a question for everyone at the end of this post. First, to today’s topic:

Topic of the Week: Creative vs Creepy

Right before the holidays, I came across this tweet from Netflix“To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?”

If you’ve never heard of A Christmas Prince, it is a delightful Christmas movie about a young reporter who goes undercover and falls in love with a rebel Prince.

Whether I’m one of those 53 people mentioned in the tweet is not the point of today’s newsletter.

The tweet, which was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, caused an uproar. Folks thought it creepy of Netflix to publically broadcast personal viewing habits and mock viewers for their choices (no matter how well-deserved). Most major news publications ran some article or blurb on the Christmas Prince tweet ordeal.

I find this to be a fascinating marketing case study and one that is highly relevant as everyone ramps up 2018 sales and marketing efforts.

We live in a time where a creepy amount of data is at our fingertips.

You can track email open rates.

You can track every activity a visitor performs on your website.

You can use geotracking to know a person’s location.

You can find highly personal information on social media.

You can target people with ads to every corner of the internet.

The marketing possibilities of what you can do with data and automation tools are endless. The hard part is figuring out creative and effective ways to use data without crossing the line into creepy/annoying and harming your brand.

In Netflix’ case, while the tweet may have ruffled a few feathers, Netflix could not have paid money to get a better PR blitz around a D-level movie. I classify this as a creative win for Netflix.

Because most of you are professionals selling a service or product to other businesses, let’s talk about a similar, but more relevant example:

A few months ago, I got an email from a CRM company that said something like this:

“Hey Danielle, I noticed you read 53 articles and downloaded six ebooks this year about sales and marketing from our blog. Are you in the market for a new CRM or email marketing system? If so, I would love to get a better sense of what your needs are and see if we can get you started on our free trial.”

Was it slightly strange to read about the embarrassing number of articles I read? Yes. Nevertheless, I agreed to a demo. They reminded me of the free value I received, and it intrigued me enough to learn more about their product.

That’s a marketing data win.

Here’s a real example on the opposite end of the spectrum:

Week 1: [insert boilerplate introductory email trying to sell me a product]

Week 2: “Hey we sent you an email last week but never heard back from you, can we connect?”

Week 3: “Hey we’ve sent you two emails, and it looks like you’ve opened both of them, why haven’t you responded?”

I then unsubscribed from the mail list.

Week 4: [from a different email account] “I understand my colleague has been in contact with you three times. Is there something I can help you with?”

Unless they believe I can be annoyed into submission, this was a data and marketing automation fail. While I know they use software to manage this entire sequence of emails, I felt like there was a person on the opposite end of my computer watching my every move.

I’m expecting Week 5 to be something like : “Danielle, will you please put down your can of lemon-flavored Kroger sparkling water and respond to us already.”

My Question to You

How do you personally define the line between creative and creepy/annoying when using data in marketing?

If you have any relevant examples, I’d love to hear about those too. Send me an email with your feedback at

Fingers crossed none of the examples I receive are from emails I’ve sent out…

Have a great weekend everyone! Stay warm.

About the author

Danielle O'Rourke

Recovering Investor. Mom. Wife.

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Danielle O'Rourke

Recovering Investor. Mom. Wife.

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