Why Math and Statistics are Sexy

Nothing like this headline to grab attention: How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did

A very interesting read, if only because it points to a much longer and more detailed piece in the NYT with a much more staid headline, How Companies Learn Your Secrets.

I highly recommend reading both, especially if you live in the US. For those of you in other countries, I’m sure the points apply, but possibly not at the same level, given the differences privacy law. Plus, you can laugh at the rampant consumerism we practice here in the U.S. of A.

The short version is companies, like Target, use math and stats nerds to profile your buying habits, even if you’re not using a rewards card. Then, they target (pun intended) offers at you. The case study here is Target, and their corporate decision to target pregnant women, without giving away that they know these women are pregnant.

By know, I mean there’s an algorithm that generates a probability, which turns out to be pretty good.

This is the same ilk of data science used by insurance company actuaries forever to calculate the risks of insurance.

As a recently minted father, I can relate to the underlying rationale here, i.e. Target identifies pregnancy as a moment when brand-loyalties are up for grabs, given the new items needed and the frayed nerves of the parents. Suddenly, a one-stop shop, like Target, is much more attractive because the baby is having a meltdown.

Anyway, I welcome this type of advertising. Why? Because we’re constantly subjected to ads, which are annoying and invasive. That’s not going away, ever. So, if I have to live with ads, they’d better be good, meaning they offer me something I need at a discounted price. Everyone loves a good deal; watch Hoarders if you don’t believe me.

Your thoughts? Find the comments.




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