I had an idea for a story today. The second I heard about this I knew I’d write about it. I was going to expose the social media giants for illicit spying. But first I needed proof.
Here’s the backstory.
A few days ago my wife went to Whole Foods. She wanted to try out Macca tea. She heard the hype about it. Maybe it’s time to give it a shot. She picked up the package of Macca tea. She mulled buying but decided against it. That’s where the story should have ended.
Later that day, advertisements for Macca tea flooded her Facebook feed.
“Did you do a search on it? They’re just retargting you.” I said
“No. I never searched it. I only picked up the package and then these ads appeared.”
Wow. Has the hardware and software advanced to the point where it could read the packaging and then target ads? There’s only one way to find out. I would try and reproduce it myself.
Off I went to Whole Foods yesterday to conduct my own experiment. I picked up the package of Macca Green Tea. I waved it around my phone. Just to be sure, I rubbed it against my phone.
“Can I help you with something?” An employee asked
“No thanks. I’m okay,” I said
I decided that would be enough. One more odd move and they might have thrown me out of the store.
… And The Results
I checked my Facebook feed several times since my test. Not a single ad for Macca anywhere. In one sense, I’m happy. Had the test produced the expected results it would be disconcerting. On the other hand, it would have made for a really great story.
The Power Of Hype
This story had a sensationalized flair to it as it played out. We were so certain that our phones could read packing labels without our knowledge and then use that data against us. The emotion, passion and boldness sucked me into believing it was true. I was sure my own experiment would duplicate the results. Granted, that feature may not be far off. Today, however, it is not the case.
That’s the power of hype. Boldness plus emotion plus repetition yields believability. When my own experiment failed, it came crashing down like a house of cards.
How Far Can You Take It?
Hype is prevalent in much of today’s business world. You’re always shining the best light on your business. The tendency is to stretch the benefits to the edge of truth. Taken too far, any hyped up story falls apart when you fail to meet expectations.