Big Brother is watching and he wants you to save money.

iStock_000013702258XSmallI loved the 2002 science fiction thriller Minority Report starring Tom Cruise. It was one of Steven Spielberg’s best, most imaginative films, and though it was successful, it was far less so than many of his bigger films. The film was set in 2054 and was about the ability to see crime before it occurred (“pre-crime”). One of my favorite parts of the film was when Tom Cruise ran through a mall and the ads around him changed and were specifically tailored to him based on knowing who he was. Very cool. As a marketer I understood the power of being able to tailor messages directly to an individual audience. But this is a now a 2010 reality, not merely a 2054 fantasy. Our smartphones have made this so.

We live in an age where the pace of technological change is mind blowing. There are those who would rightly argue that the cost of advanced technology is a lack of privacy. Don’t think for a nanosecond that your privacy is fully protected. If you use cash only, don’t have a cell phone or EZ Pass, and don’t have a Facebook account, you’re probably OK to some degree. Big Brother isn’t watching you (as much), though he sees you entering an intersection when the light is yellow and takes your photo of the red light and your vehicle half way through the intersection.

But if you carry a smartphone, Big Brother knows where you are, what you like to buy, but being benevolent, would like you to save some money. The latest is an app called Shopkick which was introduced last week for the iPhone and will be available shortly on Android phones.

The app has major retailers supporting it – Macy’s, Best Buy, Sports Authority, American Eagle Outfitters, as well as mall operator Simon Property Group. The basic concept is that with this app the consumer receives points (kickbucks) redeemable for gift cards for merely walking into a participating store. And the vision is to tailor the kickbucks giving points based on behavior. Very smart.

It seems logical to reward consumers with a behavior that the retailer seeks—an in-store visit. And based on new venture between ATT & Verizon, your smartphone will soon also act as your credit card. And just as in Minority Report, the messages around you can and will change based on who you are, just as the ads you see on your device are tailored to your purchase history.

But beware! If you shop in a store, no “five finger discounts” please. You would be wise not to shoplift while carrying a smartphone because the “pre-crime” unit will know in advance that you will do so, and whisk you away before you commit the crime. Big Brother may want you to save some money, but not that much.

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One Comment

  1. Jim Waddington says:

    Arrrg! have we become that predictable?

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