Demotargeting? Makes sense. Contextual targeting? Pretty logical. Behavioral targeting? A somewhat predictable evolution, but getting a little Big Brother-ish. Genetic-based targeting? Scary! Intrusive! Creepy! Those are just a few of the words that were used to describe one of the most controversial topics at SXSW this year, and I’ve been trying to formulate my own point of view ever since.
One of the dual sessions I attended was called “Influence: It’s in Your Genes,” and speakers included Paul Saarinen, Director of Digital Strategy at Yamamoto, and Scott Fahrenkrug, a genetic scientist at the University of Minnesota. Despite the fact that it was: 1) the first session of the day; 2) a ridiculous hike from the convention center; and 3) the soggiest of many soggy days at SXSW, I was immediately engaged by the banter between the two speakers. What was it that brought two people with such different backgrounds, motivations and goals together?
The answer is their startup, Miinome. A genetic equity broker. How does something like that work? Individuals opt-in to share their DNA information with organizations in the marketing, philanthropic and pharmaceutical arenas (for example). In return they get money up-front or a piece of the pie if their DNA leads to a greater “discovery.”
By way of behavioral genetics, marketers would definitely be able to predict my future habits in a way that makes me a little uneasy. They’d be able to gauge my rate of adoption and potential for brand loyalty among other things. But on the flip side, as long as Miinome and future companies like it promise to operate on an opt-in basis only, and don’t go around sweeping surfaces for hair and skin flakes, the system could do some good. From a marketing standpoint, would it be so bad to be targeted with beauty ads for those products that are best suited for your curly hair or fair skin? Or coupons for food and beverages that agree with your unfriendly digestive disorder? What if your DNA were to lead to a cure for cancer? Or helped a nonprofit take its next big step?