Big Brother: A Glimpse into Travel Marketing

early this morning i heard about a thread on FlyerTalk that showed how you could get a behind-the-scenes peek into Delta’s marketing efforts, specifically what they (and/via Experian) know about you.

sidebar: i was surprised when NH Hoteles kept track of me even without a loyalty card number and with a new passport number, but this shows that was just the tip of the iceberg. the NH record linking might have been manual — i checked into the NH at the Vienna Airport on new year’s eve and the man asked me if i ever lived in Germany, which was over five years ago. he was confirming something on-screen was me, as he knew the address. note that i wasn’t asked about this when i stayed at an NH in Buenos Aires in 2010, though that was a business trip.

some background: i haven’t flown Delta in forever, and i really only ever earned SkyMiles via flights on Air France when i lived in Germany, redeeming them for a flight from Germany to Morocco in 2006 and from the US to Berlin in 2010 for a concert. but since then, nothing except the occasional deposit from an Alaska Airlines flight (i normally deposit to American). i think i did get a status match in 2009 but never kept it up.

the data feed URL that exposed this information has since been deactivated, but i sent myself a copy of the results before i left for work, not having enough time to look at it then and knowing it wouldn’t be up forever.

an interesting find — some choice data points (most of which i have never disclosed to them), with my comments in bold:

  • “bcInd”: “Y”, Not sure what this means
  • “chldAgeRange”: “”, Correct, no kids
  • “cobrandCardCd”: “”, Correct, no Delta-branded credit cards
  • “custValSeg”: “0”, I have no value as a customer? (I am indeed worthless to them since my allegiance is with Star Alliance.)
  • “discSpndngAmt”: “$$$$$”, Maybe supposed to be my total annual discretionary spending? Scary if it is.
  • “homeValueAmt”: “$$$$$$”, Back when there was a real estate bubble this number was true…
  • “incomeAmt”: “[redacted]”, If this is annual income divided by 1000, it’s very accurate
  • “mindsetSeg”: “MM”, Not sure what this means (Minimal Marketing?)
  • “mosaicCd”: “B10”, I AM AN ASIAN ACHIEVER (see below)
  • “smBalance”: “2358”, Mileage balance, sad but true

reaction on the FlyerTalk thread has been mixed in terms of how accurate the data was, but i think what bothered me most was not that they know all this about me — and not necessarily related just to Delta as i’m sure many other companies get this same information — was this categorization (see end of this pdf for a list of all categories) as a “B10”, or Asian Achiever [pdf]. if you flip through the description, other than being Asian and liking to travel, i’m not sure there’s much merit to this. i mean, look at that snooty couple on the right side of the first page. no, not me at all.

let’s go through their list of “key traits”: (sorry about the font; i couldn’t resist)


i don’t really know how they came up with this (or how they knew i was Asian) — maybe it’s based on ZIP code (i do live in a community with a fair amount of Asians, but i certainly wouldn’t say it’s upscale)?

i guess i’m more insulted(?) i didn’t fall into another category that would have described me better like “Jet Set Urbanite” or “Wired for Success” or “Metro Fusion” (though i haven’t read their briefs to see what they’re all about, so i’m judging by name only). i suppose that’s the danger of market segmentation: you may win on the aggregate but certainly not on every individual. nice attempt, though.

in any case, this was certainly a good reminder that companies are paying big bucks to know their customers, maybe more than you think they would (or should) know. i totally don’t mind being marketed to or targeted, but just know that if i get something in Chinese (which i have before, ahem ahem, AT&T) it’s going straight to the trash. err, recycle.

p.s. me glaring/smirking (smaring? glirking?) at my supposed “peers”:


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