Could “Big Brother” Know You Need a Gatorade?

With the medical device and technology sector becoming more advanced by the day, how far is too far in the name of (selling you) health? A recent New York Times article got me thinking about this modern world conundrum and, as responsible marketers, how we should tread carefully into the land of unlimited customer data.
mc10's temporary tattoo on human skin


mc10, and a host of other start ups in this field, are a new breed of company making electronic devices that will change the way we think about data capture and the human body. mc10 is a company that “takes electronics ‘out of the box’ to create thin, conformal systems that are able to move with the natural world.” What types of thin, conformal systems you ask? The kinds that can monitor the most crucial (albeit intimate) functions of the human body…think heart rate, brain activity, body temperature, hydration levels, even suture function on surgical incisions. These tiny flexible devices can be sewn into clothes, put on the body in the form of temporary tattoos, or even (gulp) implanted in your body.

Now let’s take this one step further. If companies like mc10 are collecting data from their products and storing and using (or selling) that data, imagine the marketing implications that could follow.

If a company knows that your blood sugar is low, your heart rate is high, or you’re dehydrated, just think of the easy sell they have with a blood glucose monitor, a stress relief class, even a Gatorade! You know the old “what is the customer’s need state?” question that we marketers are constantly trying to tackle? What if the answer is simply “their own bodies told us they need it.”

Now I certainly see both sides of this Minority-Report-feeling coin. If you could tell me that I need a product or service to better my overall health, wouldn’t that ultimately benefit me? On the flip side- if you are going to bombard me with banner ads, text messages and emails about a stress relief seminar just because I had a tough week at work and my heart rate is up, then count me out.

Ultimately it will fall to companies (and their marketing partners) to use this information wisely and carefully. There will be a very thin line between helping customers understand the possible benefits of a product by using messaging tailored to them and overstepping those bounds and becoming just plain creepy.