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DNA based marketing is becoming a reality, and brands are cashing in


As gene sequencing gets cheaper, and as companies get more access to personal information, from biomarkers and wearables to big data, companies can target you in ultra-personalised ways you’d never likely dreamt of before.


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Recently I showed you all how the science fiction like marketing of the future – namely reading people’s thoughts, and creating giant holographic billboards and beaming adverts directly into people’s ears are now starting to become a possible reality after multiple breakthroughs in all those fields, and now, according to a study from the University of South Carolina in the US, marketers will soon be able to derive “hyper-personalised” product recommendations from their customers internal biomarkers such as blood, breath, DNA and saliva samples.


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According to the research, companies like Nestle, who I wrote about recently after they unveiled their new personalised Nespresso-like food pods that are tailored to a customers individual genetic profile, are already working to customise products including home delivered meals and skin care based on the analysis of customers DNA samples that they get from home test kits they provide. Other companies meanwhile are partnering with companies that produce wearable technologies such as fitness trackers and sensory skin patches, such as Nivea’s SunPatches, that when tied together can notify users of bodily needs that can be satisfied through the consumption and use of specific products.

“Technologies are now in place that will transform the consumer goods industries in the next five to ten years, most notably in health, wellness and beauty products,” said Mark Rosenbaum, lead author of the study and chair of the retailing department at the University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, in a statement. “We envision consumers increasingly purchasing products, such as vitamins, meals and cosmetics, that are formulated based upon a consumer’s unique DNA sequence.”


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The research reinforces Under Armour’s conviction that the data the brand is collecting from its Connected Fitness platform on individuals’ nutrition, sleep, activity and fitness will one day enable recommendations well beyond purchase history. The platform includes MapMyFitness, Endomondo and MyFitnessPal and has more than 220 million members globally.

The University of South Carolina study noted, however, that consumers so far tend to be wary of “intrusive” technologies and tests, and risks include biomarker data being hacked and the legal ramifications of incorrectly reading them, for example, imagine hackers manage to alter the data the big food and big beauty brands hold so they make products that harm or even kill their customers, such as tweaking a biomarker in a data set that results in a peanut allergy sufferer being send peanut based products in the post…


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Yet the study noted that such technologies could also carry lifesaving possibilities. Wireless technologies, such as RFID-NFC, could potentially prevent consumers from knowingly purchasing counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs or infant formula, and consumer behaviour will also begin to change as decisions are increasingly informed based on bodily needs.

The study noted, “Consumers will become more passive participants in retail consumption as they rely on technology for need-recognition and product-fulfilment.”

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