Is Brand Norfolk making the most of on-line marketing?

The internet has transformed the way we interact with businesses.

The internet has transformed the way we interact with businesses. - Credit: PA

Opinion: So our computers are 'spying' us - well, what's the problem if it helps us get more out of life? asks Nick Conrad.

Your computer is spying on you... and if you take full advantage it can be fantastic and save you a fortune. That said, are you ready to accept Big Brother is always watching you?

I've just purchased a lovely new pair of walking boots. Searching for the right footwear, I Googled 'walking gear' and was surprised to see a variety of adverts for County Durham spring up on my screen. My initial intention to buy a pair of boots quickly turned into a 20-minute perusal of the North East's tourist offering for ramblers. I was hooked.

My hat is off to the marketing gurus who seized that opportunity. Google Ads offer a relatively simple marketing technique, capturing an audience who wouldn't necessarily view your products. Sadly for Durham, I didn't go on to book a holiday however, I've been reminded how much I like that part of the UK. For me, evermore, Durham will be synonymous with rambling.

Better still, the search engine combining my internet history and geographical position, started to ping adverts at me. The alluring offer, a discounted flight from Norwich to Durham - a new route recently opened. This in itself isn't surprising, targeted adverts are big business but I've not noticed them utilised like this before.

Some would argue the downside is the feeling of being 'spied on'. Data gleaned from your phone, home computer and social media history is used to tempt you to part (legitimately) with cash. Targeting is a touchy topic. In a recent survey the vast majority of those polled disapproved of the practice, but this is no surprise. When the practice is embellished into an Orwellia-predicted zeitgeist many recoil in horror, the trust is much less freakish.

I accept not all consumers are thrilled about the necessary data collection; some are sceptical and, perhaps, fearful about how brands might use their information for other purposes. Meanwhile, many consumers have knowingly and unwittingly accepted the practice and actively embrace the discounts and offers passed their way. The best deal I saw recently was flights to Singapore at half the usual fare. There are just so many deals - it's like Ali Baba's cave. For some there is too much temptation.

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Grounded in big data, targeting and re-targeting advertisers take advantage of the massive torrent of data that the digital age throws up. So should the non-corporates get smarter? Should Norfolk get smarter?

I've been to County Durham and it's lovely, but Norfolk has much more to shout about. Our big skies, stunning coastline and wooded walks make me think we could credibly challenge Durham's self-appointed tag of 'Ramblers County'.

From a marketing perspective, ramblers ramble. They are more likely to travel, enjoy domestic breaks and have a disposable income. Connecting someone's internet history to potential purchases they might wish to make is key to driving sales. An example, those buying skiing equipment will be subject to adverts for budget airlines, those purchasing cooking equipment will be offered supermarket vouchers and so on. Marketing is about connecting the dots (but be warned, your internet history can catch you out - remember the internet has a long memory!).

I hope we're putting it to good use attracting more tourists to this fantastic county.