Folks, I’m about to share some information with you that may forever change the way you market to consumers. But first, you should know that I’m currently in the market myself for a vehicle to be used mostly for long distance family vacations and light local travel. And while I may have just committed a deadly sin by divulging this information – in the end – I hope this serves as a wakeup call to brands. With so many models and options to choose from, today’s car buying experience can be daunting to say the least. But the more personal information I share, the more marketers get it wrong.

Not long after my extensive web search, I started getting served a ton of banner ads about car deals – and if I were to come down to the dealer within the next 24 hours I would receive $100 cash back! Then the direct mail pieces began rolling in about a week later. One piece even had a car key that would apparently start the vehicle that I decided to purchase. Oh – and then there’s what appeared to be a real check in my name to go towards a car purchase of my choice. Well, the key was about as genuine as those mannequins in the department store – and the check was not even worth its weight in postage. But none of this even mattered, because it didn’t move me closer to a decision. Instead it pushed me further from one.

Your customers’ search activities online reveal important clues about who and where they are. Combine this with email information collected from social media activities, and any research gathered from data brokers, and marketers have boatloads of personal information to target the masses. This can be good for marketers if campaigns are aligned with customer preferences.

However, most of these campaigns operate all willy-nilly with the goal of capturing only a tiny percentage of that mass distribution. It’s not targeted, it’s haphazard. And it fails to respect what most consumers value most: their personal information.

MyLife.com surveyed 4,000 Americans to find out if they trust the organizations gathering all this personal information. Get this: Google is more trusted than LinkedIn, Facebook or the U.S. Government. In fact, only 17.1 percent of survey takers trust Facebook with their personal content. Yet – many Facebook users, Millennials in particular, post personal comments that provide marketers with detailed information about their purchasing habits.

The fact is: most consumers don’t like to share personal information – if they do, they expect it to be used to help them make informed decisions with relevant and useful information. But while only a fraction of mass outreach efforts result in customer acquisition, it still equals revenue. So, as long as marketers see results, they’ll keep engaging in these same practices.

You can break this nasty cycle.

Utilizing personal consumer information requires careful strategic planning – if poorly executed, it can destroy brand trust. Mass personalization is a reality that all marketers must face, but it doesn’t always work.  Instead, effective personalization requires entirely restructured content that targets an individual’s core preferences. It requires segmenting target groups with customized content according to market research findings. The more segments – the better the results.

Companies that insist on attaching blindfolds to their marketing efforts are in for a rude awakening. Consumers are smarter than ever – particularly Millennials. Fool them once, shame on you; fool them twice – well, that’s just not going to happen.