Companies utilize different approaches while trying reach customers attention. Some shoot blindly into dark, some follow the trail created by customer. Most clever ones are trying to meet the customer where customer is heading to!
Some companies obviously still believe in gaining attention of potential customers through keeping up high volume of messages. Pull from blindly distributed marketing messages is low, so they put more effort in delivering ever increasing amount of mails until target is reached. I think many clever receivers are already blocking or filtering these messages and pull percentage continue to decrease. These players are using shotgun in dark, not really aiming or aiming based on intuition instead of knowledge. You might hit the target every now and then, but connection to customer is not really established here. Also the regulation is turning against this approach.
More sophisticated companies believe in targeted marketing. Basic idea is good, but unfortunately implementation is often far from good. I give you an example. Last summer I was driving through Finland and realized that i have to break driving for night as it was getting late and there was plenty of distance still to be gained. I used one of the good applications for finding accommodation from next town along my route. After this one reservation and one visit to that town, I have been receiving new offers of hotels from that same town on weekly basis. So this service provider has categorized me falsely to be interested in accommodation in that town, only based on one visit. There are many more clever ways to do this, but you need to be more careful in selecting correct information as basis of your targeting. You also need to follow up the end user reactions and adjust your analysis accordingly. And still you only see what happened in past. Hanging in tails of customer, but not quite catching the intention.
The companies that are really helping their potential customers (and make good sales at the very same time, obviously) should be able to think ahead of customer. Now we are talking about more sophisticated analytics and utilization of information. This could be done in market level, where you figure out basic trends of market segments, their intentions and changing preferences. Then applying this knowledge into individuals belonging to that specific segment. Sounds straight forward, but actually involves quite a lot of thinking, analysis and understanding the behavior of your target market. Similar thinking seem to be already emerging into SigInt domain. Trends and intentions of larger target groups are analyzed from social media (people tell surprisingly lot and openly about their intentions actually). That analysis is segmented and those segments with particularly interesting intentions are picked out, further analyzed and maybe some actions are also taken. Turning this same thinking into commercial space one could potentially find a short cut leading a head of potential customer and meeting where this customer has need that could be full filled on timely basis thus creating real value.
All of these approaches have different levels of privacy related topics attached, but I think that depending of the value offered the end user reactions could be different.