Personalization is the quest of the moment for so many marketers, with 70% of executives interviewed by Forrester saying it is now of strategic importance to their business. (What may surprise you, as it did me, is how generalized so much of marketing still is.)
According to the Forbes article, most personalization efforts are currently underpinned by customer preferences and purchase history. Looking ahead, marketers see social sentiment, contextual behaviors, time of day/week and location information as emerging factors in their bid to make experiences feel more specific.
Few retailers do personalization better than Amazon. Their ability to suggest offers that are relevant based on what they know about consumers from previous behaviors is insightful and addictive. But that doesn’t make personalization a panacea, and it certainly doesn’t mean it can apply universally. As Paul Boag points out, “Too often personalization is requested with no clear idea of what that means or what benefits it would provide.”
Boag identifies five other types of personalization beyond Amazon’s custom personalization approach:
- Email and social media personalization – where people identify themselves to an organization, provides information about themselves and their needs and receives targeted communications using segmentation
- Campaign personalization – customized landing pages are created to support a targeted campaign, usually with a call to action
- Geographical personalization – where a person receives information based on where they are
- IP customization – people are identified through their IP address and the content they receive is customized to reflect what they are likely to be looking for
- Account customization – a person creates an account and then can personalize what they want to receive
All of these mechanisms have a place in the personalization of digital strategies – but I think it’s also interesting to look at how some brands have generated a deeply personalized response to their brands without utilizing any of these customizations.
Starbucks, for example, through its combination of coffee, wi-fi and space has turned its stores into a place where people can have time on their own but still stay connected. Moleskine encourages everyone who buys their notebooks to feel that they too are an artist. These feelings are deeply personal to each customer because only they can feel them the way they do. Both examples give rise to a different way of thinking about personalization that falls beyond the scope of the mechanisms described above because it looks to a level of engagement that isn’t based on what people are served up.
What experience does your brand make possible for each buyer that is not actually defined by the product itself?
Stella Artois focuses on the exquisite experience of enjoying a great beer. By condensing the value proposition of the brand down to one person, one event and one glass, Stella Artois has made each drink as personal as they can. At one level, the experience is about the excellence of the Belgian drink. But at another, it’s about the ability to sit and enjoy this beer without having to think about anything else. The pleasure of that supersedes the actual drink itself – and distinguishes a Stella Artois experience from the rowdy, highly social experiences that most beer brands celebrate.
Most brands are still thinking and communicating functionally about their products. They are still building stories and experiences around what they are and do. What they’re missing is the “personal bonus” that each consumer gets from using the product that is specific to them, and may even change every time. In addition to the personalization that your brand looks to achieve through its digital channels, what are you doing for consumers at an intrinsic level? Where’s the little thrill in what your brand offers, and how are you referencing that to deliver particular experiences that people feel alongside the tailored experiences that they will receive?
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