Your spouse approaches you on your 4th wedding anniversary with a letter. Allstate Insurance suggests there is an uninsured driver in your house. The uninsured driver is your ex-wife and your current wife has questions. “Happy anniversary, Dear!” you respond. The problem with marketing personalization is that it can sometimes do more harm than good.
Allstate did exactly that to me this week. Now I feel even less of a personal connection to Allstate and more like a nameless number in Allstate’s marketing machine. This is a true failure in marketing personalization. Several years ago, Target infamously combined big data with marketing personalization to send a father’s 16-year-old daughter coupons for her pregnancy and coming baby’s birth. The data was correct: the 16-year-old girl was pregnant. But being correct didn’t save Target from a ton of bad publicity and damage to their brand.
Marketing personalization is good when done well
The common failings in the examples above are the focus and purpose of the personalization. Personalization fails when its primary motives are to meet the needs of the retailer or business. Keep it simple: use personalization to serve your customer, not yourself. Maintain that focus and your personalization has a high probability of success in strengthening your brand. Strengthen your brand and you will strengthen your sales.
A quick note on branding
A common misperception is that branding is about logos, colors and fonts. But be honest. Can you think of a single logo (other than your own) that you gaze at and admire for its beauty and design? Look at some of the logos of the strongest brands and you will find them to be plain, boring and uninspiring. The brand is the emotional response you have when you see the logo based on your interactions with the brand.
You want to build your brand and you want customers to think of you as the default solution to their needs. This is achieved by creating a neurological connection between customers’ needs and your brand. The name of that neurological connection is “pleasure.” Without the sense of pleasure, the experience is purely transactional and doesn’t endear customers to your brand.
The Sales Paradox
Tim Ash correctly says we all suffer from greedy marketer’s syndrome. This keeps us from achieving our goals. As Bryan Eisenberg stated, the only way we achieve our goals is for our customers to first achieve their own goals. The sales paradox is that to achieve higher sales, we should stop focusing on sales and instead focus on fulfilling the customers’ needs.
This can be a tough pill to swallow, but fortunately we have many examples of how this has proven to be true. Jeff Bezos once said that Amazon is not in the book selling business. Amazon is in the helping people buy books business. Bezos built his ecommerce juggernaut by helping people make better buying decisions. He became the facilitator, not the sales person.
Now, go and personalize – personalize well
The best way for you to avoid big problems with marketing personalization is to always start with this question:
How can I use marketing personalization to better meet the needs of my customer?”
Make that question the singular focus of your marketing personalization and reap the benefits of more trust in your brand, stronger brand loyalty, and the accompanying better sales. Focus on your needs and experience the brand degradation that happens when Allstate recommends insuring your ex-wife on your anniversary. Focus on sales and be ready for the next enraged father asking why you are sending pregnancy information to his teenage daughter.