Hyper-Personalized Marketing That Won’t Land You in Front of Congress

Oh, to be an ad man in the 1960s.

If you believe everything you see on TV, marketing back then was a simpler game. Successful ad campaigns looked something like this: one perfect slogan, jotted on the back of a cocktail napkin and delivered en masse to a single audience.

Marketing segmentation? Not needed when your “ideas guy” was equal parts intuition, good looks and whiskey. Hyper-personalization? Heck, they hadn’t even gotten to personalization yet.

Halcyon times, indeed.

Fast forward to today’s marketers, who understand that effective messaging requires a more personal touch. Modern consumers want to be recognized – and treated – as individuals. The success of most campaigns is determined by a company’s ability to interpret consumer data and predict future behavior.

Getting up close and hyper-personal

A big trend in content marketing is hyper-personalization, or campaigns tailored to an individual’s past behavior. Modern consumers expect companies to get them on a personal level, and they prefer nuanced, relevant messaging that speaks to their interests.

In fact, Marketo found that 79% of consumers will reject an offer from a company if it isn’t tailored to their previous brand experience.

Today’s personalization goes far beyond yesterday’s tricks of inserting a subscriber’s name into the body of an email or sending a reminder about the toaster sitting in their shopping cart.

Hyper-personalized campaigns can predict when a person is most likely to open a message, whether they respond better to emails or push notifications, and even where in the customer journey to send a discount code or BOGO offer.

Target the right people… the right way

Few things are more frustrating to consumers than the kind of “spray and pray” marketing that led to the creation of junk folders.

According to a recent Accenture survey, 75% of people are more likely to buy from brands that provide recommendations based on their unique wants and needs.

Data-driven marketing that drives hyper-personalization campaigns can help brands reach consumers more effectively by answering these questions:

  • Who should I target?
  • Where in the customer journey should I target them?
  • Who should I filter out of a message?
  • How often should I contact each consumer?
  • Which channel should I use?

To answer these questions, marketers are collecting data at every touchpoint — and using artificial intelligence to help make sense of it all.

There and back again: Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

In March 2018, The New York Times and other newspapers reported that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that counted former Trump aide Steve Bannon among its board members, improperly used Facebook data to build voter profiles before the 2016 presidential election.

The scandal – and resulting fallout – landed Mark Zuckerberg in front of Congress and brought “big data” into the national zeitgeist. This event triggered millions of people to start to realize just how often their private information was being used by businesses.

By May 2018, a number of companies and public figures had paused their Facebook marketing campaigns or deleted their profiles outright. Additionally, Facebook suspended 200 apps amid an ongoing investigation into whether services on the site had improperly used or collected personal data.

The long-term effects of the scandal are still unknown, but it has forced companies to re-evaluate their data collection practices — and how they communicate these policies to consumers.

What’s next for data-driven marketing?

The age of big data and personalization is upon us.

A recent study by Frost & Sullivan concluded that customer experience would overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator within three years.

Unfortunately, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has cast a pallor over the industry and raised questions about data-mining practices going forward.

How do companies deal with privacy in a world of readily available personal data? How should they collect information that will help them make better business decisions, without betraying customers? Most importantly, how do they communicate this to consumers in a way that builds trust?

Getting people excited about hyper-personalization

While it would be a stretch to draw too close a parallel between most hyper-personalized campaigns and Cambridge Analytica stealing private data, there’s little doubt that people want to know when, where, how and why their information is being used.

As a brand, how do you build trust and communicate the value of your data-driven marketing efforts? Try some of these best practice guidelines from your peers:

  • Be transparent: Being honest and upfront about how you collect – and act on – user data is a great starting point. You don’t have to share your marketing team’s secret blend of metrics and personas with the world, but you also shouldn’t act like you have something to hide. Whenever possible, use clear, simple terms to describe your brand’s data mining and use policies.
  • Avoid marketing fatigue: No one likes to waste time deleting unread, barely relevant messages from their inbox. Knowing who to filter out of a message can be the difference between a successful campaign and a lost subscriber.
  • Be engaging: If your brand is able to turn user data into content that is engaging and personalized, you’ll have a much easier time convincing people to share their personal information. Just make sure they understand that hyper-personalization can only happen when you know what they like — and why.
  • Follow the rules: The topic of data rights has been a hotly contested issue for years. With the May 2018 implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the conversations surrounding data protection and privacy will continue to evolve. Even if your company does not do business within the EU, you still need to be aware of the rules surrounding your website and online presence.

The ability to send more relevant, better perceived messages is changing the way brands and consumers interact.

As companies gain new insights into the way people think and behave, they have a growing responsibility to use this information in an open, honest manner. Failure to do so – as demonstrated by the Cambridge Analytica scandal – can have disastrous effects.

So how should you communicate your brand’s data-mining practices?

Like all the best marketing campaigns, the right strategy will be uniquely tailored to your brand and audience. As long as you pay attention and listen to the data, you’ll be able to share this information in a way that builds trust.