Those of us “of a certain age” remember when personalization first began to be used in promo campaigns. Too often it was a joke – or carried out in such a way that it actually did more harm than good.
Probably the worst cases were when direct mail pieces would incorporate a person’s name inside the customer communications. Often, the resulting piece was über-awkward – particularly if the name was misspelled or otherwise not presented how the recipient would normally be addressed; how many marketers know their customers’ nicknames?
Even worse was when mistake was repeated multiple places in the same promo piece – magnifying the problem to the level of farce.
Things are more sophisticated these days, and it’s pretty clear that targeted, relevant marketing works much better. But after nearly 25 years of personalization and microtargeting in the digital realm, things have reached the level of diminishing returns: ROI in deeper personalization declines as the efforts get more granular.
The more microtargeting that happens, the harder it becomes to find a large enough number of targets for each highly personalized ad. At the same time, development costs increase even as the returns diminish, because creating a higher volume of microtargeted promotions aimed at highly specialized niche groups means that more effort has to go into ad creative, copywriting and production.
Of course, Facebook and Google have developed sophisticated ways to target advertising to the most lucrative prospects, to the degree that it’s often easier and more cost-effective to rely on those resources rather than undertaking personalization efforts in-house. But there’s another potential issue with a relentless pursuit of personalization in advertising. Engaging in it too much has the potential of creating a backlash, with some customers finding the practice overly intrusive – even creepy.
Ad retargeting is a particularly obnoxious practice – the digital equivalent of a salesperson following you around the store trying to get you to purchase an item you may have merely glanced at in passing interest.
Pushback is also manifesting itself in regulations such as CDPR (general data protection regulation), which aims to protect consumer data and how it’s used by making it more difficult to collect and store this kind of data. Google has added fuel to the fire by ending support for third-party cookies – yet another barrier to obtaining worthwhile granular data.
All of this means that while personalization that increases relevancy remains a valuable marketing tool, it hasn’t turned out to be the silver bullet that some might have hoped. Instead, it’s creating a good a balance between data and creativity that makes for the most successful campaigns.