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When does marketing get too personal?

In the pursuit of success, personalization is likely high on your list. It’s no secret that today’s consumers demand relevant, well-timed content from brands as a prelude to a strong relationship.

At the same time, data collection and personal privacy are being thrown into question by recent headlines like the GDPR. While many things are still unclear, it’s worth considering how you can adjust your approach to personalization and can gauge when marketing goes from well-targeted to creepy. In light of this, four digital professionals weighed in on the following two questions:

What does personalized marketing mean to you? At what point, if any, does marketing become too personal?”

Their best answers are below.

Know when you’ve crossed the line

karen freberg from university of louisville

“Personalized marketing takes into the account the tailored content, insights, and relationships a brand has with an individual. The days of a one-size-fits all approach for social media marketing is over. More audiences want to have that unique experience that is relevant to them. By tapping into the right insights, we can better understand each individual’s needs, motivations and expectations.

However, we have to be aware of when we cross the line. Tracking or even stalking people without their knowledge or consent is where brands and others run into trouble. We also have to be aware of the actual context and situation during which we approach people with personalized marketing. Being empathetic and knowing when, where, how, and even why we need to approach an audience member needs to be considered.” – Karen Freberg, University of Louisville

It’s all about transparency

headshot of vincent orleck from AtticSalt

“People nowadays are savvy enough to know when ‘personalized marketing’ isn’t actually personal. They know that there are systems that pick out first names from a list. So personalized marketing for me is one-on-one, and it’s not necessarily scalable like a lot of people want it to be. It takes time, work, and effort. Having said that, segmentation and tools like chat bots help to personalize interactions as much as possible through automation.

For me, marketing doesn’t get too personal. I hear a lot of people say, ‘I’m happy to see things come up on Facebook (as an example) that target my interests specifically—that’s what I want to see.’ But for some people it’s creepy…a lot of people would have no problem replacing ‘personalized’ with the word ‘intrusive’ because that’s what it is to them. Even if it’s a positive thing, it’s still intruding on their newsfeed, twitter feed, or their email inbox because they’re not asking for it. So for the business owner, it’s definitely a challenge to figure out how to address personalization. I would err more on the side of caution and be transparent about how you’re personalizing experiences for each customer.” – Vincent Orleck, AtticSalt

We crave personalization, but make sure to get it right

joe martin from adobe

“We live in a world where consumers expect a customized experience. When they log in to their favorite retail site, they want to see options that fit their previous purchases. We want to see ads that make sense in our Facebook feeds. If I am a 35 year-old male, please don’t show me something that is more relevant to a 60 year-old female.

The beauty of digital is that you don’t have to guess what your audience is interested in. You can precisely target on social media, or predict future purchase decisions based on present-day behaviors. Analytics tools, programmatic ad buying, and future tech like AI and machine learning will only improve this and make it even more experiential.

But the key to personalization is to not miss your mark. If you serve up an ad or experience that you think a customer might like and they don’t, it can have an adverse effect. Know your product, know your audience, and know the experience that you’re delivering.” – Joe Martin, Adobe

It should always be a two-way street

headshot of maurice hawkins of redskins tweet team

“I think the moment you create a social media profile, [whether you’re a consumer or a brand] you’re automatically engaged in personalized marketing. Whatever you’re sharing, you’re telling a story about yourself—who you are, what you’re about, what your values are.

But there’s so much intensity from marketers to collect this information to find some way to get consumers to complete an action…data collection has become like a rodeo where the customer is a bull that marketers are trying to control. The line of demarcation between the consumer and the marketer is that the marketer is trying to sell a product, whereas the consumer is just trying to enjoy it.

So even if marketers get the information they want…if people don’t agree with your corporate views or morals, they can feel discouraged from wanting you to access their information. On the other hand, people may be more open to monitoring if it’s a two-way door. You could monitor my communication to determine what type of product to advertise to me—but will I have an opportunity to express what type of product or service that I want to receive from you? If you create a mutually-beneficial environment like that…then I’m going to be more open to it. But if it’s purely to sell a product…then I’m going to be resistant. Because then I’m just a number, I’m a dollar sign. I’m just a potential sale, that’s it.” – Maurice Hawkins, Redskins Tweet Team

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