Personalisation in the Age of the Customer

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By Anne-Cécile Michaud Lichtenstein, Global Chief Strategy Officer, Havas Media Group

Strategic personalisation was once implemented only by luxury goods who needed to build deeper customer relationships with their more demanding high-earning shoppers. Then, sports brands saw it as a way to drive loyalty by tying product to personalised performance profiles.

Today, personalisation presents an effective and meaningful way to reach the masses, which is why FMCG brands have evolved the landscape from product to personalised advertising.

One of the best example of this is Coca-Cola. Two years ago, Coke rolled out its strategy of printing people’s first names on the labels of its bottles as part of its global ‘Share a Coke’ campaign.

The strategy, across 80 countries, was designed to get people to buy drinks for friends and family, as well as themselves and they loved it. So much so that over the summer of 2015, Coca-Cola did it again but this time quadrupled the number of available first names from 250 to 1,000.

Also in year two, Coca-Cola extended the strategy from product to advertising by creating the world’s first fully-personalised TV campaign.

It was targeted at all 11 million viewers of the 4oD catch-up TV service and gave them a chance to see their own name on a bottle featured in one of four million dynamically produced ads.

By using one tiny piece of data - people’s 4oD sign-in name, Coca-Cola could personalise the ad for each viewer by ending with the tagline ‘Share a Coke With’, followed by the viewer’s name in the label section of the Coke bottle.

It was a huge success and has since inspired a raft of brands to integrate personalisation into campaign strategy and create meaningful connections to impact business.

Another example is the Brazilian TAM airlines. It discovered that people on its flights spent less than 3% of their time in the air flicking through the magazine and less than 11% could even remember what they’d even read.

To change this and to coincide with the anniversary of TAM’s Milan to Sao Paolo route, the airline teamed up with Facebook to create the most personalised inflight magazine ever.

Using Facebook Connect profile and behaviour information, the airline produced individually customised magazines that featured articles about each passenger along with pages full of photos, facts and events that they’d love to read about. They even had a photo of each passenger on each front cover and the magazines were all placed on the correct seats.

Naturally, every single passenger who flew TAM airlines that day read their personalised inflight magazine cover-to-cover and even took it home with them as a reminder of the experience.

More importantly however, by putting the individual interests of each passenger at the forefront of the campaign, TAM made them feel special and valued, while something as boring as a flight was transformed into a meaningful brand experience.

In both these examples, strategic personalisation was used to improve the experience or service and trigger a positive emotional response to engagement with a brand.

Each strategy puts the customer rather than the product or brand messaging at the heart of the campaign and only uses a small amount of data to achieve the end-goal.

For some brands, it’s important to ensure that the right offer reaches the right person and therefore data profiling will play a more nuanced role in retargeting. But it’s wrong to think that the only way to develop more personalised brand experiences is to understand every aspect of every customer. Sometimes all you need is a profile ID and a creative strategy to make somebody smile.

Data and analytics are both needed to drive the strategic idea for good creative personalisation. When they become the idea however, all too often a privacy line gets crossed and a negative public reaction follows.

The brand goal is to always ensure that a personalised experience is a pleasant one so that it leads to long-term advocacy. That goal comes from the creative strategy rather than how people are tracked down. Don’t forget that people will actively seek out a Coke bottle with their name on the label but may hate being bombarded with overly familiar messaging from brands they had no intention of engaging with in the first place.

Personalisation has to be a permission strategy. People are more inclined to exchange their data for value-adds once they’re already engaged with the brand experience.

So reward the individual, invoke surprise with creative use of technology and put people at the heart of each campaign.

Something as simple as a coffee cup with someone’s name scribbled on the side can draw a smile. After all, this is the age of the customer and every single individual counts.