We all know great creative when we see it; the power of cultural meaning through a universal truth that is also personally relevant. I love that moment, the “aha” — when a brand’s proposition and its story are in sync.
Those moments are few and far between today, with the vast majority of advertising considered boring, non-engaging, and even worse — irrelevant.
The good news is that in the last several years we’ve seen an explosion in marketing technology, with promise that marketers can now deliver personalized messages at a wider scale than ever before.
However, as we shifted the focus to technology, it’s become clear that something is missing. As a practitioner in personalization, I am on the front lines of activating personalization strategies for brands. Most struggle with the same reality — that data and technology do not deliver personal experiences at scale. Not without the creative part of the organization.
Better experiences do not come out of a box
Through major lessons learned while activating personalization across industries, here’s where creative comes in:
After creating your customer journeys take a very close look. How can you further break down your customer into sub-segments based on unique traits? Such as mindset, motivations or life cycle? This creates the opportunity to identify the conversation and visual concepts that resonate at a personal level.
Often the place to start is with life cycle or persona based segments. For example, your most engaged customers should likely be treated differently to the new prospects, even when they are not in an authenticated space. Single males under 30 likely have different expectations and needs than families with older children in the home – speaking more directly to what is relevant to them can make an enormous difference in conversion and retention.
Let’s face it, customer experience is problematic. Personalization is not just about delivery of targeted messages and offers; it’s also about the channel and timing preferences; such as triggers that help make engaging with a brand easier.
In fact – some very valuable optimizations come from finding the parts of the customer experience with the most friction and fixing them. Here’s where your creative can deliver customer empathy.
Omni-channel Personalization allows you to consider different possible channels and workflows that will make your experience more delightful for that user. Like supporting an onboarding flow with a drip SMS campaign that drives engagement for mobile users. If a shopper has recently made a purchase, and visits the returns section on your site – do you cross sell their next likely product with a triggered email or use that moment to help them complete their return quickly?
Creative brand marketers must let go of the campaigning mindset and think about the brand experience from the perspective of the customer – which is significantly messier than a campaign or an idealized journey map.
Therefore, personalization ideas need to have a near term and long-term view of customer interactions and tell the appropriate narrative for the moment. In a welcome package as an insurer, you may want to recommend content about saving for college for a young family and living a healthy lifestyle for new guaranteed life customers.
Use cases like these are even more valuable as you learn what drives your customers and how to identify the signs. With research like 3rd party studies and panels as inputs, the most effective way to do this is to continually test creative tone, messages and focus in the market and watch for signs of divergent results amongst your segments.
To do this; take your top creative direction, and break down the concept by your most glaring customer differences. In entertainment it would be whether “the best shows” are Sci-Fi shows or dramas? In automotive, does a “versatile” compact SUV mean you can go from city to mountains? Or does it mean you can enjoy it now, and keep it when you start a family? Personalization means you no longer have to choose just one of those options and stick to it.