Getting Personal about it.

What’s in a name? Lots in fact!!

It’s surprising how marketers still don’t do it, with all evidence to the contrary.

Get personal I mean

One of the most powerful weapon possible in a digital marketeer’s arsenal. And used so sparingly

First off, what constitutes personalization? In increasing order of importance (and difficulty of being able to execute), they are

  • By Name (the easiest)
  • By Interest
  • By Relevance (the most interesting!)

Ideally all three should be there, in one go. But its not necessary. Even calling out by name alone can boost engagement by as much as 10–15%, from my experience

Today all digital touch-points can be personalized. The easiest and the most basic is personalizing the email experience. For the purpose of this post,for the sake of brevity, I will focus on the email practices of some brands.

Just looking out from my inbox, lets see what this actually mean in practice — And most importantly, how its not!

Lets start with the “Not”. A look at some big brands spending huge amount of marketing dollars in digital marketing. Whether its well spent is another question. You judge…

Flipkart —

I signed up with them 5 years back.

Forget names, I have never shown an interest in a TV on their site.

Strike 3 in getting no personalization whatsover

Van Heusen —

I am a member of their Power Club. So they should know a lot about me right? Not right

Forget about the fact that this email is just a sales pitch — even if you have to sell, they can try and relate to my past purchases right? Or why I havnt been going back to them. Nope.

Strike 3!

Jabong —

Signed up with them a few years back

The most typical of sales email from a e-commerce company. And this is a company that was struggling and is now, well effectively dead and sold off for a pittance. They could have tried to innovate. Last stand and all that…Oh well

Anyway — Strike 3!

Amazon India

I buy every week from them!

Ok, I buy from them a lot. Would have been nice to have been addressed. I like to feel special, being a microcosmic part of their billions of revenue. Can learn from their US practices to start off with (more on that below)

In terms of interest and relevance— yeah, to an extent. Though I like to read more challenging stuff than what they recommended. But then this is the country where Chetan Bhagat sells in millions. So…

Strike 1! They got the other two — Interest and relevance.

Hmm…so the big brands seem to be mass mailing factories. What about the ones who do things differently?

In what will not come as much of a surprise — Its the small brands who nail it most of the time.

Blinkist an book summarizer — for those who would rather read 8 pages rather than 800!

Did a trial with them some time back

And I have been tempted to give it another try.

Part of it is that I love books. The other part? — mails like the one below. Getting all three parts of personalization spot on.

And it uses some neat “fear of missing out” copywriting as well!

No Strikes!

Tripoto An interesting travel curation site.

I signed up with them on their app once

Have clicked on many of the articles that they have sent and then some of the ads on their website

Why? They seem to get what I might just be interested in. Analytics at the backend — maybe.

Or maybe its just the highly provocative subject line — I mean who wouldnt want to laze around?

No Strikes!

Flipboard Read and like articles everyday

Ok, so not really a small player. But they get it spot on in terms of relevance and interest. They track my reading habits and make use of it!

When the targeting is this good, the lack of a name doesnt really matter — I know its personalized

Strike 1! — just to be fair in the comparison. Its as good a personalization as any

And a small surprise.

Remember Amazon India above? This is

Spot on to everything. Highly relevant, high interest and the name. The Indian counterparts can learn.

No Strikes!

Why personalization?

So why does personalization work?

The answer is simple — Evolution. Its just the way we are wired.

Neurobiologists will probably tell us that its almost instinctive and an automatic reaction.

As we were evolving millions of years ago, fighting for survival as an insignificant species on the brink of possible extinction any day, it paid off to just focus on what is important to you.

If you had to make too many decisions, it could lead to paralysis and most probably death.

Personalizing your environment helped.

It gave a sense of control over a wild surrounding because personalization helped focus the senses on what is important and what is not.

It also helped the brain to just focus on a few selected variables.

Because in a life and death situation, a philosophizing stone age hunter ruminating on the pros and cons of numerous facts of life would not survived for long!

And today for all our Iphones and Levi’s, our brain and body are still of that of million year old hunter gatherers.

Our instincts are wired to that of African Savannas and our core decision making are based on the same unconscious factors that we evolved to our own benefit.

So essentially, the two reasons why personalization works for us are —

  • It gives us a sense of control
  • It cuts through the clutter and helps avoid information overload

And they seem to feed off each other. The more we feel clutter free, especially with the megaton of information out there being pushed at us in the digital world, the more we feel in control.

And the guys who can do that for us — we unconsciously start liking them and trusting them. And thats where all the brands want to be at

For further reading, read this very insightful article from Hubspot

By the way, there is an obvious pitfall of too much personalization — the information that a Google knows about us is perhaps scary; but from a marketer’s perspective, the balance becomes important. Though the boundaries are being pushed. But that’s fodder for another article!

And the best thing about personalization? It takes very little effort and almost no cost — Perfect for the digital guerrilla in us! But lets keep that for the next piece :)

Updated — Read part 2 — which talks about how to start with basic personalization. Read here

Flipkart, Flipboard, Anirudh Gupta, Holger Seim, HubSpot, Mike McCue



Entrepreneur @ Weaddo. Writing at intersection of Technology, Culture, History.

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