What Is Personal?

What was the best personalized ad or email you saw over the holiday season? How did it make you feel?

As consumers, we want advertising and content to be more relevant and personalized – we just don’t want to notice that it’s happening. Research shows this. Most people feel creeped out, angry, or indifferent about learning that ads were presented to them based on personal details.

It’s a bit of a paradox.  Ask customers if they want more targeted, relevant advertising and content as part of their buying process, they will undoubtedly say “Yes.” But ask them if companies should use their data to do it, and they will overwhelmingly say, “Hell no.”

The best content experiences aren’t those that are conspicuously personalized. They’re personal: relevant and welcome.

Personalization – certainly at the level that most businesses can operate – is rarely personal, and it simply doesn’t scale. As marketers, we often use some detail in a consumer’s behavior (such as a visit to a product page on our website) to illustrate that we know something about that person. We personalize based on the data we can most easily get.

Here’s the catch. People are unlikely to share a piece of content that was personalized based on easily trackable behavior. Content that they want to share is something that moves them to say, “Hey, you all have to check this out!” It’s content they see themselves in and believe others will see themselves in, too.

When your audience has an experience of “Wow, this is exactly what I needed,” that’s when you win.

So as we assemble our content marketing strategies, let’s think less about superficially personalizing content and more about creating content that hits that exactly-what-I-needed spot for a defined wider audience – regardless of who has what cookies on their machines.

Yes, we want to use technology to the max. Yes, we want to devise strategies that scale. At the same time, we have to stay in touch with what works for human beings. And what works for human beings is coming across content that has so much value to them that they want to pass it on. Personally.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.

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