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Tuesday 2¢: Perils of Personalization - My Girls Have Ruined Netflix

Tuesday 2¢: Perils of Personalization - My Girls Have Ruined Netflix

Welcome to the Tuesday 2¢ . It’s Tuesday, the weekend is a distant memory and it’s time to let off some steam and give our 2 cents on a hot industry topic. This week, Ian Truscott shares with us his annoyance at bad personalization and looks at why marketers are still failing to hit the mark...


It seems that personalization is tricky.

Scratch that, it seems that personalization is bloody hard.

Websites which I regularly use forget that I am English when I am in Germany, a pizza chain sends me offers on a Thursday when I eat pizza on Friday, a massive online retailer offers me things I already bought, a car rental company inserts an ad into my Facebook feed which offers me a discount immediately after I booked and paid in advance, a massive online retailer remarkets to me on Facebook with films I just watched on their platform, the airline I fly with most weeks offers to repeat the search for flights which I have already taken (and not flights it could easily predict I want next week) and on and on it goes.

And now my two daughters’ current obsession with all things Korean has ruined my Netflix experience. Sure, I shouldn’t let them login to my account, but it’s only when you are confronted with a wall of Korean content that you realise how dependent the platform’s user experience is on very recent past behaviour and how hard it is for the platform to figure out what’s been going on and for me to find what I am looking for past all these ‘recommendations’.

And those are just a few recent examples from the top of my head.

One-to-one marketing has a way to go and this kind of garbage is why consumers are saying stop. So why would you trust your data to an organization which can’t figure out the basics and offer a service that is actually built around me and my needs?

And the baby is being thrown out with the bath water, as big brands blunder around on this stuff. It harms everyone, fuels the privacy movement, creates legislation and, as I have said before, we (as marketers) screwed up and ended up with GDPR .

Chat to a handful of people, especially here in Germany and even in the industry, you quickly find those who are devout about their privacy, something which I don’t think was there 5 years ago, not because people didn’t know what was going on before, it’s just that they have lost trust since then.

The utopian vision of genuine 1:1 marketing, you know the kind in the Minority Report that every lazy writer about marketing referred to for 15 years (including this one), will not be realized until the industry can build some trust. The value exchange of data is convenience, consumers are very aware of what they are sharing and what a good use of that data looks like, and trust is built by providing that.

Maybe Minority Report is not your utopia, so let’s reach for a classic. In the book that was set to revolutionize marketing in the 1990’s, ‘The One to One Future’, Peppers and Rogers said this in 1993:

“Instead of using media to expose your target audience to your message, think of having a conversation with each of your customers."

(And I needed to type that in from a book on my desk, old school!)

The reason all of the examples I shared earlier piss me off is that they are either inconvenient interruptions or they have created some friction when engaging with their product or service. None of them are a conversation. They are the polar opposite of what I wanted in return for my data.

People have stopped sharing data as they believe that they are not trading it for convenience, but for annoyance and intrusion.

Which is a terrible way to start any conversation.

Imagine strolling into an old-fashioned bakery. You wouldn’t get much service if you didn’t tell them what you wanted, directing the shop keeper as to which delicacy you desired from behind the counter, but we all love the feeling when folks in real life remember what we like, helping the transaction and making it more convenient. But, you’d be reluctant to express your love of bread if you thought they’d show up in the restaurant later waving a loaf under your nose as you tucked into your steak before following you home.

Perhaps it’s not that personalization is hard, it’s that it’s hard for marketing to throw off the old habits of interruption, of adding a little bit of friction into a consumer’s life in order to get noticed. Maybe it’s hard for marketing to adapt to being useful.

I’ve already mentioned that we are trying to do our small part to be useful by removing the need to register in order to download our content, and we have a fabulous paper by Ted Rubin available for download which touches on some of these challenges for retailers.

When planning a digital journey, organizations need to map a path of convenience for the consumer and make it easy, creating not just what will be a win for the organizations, but a fair exchange of value.

Ian Truscott Ian Truscott

Ian Truscott has the unofficial and honory title of the “Träger des Firmen-Megaphons” for censhare, bringing 20 years of B2B software experience to our company (surely starting as a child) to lead marketing here. Luckily for us in the Munich office, he’s found the kettle and some tea bags – look at him, he’s happy.

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