Personalised marketing at scale is the next big thing in digital


If you haven’t heard this latest buzz phrase yet, you’re missing out. “Personalised marketing at scale” might be fast becoming the newest digital marketing trend, but far from being a throw-away gimmick, it represents a new way of thinking that will permanently transform our media approach.

In essence, it’s the ability to reach different consumers with different creative messages, rather than having to have a single TV advert that everyone sees. It means you can subtly tailor your executions based on demographics, interests, location or even purchase history, reaching millions of consumers but each with something that seems personally relevant and interesting. The tweaks can be subtle, like different copy or video thumbnails, or can be more dramatic – brands could for instance position themselves entirely differently to excite teenagers versus the parental audience who might actually be the ultimate purchasers.

The Cadbury Facebook page is a good example of this – looking at it you’ll sometimes see a cheeky Creme Egg update next to a family friendly suggestion of a craft activity to do with their Egg’n’Spoon product. To the untrained eye it can look a little contradictory, but using media targeting the brand can actually make sure that millions of different people are seeing the respective posts – or dozens of other iterations which may not ever be publicly shared on the page. Coca Cola segmented the US Facebook population for its 2014 Super Bowl advert, reaching different groups of consumers with the same video but a different thumbnail and copy tailored to their interests and demographics. The big issue to watch out for in all of this is ensuring that however detailed you go with your targeting, you still ladder up to an overall significant level of reach.

It’s early days and we’re only beginning to see evidence that this added personalisation adds value, but on a micro level it’s immediately obvious. Think of your own social feeds or email inbox – you’re much more likely to pay attention to updates that are relevant to you whilst you’ll probably get annoyed when something invasive, irrelevant and totally spammy pops up. The effect is magnified on your mobile phone – we’re all used to sharing TVs and computers and seeing relatively generic messages there, but a mobile is a very personal space and anything not relevant to who you are, where you are, and what you’re doing feels out of place. The impact on digital actions – engagement – is immediate and positive, although as these do not ultimately correlate with sales or ROI, that’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of proving the value.

There are things to watch out for, of course – the film Minority Report paints a slightly overwhelming picture where all advertising is personally tailored and directed at you. We’ve already begun to see early backlashes when marketers push it too far, for example, by including your actual name or specifically referencing data you’d be uncomfortable with a brand knowing. We may be able to target people called John who have a birthday and recently looked at sports-related websites, but the creative we use to do so needs to tread a thin line of being relevant without being invasive.

There are some easy first steps you can take to adopt this approach, such as briefing subtly different creative executions for men and women, or different age groups – mutually exclusive subsets where potentially you can communicate slightly differently without being needlessly stereotypical. Perhaps unexpectedly the approach is really best unlocked when you start thinking programmatically – yes, that scary word isn’t just about cutting costs and buying cheap media. In fact, some of the real value in programmatic comes from being able to dig down and reach the right people with the right creative and scale, across media channels and partners. When your media-buying data begins to influence your content creation, and vice versa, you know you’re somewhere really exciting.