When brands address you by name, or show you things they think you’ll like, do you feel loved and valued? Or are you unsettled by the experience? Or even annoyed?
It’s been a long-acknowledged fact in marketing that ‘personalisation is power’ and the results bear this out – consumers have traditionally liked the personal touch and enjoy feeling valued through ‘brand-to-one’ communications. But in the data age, organisations need to tread carefully. Sam Tatam is a psychologist and Head of Ogilvy Consulting's Behavioural Science Practice in London. He is an expert on consumer behaviour and works with some of the world’s leading brands. He acknowledges the “love of our name and the warm glow when we are recognised,” but warns that recognition and response are not innate. We discover his top tips for brands who want an effective personalised relationship with their customers.
View personalisation as two-way traffic, rather than a very binary ‘call to action’. “It’s important to see personalisation as a relationship rather than a tactic,” says Sam. “Approach it as ‘trying to better understand people’ and use it to bring them things that we think they might value more. Acknowledge that relationships have variability – there are upsides and downsides that make relationships genuine. Brands who think about authenticity in personalisation don’t try to close the world off to others at the same time, which for me feels quite important. This has a wider implication too, as it makes sure our customers don’t become stuck in a bubble, – whether that’s a strongly held point of view, right through to what they wear.” Perhaps it is best to approach the process of personalising your relationship with your customer as a learning exercise instead?
Trust through transparency
There is a world of ‘my social media is listening to me’ theories out there, but the reality is simply data. The way customers respond to the use of that data is all in the presentation. “If you’re wondering how a brand has learnt so much about you, this might actually make you turn off a decision which would otherwise have been attractive. But if you can see your data working for you, and there’s clarity behind how systems are being smart to bring you something that you’re more likely to enjoy – you hope – then maybe that’s not such a bad thing.” It’s important for brands to deliver a personalised experience in a way that shows empathy, does not silo the likes and dislikes of customers and, crucially, is truthful and authentic.
“Humans are massive game theorists,” explains Sam. “There’s always got to be a catch. If something’s too cheap, what’s wrong with it? If things feel too pristine, organised or crafted, what’s the world that’s being taken away from us? So, maybe there’s an innate rebellion there, when things feel too perfect. We need a sense of authenticity and variability that shows us that we’re not just experiencing a squeaky code. We see through it.” Something as simple as language or symbolic cues can be enough to create transparency. Sam uses the Domino’s Pizza Tracker as an example of ‘transparent labour illusion’. It’s a simple way to deliver the information the customer requires and build trust. This trust can be earnt by something as simple as “stating where we’ve learned from you and where we’re offering that up. There’s a lot of really interesting research around trust and credibility and what we call ‘costly signals of mass communication’.”