Marketing: Getting Personalization Right

How three companies created personalized marketing campaigns without being creepy.

Are you—like me—looking for a festive blanket scarf online? If so, chances are you’re going to see an ad for that cozy accessory following you around on other sites. And, sometimes, that sort of personalization is a nice reminder: Who doesn’t love seeing a nice plaid from time-to-time?  But oftentimes, the personalization can be annoying (I don’t want to be reminded that I can’t afford that Madewell scarf!) or even a bit creepy (You’re everywhere, scarf! It’s freaking me out. Leave me alone!).

Marketers like personalization a lot because they want to promote their brands, connect with consumers, and increase their conversions—and personalization is supposed to mimic those one-on-one individual, B2C conversations—but do consumers like it? A recent CEB analysis found that 69 percent of surveyed people reported feeling “creeped out” or “angry” with online ads that use details about their online behavior.


How can associations ride the personalization wave without angering or creeping out their members? Here are some innovative ways that other companies are doing it.

Personalization in billboard ads. Spotify is using both aggregate and individual data in big outdoor ads in the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany to draw attention to some of its listeners’ weirder habits and patterns. Here are some of the ad campaign’s tongue-in-cheek headlines:

  • “Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day, what did you do?”
  • “To the 1,235 guys who loved the ‘Girls’ Night’ playlist this year, we love you.”
  • “Dear 3,749 people who streamed ‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It’ the day of the Brexit vote, hang in there.”

In all seriousness, Spotify is racking up some real brand awareness without being creepy about it. How could associations leverage their member data for a similar end?

Personalization in IoT devices. Hearst launched Amazon Echo skills for several of its publications, including Good Housekeeping and Elle magazines. If you have an Amazon voice-activated device, such as an Amazon Echo or Amazon Tap, you can ask Alexa stain-removal questions, for instance, and she’ll reply with step-by-step instructions curated by Good Housekeeping.

“It’s a really good branding opportunity—as we’re providing that advice, we can also give the consumer guidance on which brands they should look for,” said Hearst’s Chief Technology Officer Phil Wiser to AdWeek. “That’s a theme that we’re going to build on as we take our expert editorial content and weave it in with branded content.”

In purchasing voice-activated devices, consumers—in a sense—have already agreed to the creepiness factor of a disembodied voice sharing advice. In other words, these IoT devices might be great ways associations could provide useful information while also promoting their brands.

Personalization in video. In 2015, luxury automaker Lexus created lots of hyper-individualized digital videos—more than a thousand of them. The campaign, which harnessed Facebook’s audience-segmentation technology, was enormously successful and ended up reaching 11.2 million users.

“The simplest way to think about personalized video ads is that you take data that you have on individual consumers—where they live, what they earn, what their interests are, etc.—and then create ads that are relevant to those individual consumers based on that data,” said Bryan Cook, who helped Lexus with the campaign, to AdWeek. “For example, if you live in Los Angeles and are into music and fashion, we can make an ad that contains all of these things so that you are more likely to pay attention.”

Associations already have this sort of rich information on their members, so how can they use it to create personalized videos that not only meet member needs but also enable the association to meet—or even exceed—their goals?

Obviously, most for-profits have a little more room in their budgets to launch major marketing campaigns, but Associations Now knows that nonprofits are a resourceful bunch, so we’re interested in hearing about how you use personalization in your own campaigns. Please leave your comments below.


Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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