Archive for August, 2015

Is mass personalisation the future for brands ?

Monday, August 17th, 2015

“Blue like my boyfriend’s eyes or golden like my personality?”

Jen is choosing her new car specifications.  Most of it has been simple: of course she needs heated seats and black leather interior trim; fancy wheels and the best possible sound system.  All of that took just moments.  The tough question is the exterior colour.  There’s a range of standard colours – that’s one thing – but in addition she could pay extra and get her own unique choice and one-off design.  In the end this dilemma proves too much for her and she defaults back to one of the standardised colours, after all, they pick the standard colours because the car looks good in them don’t they? You can’t go wrong with silver.  The challenge of personalisation to her own specific taste just gave her a headache.

Mass personalisation: is this the future of for brands?

The principle of personalised marketing has been around for a while.  Consultant John Grant wrote in 2000 in his first book: “The New Marketing Manifesto” that the old rules of marketing didn’t apply anymore.  Modern brands, brands with a desire to grow, needed to adopt a more intimate approach to marketing: to be “Up close and Personal”.

Fifteen years later Deloitte have just published their latest consumer review: “Made-to-order”.  They say; “In the era of all things digital, consumers have higher expectations: they want their interactions with businesses and the products and services they buy from them to be personalised”.

As the report also points out however it is crucial to get the level of personalisation right.  No-one wants a stalker.  And as one marketing expert once said: “I don’t want a relationship with my bank; I have a relationship with my wife and family.  I want efficient service from my bank”.  People have different requirements of their interface with different categories.

We have entered an era of mass personalisation at scale.  The idea might have been around for a decade and a half, but the means of production have been slower to develop.  A new imperative for any marketing campaign is therefore to explore what degree of personalisation is suitable.  How is it useful and relevant?  Will it improve returns for immediate sales and what is the longterm brand effect?  No brand can afford to get this wrong.

According to Deloitte’s report three quarters of consumers said that they receive too many emails from brands; half are avoiding brands that contact them with poorly targeted comms and two thirds have “unfollowed brands”, closed their accounts or cancelled subscriptions.

Look, there’s a difference between a survey and outcomes in the real world.  It is difficult to think of what kind of consumer (perhaps a very lonely one) would express an active preference for being targeted in the former.  The facts of return on investment for appropriate personalisation mean that every brand will consider how to deploy it.  Consumers will reject communications that use their personal information badly.  A single customer view is an essential piece of hygiene now.

The good news of the report is that in some categories consumers state a willingness to pay a premium for personalisation.

How this pans out in reality may be another issue.  The paradox of choice can apply if you’re asked to specify a personal design preference or unique colour for a product you’re purchasing.  As for customer involvement in a campaign idea, people like to be asked, but they prefer to watch, maybe to share, than to create.  It’s a good, personal assistant that consumers are after, not a stalker nor to be expected to work for the brand.

Meanwhile Jen’s got her new car now, and is regretting her decision, wishing instead that she’d plumped for fuschia.



Wherever you go you take the weather with you

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Rain, rain go away.


The last couple of weeks of July felt like a very British summer, especially Friday 24th when an Ark would have been appropriate as a way of navigating Soho. Adlanders could have boarded two by two!


The unseasonable, or perhaps merely typically unpredictable, weather reminded of a story that I was told by the CEO of a creative agency about a pitch for new business that meant that she agreed to make an ad for a retailer purely on payment by results. For every item the brand sold over and above the sales of the previous year’s equivalent product the agency would take a share of sales.  To quote her: “The advert was for winter coats… And it was the warmest autumn since records began.  Not only didn’t we get any extra sales, we ended up practically owing them money”.  They say “Time is money”.  Well so is the weather.


The new “Weathernomics” report from The Weather Channel describes the effect that British weather has on retail sales with great precision. Of course interest in and discussion of the weather remains a defining characteristic of the British.  There’s clearly a lot less to talk about in Florida in June or Helsinki in January.  Our weather is less predictable and therefore can lead to a swing in sales for a brand that can be hard to cater for, or to explain to shareholders.  Movies can be made or broken by a rainy versus sunny bank holiday opening weekend.


60% shoppers change their shopping behaviour because it’s raining or hot.  A third don’t go to the shops in the rain; just 1 in 8 claim to shop more but switch to a shopping centre instead. Of course more rain means more shopping online and sophisticated UX designed online retailers have sites designed to leverage the weather.


The UK must be one of the most difficult territories to plan for the weather accurately.  With global clients based outside the UK it’s just another stress point for a weather reliant brand’s marketing team.  The weather is getting less predictable and more extreme according to many reports.  Yet it’s not only extreme weather that makes a difference: this report says that a week of sleet can affect sales more than a day or two of snow that brings Britain to a standstill.


In an ideal world you would keep stock of and arrange promotions for products that fitted the weather and turn on promotions and advertising regionally to suit the best prospects for sales:  BBQ equipment or raincoats.  The “Weathernomics” report highlights that weather can effect consumer purchase in other ways too, for instance timing: mild autumns mean delaying buying that winter coat; early spring precipitates the trip to the garden centre.


The solution to all this lies in more Agile ways of working, contingency plans, Real Time Course Correction with immediate media, copy and regional flexibility. It is a lot simpler to arrange copy substitution now online or via Sky AdSmart than it used to be and all kinds of brands and retailers will benefit from this flexibility.


Meanwhile I’m off to a week at the English seaside so expect rain this August.