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Jeepers Creepers… Don’t Get Too Personal

The majority of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand, when it gives them a personalized experience. They are more likely to do business with brands that remember, recognize, and provide them with relevant recommendations and offers. On the flipside of this, personalization marketing can also result in brands losing some of their customers because of poor personalization practices. In marketing, when it comes to personalizing content for consumers, there’s a very thin line between what consumers will deem as being relevant and being straight up creepy.

When one brand sells the demographics and history of its customers to another brand, and the other brand uses that data to market to a potential customer, the customer is likely to feel that the brand has no suitable reason for knowing their gender, age, ethnicity, purchasing history, medical history, economic status, etc. The key to taking the creepiness out of a hyper-personalized interaction is by simply not using information that you should have no reasonable way of knowing.

A user might see an ad that feels like it knows just a little bit too much about them and start feeling uneasy about how that information was discovered, or maybe, no longer trust the company using that information to market so specifically to them. Each of us has our own perception as to when personalization becomes creepy, but the bottom line is, if a customer believes that a brand has crossed the line into creepy territory, then it has. Most people can tell when marketing becomes creepy. 

Still, most of us consumers want some degree of personalization. We’re more aware now of how much data we, as consumers, offer up by simply existing in today’s digital spaces. We understand that the data collected is used to serve us relevant ads and recommended products, services and other information that we are more likely to be interested in.

With all of the information that we give up, we expect some degree of personalization. And we are grateful when personalization is relevant and helpful to us, but when personalization feels excessive, invasive or is inaccurate, it can leave us feeling a little weird.

While some marketing campaigns obviously cross the line, others are borderline. If a customer searches for a new car via Google, and the next three sites they visit show them ads for auto dealers, there is a reasonable assumption that the customer may find such personalization intrusive, although many people are tech savvy enough to know about third-party tracking cookies and how they work. If, however, they are simply at home talking with their family or friends about cars, while they sit next to an Amazon Alexa, and the next three sites they visit show them ads for cars, the marketing campaign has just moved into the creepy side. 

There are many that believe that the age of hyper-personal marketing will soon come to an end because its effectiveness has been impeded by many who are no longer relinquishing their information out of fear. It is becoming harder to collect the information needed to market accurately with new mobile data privacy and security implementation.

Consumers today expect the interactions they have with brands to be personalized for them, rather than just people like them. The problem arises when hyper-personalization becomes hyper-personal, and brands use information that is not appropriate for them to have access to. Brands must ensure that their personalization efforts are positively affecting their bottom line, and above all, they must be transparent about how they have obtained the data that they are using to reach potential consumers.

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