THE POWER OF PERSONALISATION: Data should inform creativity, not by-the-numbers targeting

By: Lauren Smartt

21st January 2020

In this month’s Catalyst Magazine, David Coombs, our Head of Strategic Services at Cheil UK discusses what consumers really want from personalisation, and how brands can differentiate themselves in a complex market. The magazine, available exclusively to CIM members, can be accessed here: 

We’ve included an excerpt from this piece below: 

“We’ve arrived in the future. We’re now past the date when the original Blade Runner movie, with its floating outdoor ad screens and AI-intelligent personal assistants (those Replicants) , was set  – November 2019.

Two decades into the 21st century marketers are awash with digital tools and platforms that bestow the ability to learn more than ever about consumers. We can identify buying signals, the choices behind purchase decisions and the path to conversion and harvest a wealth of other contextual data.

But we seem further than ever from being able to parlay this avalanche of data into meaningful, rich engagement. And we are losing the argument in persuading consumers they are getting worthwhile value from handing over their data.

Trust in advertising is at an all-time low – as the Credos research carried out on behalf of the Advertising Association has shown us.[i] Part of the reason is undoubtedly over-targeting and re-targeting. We’ve all been irritated by how an initial search query, for instance for a camera, leads to an increasingly frantic clamour for your attention with messages following you around the internet.

I always reach for the dictionary when trying to clarify my thinking. Personalisation is defined as “The action of designing or producing something to meet someone’s individual needs”. Target is defined as “selecting as an object of attention or attack.”

Not the same thing at all. And not how consumers want to be treated. Personalisation is about consumer needs and targeting is about marketer needs – confusing the two is damaging to brand perception and revenue.”

At Cheil we conducted research with UK consumers, looking at consumer attitudes to personalisation, loyalty and the sharing of personal data. Key takeaways included: 

  • Consumers were broadly happy to share their data in exchange for incentives including discounts and cash back, although the majority didn’t see this as a deal breaker. 35% of respondents say they’d be ‘somewhat likely’ to share data for cheaper premiums, and 34% willing to trade it for cashback.
  • Even when it comes to something useful like recommendations on financial services, the research showed that consumers were not excited by this contact from brands, and were wary of sharing financial information. Just 13% were happy for their credit information to be used to recommend cards or loans – showing a greater sense of privacy around financial information than health.
  • Strangely, consumers were far more happy to share their health data, with almost two thirds (62%) sharing the information if it was likely to serve the common good, such as improving diagnosis.

Consumers want to understand the value exchange when they divulge personal details, they want better experiences, or something exciting or useful to them. Brands need to come up with something that will offer value, avoiding gimmicks which consumers will see right through. 

Technology can help, and AI and machine learning will continue to play a part in helping marketers discover the best actionable insights. We do need to avoid forgetting the human value which will ultimately create closer relationships with brands.  

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