The power of personalisation: does it really work?

In a world where consumers demand more personalised experiences, creatives and clients can sometimes feel disconnected and dissatisfied with the technology that’s required to pull this strategy off successfully. Adobe is used by 95% of creatives in the industry, according to its senior product marketing manager, Toccara Baker, yet many marketers don’t know how to streamline the process and ensure that their creative work is relevant and delivered to consumers appropriately. The Drum and Adobe panel discussion moderated by The Drum’s senior reporter, Rebecca Stewart, explored some of these issues.

Panellists shared their methods for having better conversations with consumers, how they attract – and retain – talent and the importance of utilising available creative solutions to create a more connected overall experience.

Can personalisation really work?

Most panellists agree that they’d prefer to adopt a one-on-one, personalised marketing strategy for their business but that various challenges in establishing this efficiently stood in their way.

“I’d love to be able to do 1-1 marketing,” says Zendesk director of digital, Aurélien Dubot. “But the reality is that every time I’ve experienced it, it’s been hard, complex and brought with it a lot of sadness. That’s why we prefer to remain segment focused.”

Marketing to individuals might be time-consuming, but marketers can still appeal to consumers through specific categories, such as gender, age, geography, job or other identifying features.

However segmenting consumer data and advertising to audiences in this way isn’t guaranteed to reap results.

“It’s about being shown something that’s relevant to where you are in your path,” adds Baker. “Having access to one’s personal data is a privilege. If we start to drag relevancy into the conversation, that’s where you can start to actually scale and provide relevant messages to where someone is at in their journey and how they’ve interacted with your brand.

“At the same time, it’s important to respect that data and ensure that you’re having those conversations internally about what consumers are thinking.”

Understanding audiences to better connect

While most marketers seek to cultivate smooth omni-channel experiences, some marketers feel that data can let them down or stifle the process. It’s crucial for marketers to understand the audience they’re aiming to target.

“You really need to understand their full journey to determine how you’re going to activate your campaign, rather than take it channel by channel," according to Ogury head of programmatic, Joy Dean. “Then you have to work out how to act upon that information; how do you use that data to inform your strategies and your products and the messaging that you use when you’re speaking to consumers?”

Having that information helps to connect the dots across channels and encourages marketers to view the consumer’s journey more holistically; to make sure that they’re not consistently stalked by a brand or product, especially if they’ve already purchased it. Baker suggests that brands should work out what a misuse of data would look like so that they can avoid overstepping the mark.

While admittedly, there’s no way of creating a collective consensus framework for respecting data across the industry, recognising that consumers are consenting to giving their data in exchange for information is essential.

For Baker, that means ensuring that the industry is listening to consumers’ feedback all the time.

Using data to fuel creativity

Utilising data to inform and deliver a campaign’s message is important but it needn’t replace creative integrity.

“You need to make sure the creative isn’t just at the very beginning, bang in the middle or at the end,” says Dubot. “It needs to be connected throughout the process so that it’s adapted to the channels and to your audience.”

The problem with this however – the panel pointed out - is that most businesses have separate analytics and creative teams. “We usually work in silos, so unfortunately departments don’t tend to speak to each other,” explains Dean. “It’s all well and good if one department understands the consumer. But if the rest of the team doesn’t have that integration across products or an understanding of how the data can be used and how we can innovate clients, then they’re set up to fail. If we’re not doing that in-house, it’s going to be really difficult to do that externally. We need to take ownership of that.”

Finding the right talent

As advertising becomes more dependent on technology, skill-sets within the industry will inevitably change. This will require agencies to consistently retrain their employees to keep up with the technologies that they need.

However, this also creates a highly competitive marketplace as few will be able to get a handle on every software available and few agencies will be able to afford investing in all of them. “It’s tough,” said Publicis Media head of solutions consulting, Luke Ellis. “Those who have worked in a DMP or a CDP are so sought after; they’re snapped up straight away. To find skilled people across adtech and martech is basically impossible which is why you pay a lot of money for them.” Unsurprisingly, some marketers are questioning whether it’s worth outsourcing these skillsets versus employing people with specific skills instead.

Dubot revealed that Zendesk has moved all of its advertising in-house in a bid to connect more to the industry and ensure greater accountability. But he admits, finding the right talent to support the agency isn’t easy.

“Talent is really hard,” he says. “Moving it in-house was great because quite frankly for 10% extra budget, I’m getting 45% extra actual business results. Those people we hired have the right talent. They are directly connected to the business and when something doesn’t go right, we don’t wait a week or three days to adjust things, we adjust it straight away. That allows us to be connected internally and to remain agile.”

Adobe, meanwhile, is training brands and agency partners on their software platforms to ensure that they understand how to improve connectivity. “Software is only as good as the people that know how to use it,” says Baker. “We take a lot of time taking people through that journey and education. When it comes to talent, there are people who are pretty well versed in all of these separately so we’re starting to build programmes and putting together materials to help teams connect the dots; help an analytics person understand what’s going on in the advertising ecosystem or help a data person with what they’re doing in their day-day.

“It’s important for companies like ours to provide the training and materials because people won’t think the tools are successful if they don’t know how to use them.”

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