This month, Spotify.Me grabbed me by the narcissism. A microsite that analyses user information to assert insights and trends. A bit of clever algorithm development, some basic but effective data visualisation and there you have it – sharable, personalised content.
Me? I am what I stream, according to Spotify.
Listen most around 10:00am? Sounds about right, don’t tell the MD. Primarily six genres but nothing chilled? Life on the edge, baby. Top artists: The Smiths and Kendrick Lamar? Confused but predictable, obviously. And there’s that warm feeling. A bit like Spotify knows me. A brand that wants to understand me. I think I love… No, stop. Remember it’s just an algorithm.
Personalisation certainly isn’t a new concept. Brands have long since understood the value of putting the customer first and offering a bespoke service that defines them above their competitors. There was a time when simply having the best product was enough, and shortly after that, a time where having a good product coupled with a clever slogan was central to getting cut-through.
Now, with the sheer number of businesses vying for share of voice, some level of emotional connection and experience has become the absolute expectation from brands. Consumers want to be made to feel that they matter, that they are more than just pound signs.
Looking back over the last 40 years, here are some milestones that stand out in explaining how we got to where we are today:
Among the first to so overtly put its audience on a pedestal, Burger King made an opening statement to America by encouraging customers to ‘Have it your way’, offering empowerment through a personalised serve. The iconic advert directly challenged the perceived lack of menu flexibility present at McDonalds.
The American Airlines AAdvantage Programme was the first modern frequent flyer scheme and was adopted throughout the industry shortly after. Tailored benefits linked to the core flight product proved enough of a differentiator in attracting custom from competitors to justify a whole host of add-ons and incentives in following years.
Mobile phone providers moved on from one-size-fits all contracts and began individualising the product itself, starting with pay-as-you-go contracts. Vodafone Pre-paid was the first to market but offered less pricing flexibility than Orange justTalk, which followed shortly after.
Since then, varying plans, billing rates, bolt-ons and rewards have been added. By the year 2000, almost half of the population (44%) aged 16+ already owned a phone.
Coca-Cola showed how to successfully drive consumer engagement by putting product packaging central to a marketing campaign. ‘Share a Coke’ gave rise to other similar activities from Nutella and Marmite, enabling bespoke creation within a template.
Nike took it a step further by extending their new NIKEiD service - allowing customers to tailor and individualise an increasing range of core product by changing colours and materials.
Using customer data to drive product recommendation has become central to the marketing and sales strategies of some of the biggest and most successful brands of recent times. Amazon and Netflix are prime examples of ‘helpfully’ serving relevant product to customers and driving additional consumption without being too intrusive.
The Google ‘smart feed experience’ which launched at the back end of 2016 and has continued development since, looks like the best 2017 example ready to get up close and personal.
The next step has to be interpreting consumer data and develop tech solutions that help facilitate new experiences alongside core product.
For brands and agencies delivering consumer campaigns - the challenge is set. The audience is more adventurous and open to new ideas than ever before. We have more access to data and a greater knowledge of how we can interpret it. A wave of innovation and tech solutions is sweeping us into the future.
It’s our responsibility to harness these tools to create something a bit different. Let’s build something for our loyal brand fans which makes them feel special.
Leigh Ireland is creative director at The Playbook.