SXSW and the Focus on "Me"

One of the themes we heard repeatedly by ad industry executives we interviewed at SXSW Interactive over the weekend was the focus on me.

Not technically me, me, but the idea of extreme personalization. Though I have to admit, interviewees talking about “me” while not referring to themselves took a bit of getting used to.

The commerce implication of this extreme personalization has to do with linking data and purchase behavior.

“This idea of me is very, very prevalent here at SX,” Catalina marketing head John Caron told the real me.

During the show, Catalina introduced technology to personalize ad content based on what you bought in a store. Other discussions at SXSW centered on customizing content based on what you’re about to do.

This reminds me of the predictive modeling technologies introduced in the relatively early days of the internet. The difference this time around is that location of an individual can be factored in, which can be very powerful.



I asked Caron if this might freak some people out and he suggested that not all mobile shoppers would participate.

“If you don’t want it, you don’t do it,” he said. “You allow apps to use your location because it gives you a better experience.”

The overall idea is that a large amount of mobile customer data and behavior is becoming available and marketers are designing ways to use that data to augment the customer experience, much of it at retail and on the fly.

Interestingly, the mobile shopping experience is becoming circular rather than linear. Past and future purchase information and behavior is being tied together in hopes of improving the customer experience.

Some will opt in for this, some obviously won’t. Will you?

11 comments about "SXSW and the Focus on "Me"".
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  1. Serena Ehrlich from Business Wire, March 12, 2013 at 1:17 p.m.

    This is most definitely the trend of the future. For the last few years, marketers were teaching customers about new technologies. The tipping point has shifted and now it is consumers providing feedback to create future interactions and technologies. I'm so excited to see what comes of it - all signs point to increased personalization = increased sales. Great post!!

  2. Todd Sherman from Point Inside, March 12, 2013 at 2:34 p.m.

    It's surprising how little personalization has happened in mobile advertising as it has amazing potential. Foe example, grocery store apps can look at your shopping list and make highly relevant deals, product suggestions, etc. Very useful. And most customers will want those benefits.

    Location itself as an input is limited. Currently many ads are served up based upon your general location and not much more. That's akin to having a carnival barker on the corner trying to get you to walk into their store. The likelihood that the message is relevant to you is close to zero.

  3. Doc Searls from Customer Commons, March 12, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.

    What's being talked about at SXSW is a small step toward what we've needed all along, and still need, which is tools that empower customers themselves, with their own tools of engagement, rather than constantly improving only the sell side of the marketplace, with tools for "personalization" that differ from company to company, site to site, and in sum only make the world even more complicated than it already is. If you want to see where we're *really* going, the short version of it is my WSJ essay from July: . Real empowerment of individuals is where we'll end up. "Personalization" by companies is a small but helpful step.

  4. Doc Searls from Customer Commons, March 12, 2013 at 3:03 p.m.

    Two more things. First, don't get used to other people, or companies, using the first person pronoun ("me," "I', "my") for you. It's creepy and wrong, even though it's now as common as lint. Second, start making more of a distinction between brand advertising of the Madison Avenue sort — which works because it's *not* personal — and the stuff called "advertising" that wants to get personal with you, mostly by tracking you like an animal and giving you "personalized" messages, which still miss the mark >99% of the time (even with the best analytics). The direct ancestor of this discipline is not advertising but direct marketing, and before that direct mail. I unpack the difference in this piece at Wharton's Future of Advertising site: Also see everything Don Marti writes here: .

  5. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, March 12, 2013 at 5:02 p.m.

    Thanks, Serena, it is definitely a very exciting time and there certainly is more personalization to come.

  6. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, March 12, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.

    Right Timo, personal all through the channel. You should write more about that! :)

  7. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, March 12, 2013 at 5:06 p.m.

    You are so right, Todd. The on-location mobile market is still in its infancy but at least seems to be on a growth path, from a thought-process viewpoint.

  8. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, March 12, 2013 at 5:08 p.m.

    Brilliantly stated, Doc (as expected).

  9. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 12, 2013 at 7:26 p.m.

    TQ Doc. 1984 is right around the corner with consent of the sheeple sold a field of lofty magical individual greed. Turn iron into gold. Beyond creepy. Domination and collusion of communication companies control how much of what you can have including how much you have to spend on what. Direct you to buy more of what you like ? What hootch ! What you don't know on a broad spectrum you won't buy so blinders are better. What kind of people would you give up control of your values to ?

  10. Eric Steckel from Turnpike Digital, March 14, 2013 at 12:57 p.m.

    The point about people being freaked out is interesting. I wonder what the effect Facebook and other social media channels is having on perceptions regarding privacy. On the one hand, Zuckerberg feels that privacy concerns are easing as he pushes Facebook users to give up more and more of their privacy. On the other, I've seen many folks chafe at this, and not just Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers and we older folk. I've seen Millenials take umbrage to it. That said, I think relinquishing some of this privacy control via mobile opens you up to very personal messages by marketers, and I am open to that. I just wonder how that translates to the larger populace. Thoughts?

  11. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, March 14, 2013 at 1:41 p.m.

    Agree, Eric, we also have hard comments on both sides of the issue. The verdict is still out on what percentage of the market will and won't accept and what level of information-value trade there will be. Thanks for your comments.

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