The butcher would carve off a piece of bologna and a piece of cheese and hand one of each to my sister and me. He and my dad would chat a bit. He would ask about the band my dad was in and about my grandma, and after a little while we would walk out with the meat all wrapped up.
I don’t know that they ever talked about what meat to get, and I’m not even sure we always paid for our purchases. What I do know is, we bought meat from him for my entire childhood, and that relationship was strong. It was a personal relationship in a commercial environment and it created a loyalty that most marketers today strive to achieve, but that butcher never saw it as marketing. He simply saw it as the way things were supposed to be.
Today, marketers are harnessing data because they’re trying to create relationships that are as effective as the one my dad had with his butcher. When you walk into a store and the store owner knows details about your life that he can use to personalize the experience, that’s considered excellent customer service.
It’s the same in digital marketing. However, a personalized experience offline — when you become a regular at a restaurant and the staff knows you and what you like — happens over time. In digital media, we know so many things about you the first time you come into the experience, that it can come off as “creepy” to completely personalize things because we haven’t built the relationship yet.
As marketers, we have to understand the implied consent and the element of time to build a relationship. If we don’t respect the time required, then we come off as desperate — and that’s no way to build a relationship.
Targeting and personalization are here to stay. They are crucial reasons why more dollars are being spent online than anywhere else. That being said, marketers need to be more strategic for how they use them. We have to find ways to receive permission for the use of data, either by requesting consent or by creating increasingly rewarding reciprocal values as the relationship continues.
Think of this model as a frequent flyer program. The more you fly, you get increased value over time, graduating into better tiers of service. The same goes for a consumer-brand relationship. The longer you are involved and the more you are engaged, the more you can personalize the experience. It creates a deeper relationship over time, and that feels valuable rather than desperate.
When you walk into a clothing store, and they recognize you because of the number of times you’ve purchased from them, that recognition creates loyalty. When the store proactively reaches out to you to let you know they received some new things you might like, that’s also valuable — but that level of depth in the relationship is earned, not freely given.
That level of understanding of the difference between personalization and a personal relationship is a key to marketing success.
Now if I could just get a piece of bologna and some cheese!