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The Rise and Risk of Person-Level Marketing
When Brian Swichkow, a digital marketer in Burlington, Vermont, was pranked by his roommate, he came up with a creative idea to get even. Swichkow flipped to his Facebook Ads dashboard, created a custom audience with his roommate’s email address, and started serving banner ads that poked fun at his hapless friend’s personal life.
For three weeks, Swichkow targeted his one person audience with increasingly comical and invasive ads, reaching the point where his roommate confessed he thought a Facebook advertiser had wire-tapped his phone. With just $1.70, Swichkow executed one of the most uniquely targeted Facebook ad campaigns in recent memory, one that’s been re-shared on social over 30,000 times since he revealed the punchline.
Although Swichkow’s joke is an extreme and amusing edge case in social advertising, it also highlights a very real truth: we have squarely arrived in the era of person-level marketing. It’s not sci-fi, it’s a power available in your current marketing technology stack.
And with great power comes great responsibility. Facebook’s Atlas and LinkedIn’s recent acquisition of Bizo are expanding both the opportunity and the risks of hyper-targeted personalization. Atlas — for anyone interested in a short definition — is a cross-device advertising platform that targets people and their devices based on their Facebook login status, rather than cookies. “Cookies,” Facebook’s Atlas team says, “don’t work on mobile, are becoming less accurate in demographic targeting and can’t easily or accurately measure the customer purchase funnel across browsers and devices or into the offline world. People-based marketing solves these problems. Atlas can now connect online campaigns to actual offline sales, ultimately proving the real impact that digital campaigns have in driving incremental reach and new sales.”
Since many of Facebook’s 1.3 billion users stay logged into their Facebook account — and the majority also use Facebook’s native aps on mobile — Atlas lets advertisers track user behavior across desktop and mobile far more accurately than on Google Display Network (GDN). Unsurprisingly, Twitter and LinkedIn’s respective product roadmaps are also moving in this direction.
But before you rush to re-allocate your media budget, remember these three important marketing principles:
1. Personalization must build trust. People trust people they know, not necessarily your brand. Their trust has to be earned. Align your brand voice to how your customers talk, be transparent and invite your reader or viewer to experience something that helps, educates or delights them. Marketing is becoming less and less about broadcasted media buys and more and more about casual, one-on-one conversations. Show up in your customer’s lives with a polite knock on the front door, not by barging in unexpectedly.
This philosophy has inspired Dove’s recent efforts to support women’s self-esteem on social channels like Snapchat. “Our goal was to leverage the ephemeral nature of Snapchat to establish genuine personal connections in a space that feels safe to girls and women,” Unilever Marketing Director Jennifer Bremmer told AdAge, “We want to speak to them in ways and places that are organic to them… What made [Snapchat] most appealing was the ability to engage with women and girls in a personal, one-to-one manner.”
2. Personalization takes systematic marketing. Five years ago, a digital marketing campaign might have needed six to a dozen image variations and crops, covering email, website, Facebook, Twitter and display. Today, think about the creative, delivery and asset management requirements of personalizing a campaign to a million people. Personalization and audience targeting requires technology-enabled processes and systems that can handle both the art and the science of that replication.
3. Person-level marketing starts from within. In our current phase of social and mobile-centric marketing technology, marketing departments have a direct path to engage their employees on social: their phones, where nearly every modern employee is actively building trust and sharing content for their personal brand. In such a connected era, your brand’s voice, empathy, reach and optimism start from within and extend outwards through your clients and partners. Build a culture that celebrates the individual, fights to make its clients happy and successful and consistently delivers on great content and experiences.
As marketers, it’s up to us to make person-level marketing an opportunity to build connections, extend handshakes and be relevant. The platforms are already providing us with the pipes and plumbing, we need to supply the good judgement and heart.