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Is personalisation creepy yet?

Marketing personalisation has changed the relationship between consumer and brand forever.


Yes. Forever ever.

Brands now hold treasure troves of data, meticulously collected and compiled from their customers. This data, from demographic information to past spending behaviour and even location information, has allowed its masters to deliver targeted, relevant digital marketing on an unimaginable scale.

But as brands and marketers begin to make the most of the digital world’s available data and “personalise” their marketing in new and exciting ways, are they crossing the thin line between the relevant and the creepy?

Let’s take a look…


Is personalisation creepy yet?

The ways brands are able to utilise personalisation to optimise a marketing campaign currently range from the quaint, like Coca-Cola’s recent Twitter campaign where the brand called out Twitter users by name, presenting them with a personalised “virtual bottle” with their name on it…

is personalisation creepy yet?

To the downright bizarre and insensitive, like this, which we don’t imagine went over well at all…



The reality is that the massive potential for personalised marketing remains largely untapped thus far. Brands which are able to read the data effectively, and optimise their personalised campaigns accordingly, will find themselves in an enviable position – making the most of personalised marketing whilst averting creepy personalisation before it appears.

Personalised marketing as a tool is still in its infancy, but as technological developments allow brands deeper consumer insights and new ways to optimise marketing campaigns with personalisation, there will be tough decisions to make. Should brands make use of personalisation tools/tactics with the potential to cross the fuzzy line between effective and creepy? If so, how can the creep-factor involved be mitigated?

Just because a brand can use consumer data to personalise a campaign or ad doesn’t necessarily mean that it should. And brands which choose to push forward into personalisation’s grey areas need to tread lightly.

Any form of personalisation in marketing has the potential to make consumers uncomfortable. And making consumers uncomfortable is not a good thing for the world’s brands.

Do people want a billboard to know this much about them? We are guessing not. An even better question is: should imaginary technologies from films about dystopian futures where technology has run amok be used as the basis for actual marketing tools?

Such personalisation tactics will do very little to benefit brands in the long run. The only purpose they actually serve is to highlight the liberties digital platforms have been taking with their user data.

Highlighting this information can have dire consequences, as illustrated by legislation like The General Data Protection regulation (GDPR) which comes into effect in May of 2018.

Creep people out using their own data and not only will their perception of your brand be tarnished, but you may wind up losing access to their valuable data altogether.

Personalisation is a powerful tool.

When used effectively it can have a massive positive effect on any brand’s marketing ROI. It can deliver highly relevant marketing content to the right consumers at the right time and in the right way.

Brands in the travel industry have been leaders in this area. With access to customer data on a scale and to a depth unimaginable in most other industries, a high level of brand trust, and a largely loyal/captive audience (especially once they’ve booked!), travel brands enjoy a privileged position in the personalisation game.  

Couple this with seamless/effective cross-channel user experiences and forward thinking creative and it’s easy to see how the travel industry has managed to parlay its access to data into marketing which makes the most of personalised marketing.

Here at Phrasee, we work with established travel brand Virgin Holidays, to help optimise their email marketing programme. Through sending timely, relevant and highly personalised email campaigns to Virgin Holiday’s subscribers, and forgoing creepy tactics at every turn, they were able to make great strides in their email marketing strategy and delivery. The results – increases in CRM contribution to sales of 70% and an ROI of 174:1 garnering them a “Best email marketing” award at this year’s Masters of Marketing awards.

The thing with the approach travel brands like Virgin Holidays take is, they have spent the time and effort to read their user data the right way and been thoughtful in how they have utilised that data. This has allowed such brands to avoid the pitfalls of personalisation creepiness.

In theory, brands in other industries should catch up soon. Which is a good thing, provided they do so carefully and thoughtfully, as the travel industry has done.  

When used clumsily without regard for consumer comfort things can get pretty creepy pretty fast.

Don’t be creepy.

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Trevor Beers, Senior Language Technician, Phrasee

Phrasee pheatures: Trevor Beers

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