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Ask your peers: How to get creative with personalisation

We put marketers’ questions to our community in a new series of articles aiming to provide practical advice and connect business leaders. This week it is the turn of Emily Shirley, general manager of Vista UK and Ireland.

“How are you changing your creative processes in a personalised world? There’s a fascinating discussion around mixing personalised elements with overarching campaign elements and the processes around making both as impactful and cohesive as possible, without demanding too much of your creative teams.”

The underlying data behind the growth of personalisation in marketing is pretty robust. While most would have absorbed the headline numbers regarding the amount spent on personalisation and segmentation tools (globally projected to surpass $9bn this year), B2B and B2C brands and businesses alike consistently deliver success stories.

In The State of Personalization 2022 report by software company Twilio Segment, over 3,000 businesses and consumers were interviewed across the world and the results were clear – personalisation and ROI are intrinsically linked.

49% of consumers said they will likely become a repeat buyer after a personalised shopping experience with a retailer, while nearly 80% of business leaders say consumers spend more (34% more on average) when their experience is personalised.

These are pretty strong numbers from both a customer and brand point of view, especially when you consider both B2B and B2C business managers were consulted.

While, traditionally, B2B was seen akin to selling to numerous stakeholders in a more formal context, personalisation is bridging that divide meaning it is relevant to all.

Combining personalisation and creativity is clearly a tricky and time-consuming proposition – working in real time to optimise campaigns may suit a more analytical mind, yet fully personalised consumer journeys require innovation.


Chloe Markowicz, editor at Contagious, creativity consultants working with the BBC, Penguin and TikTok: ‘Personalisation should serve customers, not the other way around.’

“When it comes to personalisation in marketing, it’s certainly not a case of more is more. That’s because it’s easy for personalised marketing to veer into intrusiveness; after all it involves a business using details about a customer to sell products and services back to them.

“But there is a way to avoid accusations of creepiness and that is for a brand to offer up something so darn delightful or valuable that the target customer can’t help but be charmed.

“When Spotify wanted to convince advertising execs that they were missing out on using the streaming service to hyper-target customers, the digital music service decided to do some hyper targeting of its own. The brand worked with FCB New York to create personalised songs for the CMOs of brands including Mastercard and Samsung. The bespoke bangers were impossible to ignore, with lyrics inspired by each CMO’s life and professional accomplishments, and beats determined from their Spotify listening data. B2B marketing has a reputation for being dry and predictable, but Spotify here was able to grab attention with personalised content that was entertaining without being overly revealing about its subjects.

“More marketers should consider how personalisation can help serve their consumers, rather than the other way around.”

Diana Ellis-Hill, co-founder and director of female-led creative content agency, Be The Fox, who work with Bulldog Skincare and Dri-Pak: ‘Successful personalisation is intertwined with diverse representation in the creative process.’

“Consumers are increasingly seeking customised experiences and products, creating a need for brands and agencies to adapt in order to meet these changing expectations. Targeted marketing is incredibly successful in reaching the eyes of the specific intended audience, but the message only lands if the creative hits home. 

“There are, of course, incredibly sophisticated methods of creating thousands of personalised versions of a creative execution based on data of a consumer’s personal interests, location, and behaviours, through technology.

“The most successful campaigns we have ever produced have had representation of the target audience on the creative team – and by the creative team, I mean those working on creative from creative development right through to post-production. This has ensured the final executions represent the audience’s unique experiences, values and needs. These cannot be guessed or assumed by others, no matter how good the audience research, strategy or media planning is. I would argue that successful personalisation is intertwined with diverse representation in the creative process.”

Felix Kruth, chief product officer at retail technology platform Voyado who work with Cervera and Vitaminstore: ‘Machine learning algorithms can predict user behaviour.’

“To be creative with personalisation, businesses and brands can experiment with new data sources and personalisation techniques. For example, they could use social media data to create more targeted advertising campaigns or use machine learning algorithms to predict the user’s behaviour and preferences. They could also explore new ways to deliver personalised content, such as using virtual or augmented reality to create immersive experiences.

“Ultimately, the key to successful personalisation is to focus on delivering value to the user and creating a seamless, personalised experience across all touchpoints.”

Anton Jerges, CEO and founder at We Are Collider, a brand experience agency for Red Bull, Riot Games and Waitrose: ‘Think about the cocktail party effect.’

“Marketing personalisation opens up a world of creativity, especially when behavioural insights are mined in pursuit of innovative solutions. Having recently undertaken an extensive piece of research to explore the proliferation of technological innovation, we found that tech-led increases in efficiency often come at the cost of connecting more meaningfully with consumers. The behavioural science that underpins this paradox is called the ‘cocktail party effect’, which highlights we are only aware of about 0.0004% of the data our brains take in. But when that information is personal to us, we become laser focused on it.

“This finding underlines the need to understand audiences on a much deeper level than traditional demographics. It’s about understanding what is personally relevant: What are their likes, loves, values, goals, needs and passion points? Once established, we can look at ‘goal priming’ and other techniques to understand how and when to make the brand personally salient to them.”

Marcel Hollerbach, chief innovation officer at Productsup, a product-to-consumer company working with Aldi and Sony: ‘Send all should never apply in advertising.’

“Customers already receive personalisation in terms of emails being addressed to them or text messages offering exclusive discounts, but there’s still a large gap not being filled by the advertising industry. The death of third-party cookies is often used to excuse a lack of proper targeting, but there are so many other ways we as an industry can improve how we reach consumers. It seems obvious, but just because you have the tech to distribute product information on your entire catalogue of products, doesn’t mean you should.

“You have to think about what shoppers are willing to walk into your store for versus making an online order from the comfort of their home. As a pharmacy, are people really taking the time to drive to your physical location to buy socks? No, they’re coming in to buy cold meds they need immediately. In this scenario, local inventory ads should prioritise products that highlight health products. Then there’s also the audience to consider. Are you directing a local ad to someone who may have a difficult time getting to your physical store?

“As a rule of thumb, ‘send all’ should never apply in advertising – whether it’s pertaining to product data or your customer base. To cut through to consumers who are ready to purchase, you have to apply personalisation to the types of products you send to specific audiences.”

Warren Daniels, CMO at Bynder, a UK software company working with Five Guys, Spotify and Puma: ‘Connected ecosystems are key to personalised content.’

“When it comes to delivering personalised experiences to buyers at scale, we need to consider the content experience that brands provide to their customers – or put simply, the ability to deliver the right content, to the right audience, at the right time. And it’s clear that brands who can provide this will win.

“According to recent research, 72% of people say they are more likely to purchase from a brand if it can consistently provide them with a more personalised experience. In addition to this, three in four marketers feel that a connected technology platform is extremely important for digital experience success – and this ‘connected ecosystem’ is the key driver of the ability to deliver personalised content.”

Philip Bacon, founder of Bacon Marketing, an eco-conscious agency working with Smyths Toys: ‘AI can help give back time to work on creativity.’

“Personalisation helps create an emotional connection with the customer and can lead to increased engagement, loyalty and sales. Email personalisation is one way to deliver content tailored specifically for each individual customer based on their interests or behaviour patterns. By leveraging data points such as previous purchase history or website visits, marketers can craft targeted messages that are relevant to each person’s needs and preferences in order to drive better engagement with their brand.

“On top of this, by utilising AI-driven algorithms, you can quickly analyse large amounts of consumer data in real time, so marketers don’t need to spend hours manually digging through analytics reports trying to figure out what works best for different segments. This enables brands to focus on crafting creative campaigns instead – something they know will resonate well with audiences since they already have a good understanding of who those people actually are thanks to accurate segmentation capabilities provided by automated systems.”