Personalization has become a buzzword in digital marketing in recent times, with every other marketing guru urging people to connect with other people, to be more human, and to address each individual's specific needs.
And that's reasonable advice, to a degree. But as Facebook notes in its latest report, it's not always applicable, and in some cases, increased personalization can actually have negative impacts on campaign performance.
As explained by Facebook:
"A common belief is that personalization means providing completely different offerings to each consumer, but this doesn’t always create the most desirable impact for a brand. We're currently witnessing brands that have built hugely successful businesses over decades on the back of mass marketing suddenly pivot towards extreme personalization for small niches of consumers, only to see disappointing returns. Industry buzzwords such as “1:1 marketing” are contributing to the assumption that this is the way to go for all brands – which is far from the truth."
That'll be a blow to a lot of keynote speakers out there.
Facebook says that while personalizing your outreach can have distinct benefits, each brand and/or product fits onto a "personalization spectrum", which ranges from “same offerings for all” to “tailored offering for each individual”. And it's important to understand where your business lies before designing a personalization strategy.
"Here’s an example of a product at each end of the personalization spectrum: A mouthwash brand with the single core benefit of “freshness” and a few flavor variants at best is unlikely to have consumers with vastly different needs they can cater to. A brand like this would fall on the left side of the spectrum, providing a similar offering for large consumer segments. However, footwear brands have more complex matrices for their offerings depending on factors such as their identified target segment’s lifestyle and gender, and should tailor their offerings to provide more nuanced personalization in sizes, colors, styles, heel height and more."
It makes a lot of sense - Facebook, essentially, says that despite the buzz around personalization, the actual practicality of such is relative to the product, and then, further than that, the audience for each.
"Brands with products that have multiple core benefits, several “benefit” variants, or a need to serve varying core messages to different segments within their brand’s target audience are likely to benefit from raising their personalization game."
Facebook advises that businesses should analyze the extent to which personalization is relevant to their offerings, then, once determined that there is a need for such segmentation, that they should drill-down into their data sources in order to identify the markets they want to appeal to with variable messaging.
But Facebook again advises caution around the over-use of certain segmentations, simply because you can:
"While planning your segments, do also consider how segments link back to your overall brand growth strategy. For example, if your brand needs to drive higher relevance with urban youth, having them as a separate segment with distinct messaging is likely to benefit the brand. However, purely “passion point” or interest-based segments with no clear business-linked hypothesis behind them can often be counter-productive. We often come across definitions such as “music lovers”, “fashionistas” and “excitement seekers”, and encourage marketers to exercise caution before using them."
From here, Facebook says that it offers a range of tools to hone in on audience segments, including the data resources available at Facebook IQ, its Audience Insights tools which highlight relevant interests, demographics and behaviors, and then, finally, Facebook's advanced Audience Selection Tools for ads.
This is some solid, interesting advice from Facebook - and while it does also acknowledge that personalization has been proven to drive significant increases in revenue when used well, there are limits, and points at which its no longer valuable.
Basically, personalization is not necessary for every product, within every possible consumer segment, and it's important for marketers to stay aligned with their overall strategies, and offering value points, in order to maximize performance.
You can read Facebook's full personalization report here.