I am continually amazed by how little I need to interact with other people to make it through the day. Ordering lunch can easily be accomplished online. I never need to ask for directions, I have a GPS. If I have a question for my bank, I usually end up talking to an automated system for five minutes before I even get the option to talk to a real human being. I don’t even need to call my mom to know how her day is going (though I should). I just check her social status.
Technology has made life easier and more efficient (most of the time), but it lacks personalization, a human connection, that can make us feel like the interactions we have matter.
It’s overlapping into the marketing world, too. Until recent years, mass marketing has been the norm. Marketers are getting smart, though and are finding ways to customize messages for their audiences. But is it enough? Let’s look at where we’ve come from.
First, there were audience segments.
Example: Group A is a 45 to 64-year-old male who mows his lawn once a week. Group B is a 20-something hipster who only drinks fair trade coffee. Ok, these two groups have nothing in common. But this is what audience segments do. They break people down to simplistic characteristics that don’t necessarily define who they are. Audience segments can be helpful, but they don’t really help you personalize a message.
Next came database marketing.
Segmenting is a lot of work, so we put everything we knew into a spreadsheet and let the machines do the work. Database marketing can be used to segment groups based on social media profiles, web browsing history or online purchases. And then prepare to be freaked out by the customized ad deliveries as you continue to browse the web. It’s a very sophisticated system that I won’t even pretend to understand completely, but as Shutterfly learned recently, databases aren’t fool proof and customized messaging does not always equal personalized messaging.
So what’s next?
Real humans talking with other humans. That’s where communications must go. We are a social species. We are meant to communicate with other people on a one on one basis.
Successful communication must go back to the basics of human interaction. Sure, it may take a little more time, but the impact a company or brand can make on an individual will last even longer. You’ll create fans and advocates for life if true personalization, transparency and empathy are at the forefront of communications. (A compelling story and good product can’t hurt either, but that’s a topic for another day.)
How to accomplish this type of communication is for each company to determine on its own. The solution will be whatever connects them with their audience on a basic human level.
Now, get off the computer and go talk to someone.