Since 2014, the Association of National Advertisers has surveyed its mostly client-side members to identify the marketing word of the year. This year the winning nomenclature is “Personalization.”
Other top choices in the ANA 2019 Marketing Word of the Year voting: “equality and inclusion,” “data,” and “in-house.”
“Personalization is what customers expect,” one participant in the survey said. “Every current and prospective customer expects that your brand knows them and can deliver what they want.”
Another survey participant said, “Personalization is the holy grail of brand marketing. It provides the ability to speak directly to the consumer or shopper with the right message, at the right time, in the right medium.”
Unchecked exuberance is expected in a press release, and we have it here. Thankfully, ANA also provided this bit of warning in the presser: Despite the promise of personalization, marketers should use caution with their personalization strategies and tactics. There is data suggesting consumers can be underwhelmed by marketing efforts to personalize interactions, and there is a perspective that more personalization does not necessarily provide a better experience. There is some consumer skepticism, lack of understanding, and even mistrust over the use of data for marketing purposes.
That’s the totally tame way of stating things. Personalization is based on behavioral tracking, which is a hot button privacy issue. So, the upside has a dark downside.
This is another moment of “just because you can…” You can track online behavior and draw conclusions from the data, but it doesn’t mean you should.
More Industry Language Decoded
Previous ANA marketing words of the year included:
- Brand Purpose (2018)
- Artificial Intelligence (2017)
- Transparency (2016)
- Content Marketing (2015)
- Programmatic (2014)
Inside the industry, we tend to bandy these terms about as if we know what they mean. Do we know what they mean?
For instance, Personalization sounds good, but it’s a creepy practice by design and the results are rarely productive.
Recently, I visited a specific domain to look at footwear and now whenever I open Facebook it’s full of footwear ads from brands I’ve never heard of before. The ultra curious person might see this as a form of desirable discovery. I see it as a waste of the client’s money. My search was specific. I pulled up Oak Street Bootmakers and looked for what I wanted. The end.
To conclude, the Artificial Intelligence used in the Programmatic ads that I’m now seeing on Facebook is artificially intelligent, a.k.a. not smart. The algorithm does not know my brand preference. It also assumes I do not have a brand preference, or if I do, that it can be overcome by a flimsy little box with Content in it.
What’s Transparent is the need for another method. Brand Purpose gets routinely maligned today by wisecracking creatives on Twitter, among others, but in my book, it’s a hell of a lot better than the above.