Who wants to be average?
So why do we rely on the word so much in marketing?
Whilst your commercial strategy may dictate that your brand neatly divides its customer base into ‘usable’ sets, your customer strategy needs to look at the underlying behaviours and drivers.
Drawing the average can be helpful, but is fraught with dangers, summed up best for me in a line from The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable – “Don’t cross a river if it’s 4 foot deep on average”. Indeed.
By all means, use your behavioural economics tools to understand the herd mentality, but treating individuals like cattle, is clearly not on.
This is obviously particularly true when it comes to personalised communications. It goes without saying that a charismatic politician whom you agree with will appeal to you at a rally, but wouldn’t if they used the same tone, rhetoric and language in a one on one situation.
The same applies to brands. In its simplest form, how many of us open letters to the ‘home owner’? Not many I suspect. Use my name and I might. This is customer engagement in its crudest and least effective form, the letter may as well be addressed to Thingy or You There. Actually, I might open that. Anyway, the point being that personalised communications have to be just that.
I don’t want brands making assumptions about me, I want them to show an interest, remember what I told them and greet me with the unique or interesting thing they know about me.
The flip side of better technology and increased data collection is the available volume of consumer insight. Used badly, the temptation is to force customers into boxes based on the simplest purchase patterns.
This kind of basic data usage cannot account for mood or location. It can’t see when we are interacting, how time and location affect our behaviour or account for apparent anomalies.
Of course, there is another way. For some brands it makes sense for customers to self select their personal preferences; effectively self-segmenting. Companies like Groupon, Made By Many and Wowcher all use this method to a lesser or greater extent. Basically, similar people with similar needs and interests come together to get the best deals and prices. Funnily enough, this does feel a bit like herding.
However, those same people acting as a group to benefit everyone, still want to be treated as individuals when brands approach them. You only need to be averagely intelligent to understand that.
Jane Hodson, managing partner, M&C Saatchi MILK