What the Rise of Individualism Means for Marketers

The rise of digital media changed everything (as you know), ushering in an era of unprecedented personalization. People now choose what they are exposed to, when they see it and on what devices. In fact, they carefully curate their feeds adding only what matters the most to them and weeding out whatever they disagree with. This is only amplified further by online algorithms designed to show only related content, influenced by localization and past behavior.

As consumers are getting extremely personalized experiences online from brands, they expect to have them offline as well; clearly favoring those who offer the easiest, fastest and most seamless transaction from start to finish. To capitalize this opportunity, marketers have to find a way to create scalable, consistent and effective marketing efforts that leave the “one size fits all” mentality back with the days of landlines and dial-up.

During the summer Marketing and Mentoring Summit in Dallas, we took notes as marketers from diverse B2B and B2C environments shared exclusive insights on how to stay relevant as the rise of individualism continues. Here are three standout examples of how top marketers are creating a closer bond between brand and consumer by way of customization.

Meeting Customers Where They’re at with Automation

Deborah Dunay, Marketing Director of Essent Guaranty, is working with her team to be available for the customer in every way that they want to connect with the brand. For them, the challenge is to take that beyond customer acquisition to customer retention, making sure that once they have reached the prospect and they become customers, the company can continue to offer a remarkably personalized experience

“The bar is set very high today, even in B2B, on what the modern web experience should look like,” said Dunay.

To overcome these challenges, the company has adopted a mentality of serving a “market of one” versus a “market of many”, leveraging the power of automation by:

  • Segmenting databases at the account level.
  • Creating personalized strategies based on the unique qualities of each account.
  • Developing a sound-scoring model with their sales counterparts to agree on SLAs and offer better solutions.

Putting the Customer First through Segmentation

Jeff Chung, Senior Manager, Global Brand Strategy at American Express, shared that his company is also going through a major transformation at a cellular level.

“We’ve got a new mission we’re embarking on across the entire global enterprise – both B2B and B2C. We want to make sure that everything we do in terms of brand, communication, experience, etc is customer first. We want to educate and train marketers across the whole company to think better as both marketers and consumers.”

Chung said that this shift from brand to consumer-focused service requires marketers (and everyone else in the organization) to look at each touch point they are using to communicate to each customer. Their goal is to deliver value in a less transactional way, evoking an authentic, emotional connection to consumers. He gave some highlights of how they are achieving that with two different audience groups:

  • Through “Small Business Saturdays” they seek to create individualized experiences for small business owners, getting involved with the community and putting the people at the center of the event.
  • Partnering with the Seattle Seakawks, as opposed to the NFL or larger general football brands, in order to provide a custom fan experience for Seahawks fanatics.

Proving Everyone Wrong With Personalization

Anna Guelzim, Global Marketing Manager of Wilson Sporting Goods, has always known that data only tells you part of the story.

For many years, all of Wilson’s research showed that consumers did not care what their tennis racquets (by far their largest product category) looked like - so they kept producing functional and utilitarian racquets like other brands in the industry.

But Guelzim and her team understood that the sports industry thrives on customization (just take a look at any monogrammed jersey or shorts emblazoned with team logos). So they partnered with Roger Federer and co-designed a line of racquets that were a variation of the Roger design - a pure play on cosmetics without changing functionality. Customers went crazy for them! 

Such a small step was a success because no other brand in the industry believed that it would work so well. Now, Wilson is currently #1 in the tennis industry and is launching two new personalized strategies:

  • Letting consumers design the look of their own equipment, breaking ground for personalized racquets, and more.
  • Individualizing loyalty rewards programs.

The latter is the greater challenge, but one to reap potentially enormous benefits for the organization and the brand. After all, consumers will undoubtedly feel more inclined to participate in a reward system that is literally designed for them.

My 5-second Takeaway:

  • Individualization doesn’t have to mean one-on-one, even if that was the idea initially. With segmentation and a little creativity, consumers can be fitted with highly customized experiences while still belonging to a group - like the Seattle Seahawk fans with American Express.
  • Automation can help you find patterns and spot unique needs through triggers that allow you to offer exclusive solutions to your consumers, just like Essent Guaranty is doing to great success. The closer and more personal the experience is, the higher the loyalty of the consumer and greater the business.
  • Data can only tell you what people feel safe sharing or what they’ve only experienced up to that point, leading to missed opportunities. Offering personalized products and services that have never been seen before gives consumers more creative control and freedom. Which, as Wilson proved, they will go crazy for!

The continual challenge for marketers is to find ways to meet consumers where they’re at, when they need to be found and for reasons that appeal uniquely to them. Once that part is figured out, the benefits just keep coming - for you and your customers.