The Power of Personalization and Listening in Marketing

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By: Dr. David Bridwell, People Scientist

Many companies and institutes have developed more personalized products after listening to their audience. 

The first example of personalization and listening comes from the Santa Fe Institute and Jurassic Park. In the sequel to Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Jeff Goldblum plays an idiosyncratic scientist named Ian Malcolm, and in the opening scene, he’s giving a talk at the Santa Fe Institute. After the movie came out, the Santa Fe Institute started receiving requests for Ian Malcolm’s papers, as if he were a member of their faculty. In response, they added a faculty profile for Ian Malcolm including a photo of Jeff Goldblum, and they used artificial intelligence to generate fake journal article titles for his papers. Responding to their audience allowed the Santa Fe institute to engage with that audience and raise awareness about what they do.Another example of listening and responding to potential customers comes from an Infinity ad where they adapted the content of an audio ad based on the spoken responses of the listener. They refer to this as “continuous dialogue advertising.” And one feature, of continuous dialogue advertising, is changing individual words within the ad to test their effectiveness. If they responded to the initial portion, say if they were interested in a test drive of the vehicle, then they’d receive more information about signing up for a test drive. If they responded “no”, then they could instead be given additional information about the vehicle. Of course, this sort of response is common with visual ads on social media that redirect to another site, but it’s not common with audio advertisements yet. The ability to adapt advertising content, based on the user input, like this can be very powerful. 

Another example of listening to your audience, of which you are probably already familiar, comes from Netflix. Netflix looked at its users and discovered that they liked the director David Fincher and the actor Kevin Spacey, and they adapted their content by producing House of Cards based on this knowledge.  

Dyson vacuum listened to their Japanese customers and discovered that they needed a quieter vacuum since their customers were vacuuming at odd hours of the night. 

Nike listened by placing 36 cameras on the basketball court in order to document that there are three different ways that basketball players run the court, motivating Nike to produce three different types of shoes.  

This notion of listening and adapting to the audience has been embraced by google as discussed within a Drum article that popped up recently titled “Google’s global brand lead says ad industry needs to get better at pre-testing digital creative.” The notion here is that variations of the ad are given to smaller audiences to test it out, and then the optimal pieces are carried forward. Of course, this should remind you of the example of the musical artist Blanks discussed in our YouTube video titled “Taking Social Listening To The Next Level, Pt. 2: Blanks and Ruth B.” Blanks tested out different versions of his songs with his Instagram audience, helping to engage his fans and create a song that resonated with them.  

Another example of producing different digital creative comes from Rice Krispies Treat. The company found that there was a connection between internet searches for school snacks and lunch box notes, so they left a blank space on the Rice Krispies treat wrapper so parents could write notes to their kids. Following along with the theme of customization, they also generated ads that placed custom messages on the wrapper based on the video the viewers watched before the ad. 

As these examples show, listening and conversing with your audience help ensure that you stay aligned with their needs and helps turn customers into fans. 

You can learn more about this in our YouTube series on social listening.