I kid. It was actually a great event.
My company had a booth on the floor of the Community Pavillion and people would stop by to discuss their concerns or just see why a company like mine (which is better known for accounting) would have a booth at a Creative/Marketing event.
One person who stopped by worked for a major sports and entertainment company. He had seen some of our social traffic talking about personalization and decided to see if we had anything to offer. “I’m having a hard time personalizing sports content. I feel like sports fans will get the content without me personalizing it for them,” he said. “I’m a Syracuse fan,” he continued, “and I know where to go to get the good content”
I said, “I’ve been to your site. I’ve flipped the switches that identify the Blackhawks and Cubs as my favorite teams. I think what ends up happening is that it constrains the content based on that.” He nodded and said that he didn’t feel like that was personalizing the content.
I recommended taking a look at one of the big coffee merchants. Much of what they personalize is adjacent to coffee. They suggest music and apps, and adjust the experience in their stores based on who you are. I suggested he could experiment with creating the “Syracuse Playlist,” or figure out what food pairs well with Syracuse. I would love for a brand to help me find local Beer Nuggets to have during an NIU bowl game. Personalization is about delivering the right experience, not targeted content. Too many of us do the latter.
We think, “How can I tailor my content for specific users?” When we do that, we immediately make it about the content and not the person. This is inside-out thinking. The more appropriate question would have been, “How (and, more importantly, why) does a person engage with a sports team or content provider? What can we do to improve that experience?” Is that person a Chicago ex-pat living in Los Angeles? How do we get them to the bars where Bears fans gather? How do we get them Chicago-style dogs to eat? How do we play Chelsea Dagger to get them pumped for a Hawks game?
When it comes down to it, the best personalization isn’t about us, it’s about them. It’s about figuring out how to get people what they want, and sometimes what they don’t realize they want, yet. This isn’t easy. It requires deeper research than a handful of personas or segments. It requires some deep analytics to predict things no room of strategists would ever uncover. It’s about leveraging technology in altogether new ways to deliver experiences that are unexpected, but much more compelling as a result.