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PMG Digital Made for Humans

3 Personalisation Tips for Brand Success

8 MINUTE READ | May 3, 2019

3 Personalisation Tips for Brand Success

Be Personal. But be smart about it.


It’s easy to say we all love a personal touch, right? Like when Jenny, the barista at the coffee shop, remembers your usual? Or when your date has your favourite drink waiting for you when you arrive at the bar a tad late? Great stuff.

Jenny, the barista.

But there’s a fine line… Imagine you’ve only gotten a coffee there once before, or what if it’s only the second date after a pretty shaky first date? Now it’s creepy, now it’s weird…

Well, this same tension between cute, effective personalisation and overbearing, overfamiliar or poorly executed attempts at providing a personal experience to people is probably most markedly seen in today’s digital economy.

In light of this, how brands can deftly deliver personal experiences and how users are engaging with social platforms in a more mindful way to express their individuality were key themes at the heart of AdWeek Europe at London’s Picturehouse Central this year, and PMG London was there to pick up the inside scoop.

So what’s so different about personalisation in today’s digital economy?

Looking back 10-15 years, we still got most of our entertainment and news through terrestrial TV, contacted friends and family using normal SMS texts (oh, the lost joys of character limits…) and bought our goods in offline stores whilst Facebook and other modern-day digital giants were just establishing themselves. This is a time when personal digital identity and data privacy controls were unheard of.

Gen Z are experts in curating precise digital identities online.

Today, there are widespread concerns surrounding misuse of personal digital data following data breaches and seismic effects on the geopolitical landscape. Navigating this and considering Gen Z’s approach to having very carefully curated and presented digital identities has led to a new age for branding. Brands and publishers now need to show meaning, poise, and etiquette in the way they communicate and present themselves online.

Three key themes for brand success online emerged from AdWeek Europe:

Probably the most important consideration for a modern digital brand is building meaningful trust with your consumer. Emerging audiences like Gen Z are constantly barraged with brand messages and are very aware of targeting techniques that sit behind advertising online.

In order to cut through, a brand’s identity needs to be anchored in a genuine value system that is propagated across its messaging and imbibed within its product or service offering. Patagonia, a stalwart practitioner of this thinking, has built scaled brand affinity through their commitment to promoting fair labor and sourcing practises as well as transparency on how their products are made, clearly shown on their website and product pages.

2011 Patagonia ad, as seen in the New York Times.

2011 Patagonia ad, as seen in the New York Times.

They have previously run the ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ campaign in the New York Times, which used a combination of shock tactics and pro-environmental messaging to discourage consumerism – this ironically led to double-digit growth for the next four years. Building on what became known as ‘Un-selling the Patagonia Way,’ their founder Yvon Chouinard continues to invest heavily in environmental and fair labor initiatives that they continue to champion throughout their PR and advertising.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean every brand has to find incredibly deep and meaningful positioning to win out…

2. Back to basics: Focus on brand truth and product utility


Sensationalism and hype isn’t the long-term strategy for brands anymore. The internet has fast become a global sanctuary for any voice to be heard and therefore brands no longer benefit from being the only ones talking about themselves. The modern day consumer, especially Gen Z, are obsessive researchers who are happy to spend time reading and watching reviews online for products and services before purchasing (and sometimes even after purchase as validation!).

In 2015, a start-up bank in the UK called Monzo took personal banking by storm, unanimously earning the title of biggest modern disruptor of the British personal finances industry within a couple of years. Their recipe for success was simple: they took all the annoying factors individuals tolerated with their traditional large retail bank and simplified the heck out of it.

Monzo personal banking

UK start-up Monzo took personal banking to a whole new level.

By providing a simple app and service that offers updates against your purchases in real time, seamless ability to transfer cash and split bills with friends (even integrating with other popular apps like Uber) and free withdrawals and transactions in an extensive list of foreign destinations, they completely upturned what can be done with personal banking.

Monzo’s product and brand credibility were borne out of a fervent commitment to solving real consumer issues and keeping this at the core of their messaging. Through this, they have now earned over one million happy users in just four years. All brands should focus on relevant product and service truths and become genuine promoters of meaningful initiatives that they as a brand care about (also different from just trying to pander to what they think their target audience cares about!).

Bottom line: Be true to your product truths and brand identity, or you could get (embarrassingly and publicly) found out.

3. Creativity, Inspiration, and Experiences


The final key learning centered around the power of creativity, inspiration and social influence. Twitter, Facebook and, most pertinently, Instagram have given way to an unprecedented propensity for individual broadcasting. Unsurprisingly, the most popular and influential content has been avant-garde and eye-opening. This democratized creative license has encouraged creators and brands to become influencers.

This is probably the trickiest area to navigate as a brand. How do brands safely land what they’re trying to say? The backlash could be huge, so maybe it’s best to play it safe…?

An insight that can help brands comes once again from Gen Z analysis. WeAreSocial found that where partnering with huge celebrity and sports star influencers has worked wonders for some brands so far, younger generations are gravitating towards a more nihilistic view. They are seeking inspiration from real people and real stories. Generally speaking, once a social influencer exceeds a certain number of followers, Gen Z audiences tend to unfollow or pay less attention to that influencer’s POV. So, there’s a very tricky new balance for brands to be aware of but also an opportunity to drop the frills and partner with real people to tell real, relevant stories.

A brand that has bridged this gap well recently was Nike. They ran a localised campaign featuring UK and London talent to tell the story of being a Londoner from many different perspectives in a well produced, contemporary video piece they posted on YouTube called ‘NOTHING BEATS A LONDONER’.

Ultimately, using data to deliver paid messaging online is judged as a brand-driven experience, so the experience better be good. Think about “Discover Weekly” on Spotify – they match your personal listening data with other Spotify users to bring you a short, curated weekly roster of all-new songs you might like. This is a digestible and effective output of personal data processing.

Compare that to looking at a TV online just out of curiosity and being hounded by household electronics ads on all the sites you visit for a week. Adopting the Spotify use of data approach, we should think beyond just pushing brand scale through a programmatic long tail (for example) by helping our clients identify their audience’s interests, attitudes, and behaviours to nail their message with cut through and impact. Quality over quantity.

Authenticity can’t be forced. Do you sense your brand is shoe-horning a story that doesn’t really work for them? Are you about to launch a campaign that feels superficial? As strategic marketers with the capabilities, tools, and insights we have access to at PMG and the strength of partnership we have with our clients, we should be both inquisitive and bold in our approach to educating them. We have seen it work. We are not a traditional, transactional digital agency and our clients should hear it from us before they hear it from all the haters online.

In the end, we live in a world where there’s a fine line between personalisation and intrusion, but there can be a balance that creates memorable experiences for the right reasons.

Like Jenny. Remember her? She knows your coffee order after that time you shared a joke about how cow’s milk gives you wind. Now she’s got an espresso martini waiting for you as you arrive at your fifth date together.

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Posted by Vysh

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