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Putting the Personal in Personalized

How many articles and studies have you read in the last 12 months that talk about millennials expecting a more personalized experience?

We can personalize our shoes with Nike ID, our cars with Ford Customizer, our clothes with Threadless, and even ourselves with the help of the local tattoo parlor. So why are so few brands and companies personalizing their marketing?

I’m not talking about retargeting ads where an online banner ad for the jacket you looked at on Nordstrom.com two weeks ago happens to creepily follow you to every site you visit.

Here are three examples of PERSONALized marketing proving that there is no excuse for a brand or company to not engage and earnestly speak to the individual consumer:

1. My co-worker used one of Dove's sponsored hashtags (#BeautyIs) in an instagram post and within minutes Dove instagrammed the following back to her. 

Yes, we all know that Dove is a Unilever brand with a massive marketing budget, access to celebrity spokespeople and an advertising agency of record that has won more awards than many of us would know what to do with. But no excuse is going to work for this one – this cost next to nothing, could be executed by anyone who knows how to read, write, and use Instagram, and required no actors or models – just an iphone , a pen, and a piece of paper.

2. I tweeted to @justWinkcards – a physical and digital greeting card company – to ask them about the availability of a specific card. I received a reply letting me know that they were working on restocking and asked me to DM my mailing address to the company so that they could send me a “little something” to make up for the missing item. I forgot all about this interaction until two days later when I arrived home to a package waiting for me. I immediately opened the package not knowing what it could be and was blown away by what I found:  inside the package were over 30 mixed greeting cards and a handwritten letter addressed to @samjoyk (my personal twitter handle). I was on cloud nine! Of course, I immediately texted a photo of the package to all my friends and uploaded a photo of it to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, along with a message to @justWinkcards thanking them for being so thoughtful. Every bit of the bad taste left in my mouth from them not having the card I was looking for immediately disappeared and was replaced by sheer delight.

3. J. Crew’s creative director, Jenna Lyons, received an open letter from a customer, Jenni Avin, last year asking J.Crew to bring back its scoop-back tank swimsuit that had been discontinued. Jenni received an email back from the creative director herself letting her know that she would look into it. In a full-page ad in this week's  issue of New York magazine, Lyons responded with a handwritten note: "Dear Ms. Avins, your wish is my command ... within reason. XO Jenna."

 

Yes, this required a much larger budget than the two above examples, but the authentic and personalized customer approach is a testament to why J. Crew’s sales continue to rise while many other retailers’ fall.

So what’s my point exactly?

Most companies don’t take the time to send personalized responses to its customers, because it takes time (2-3 minutes) and can sometimes involve money (a few dollars in postage fees).  What these companies don’t realize is how important personalized notes can be in building a brand relationship with each customer. Handwritten replies are rare in today's wired world of emails, texts, and automated messages, and, consequently, are more treasured than ever – especially by millennials who have grown up with technology.

People, especially millennials, want to be appreciated, and if they feel that someone actually took the time and effort to value them, they are more likely to give an encore performance and rave reviews via word of mouth or tweets to thousands of followers. In any case, it is clear that the perceived value of a handwritten, personalized note greatly exceeds the value of an email (the majority of which are automated) and far exceeds the value of doing nothing!

 

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