Today more than 27 million pieces of content will be shared, according to Nielsen. And while companies frequently talk about content marketing, one-to-one communications, and personalization of those 27 million pieces, we need a different perspective on how to make them actionable. This is no passing fad. Content marketing is changing the way we interact with businesses, customers, and even each other. In order to see how that will happen, let's take off our marketing hats for just a second and take a look at the world around us. Can we find glimpses of the same things we're touting as marketers in everyday life? If your answer is "yes," then maybe we are on to something.
Recently, I picked up a copy of the New York Times Magazine. With two specific quotes, Adam Sternbergh's article "What Was, Is And Will Be Popular: The Driving Forces Of Pop Culture" gave me the answer I was looking for in just a few bite-sized quotes:
- "Popularity used to be simple. We had the chart-topping song, the top-rated TV show, the No.1 best seller, the highest-grossing movie of the year."
So true, I thought. What did we all hear on the radio? The one "hot" song, ad nauseum. What did I watch on TV? The one show that others are also watching. But that's no longer true. I don't even listen to the radio. Nor do I watch TV. Why?
2. "That's because we've turned off Top 40 and loaded up Spotify; we've clicked away from NBC and fired up Netflix."
Whether we like it or not, we've already moved away from a one-size-fits-all into a world of personalization, where "we no longer experience culture as one hulking, homogenous mass." If this is true for culture (which underpins so much of our interests and preferences), how long before this permeates through other facets of our lives?
What's Different this Time?
The notion of personalization isn't new. Let's not forget mail merge as one of the first examples of personalization. What's different this time around is data and technology.
On the data side, we've finally matured enough to understand that more data doesn't always lead to better decisions. What good is Netflix if it boasts the biggest movie collection without a way of intelligently recommending what I should watch? What good is a wireless provider (or bank, or retailer, or any brand) if it boasts the biggest market presence but it can't tell me why I should switch? As consumers come to expect more and more personalization in the way they interact with content and commerce, companies that can use data as the fuel to power better decisions will stand out from the pack.
On the technology side, personalizing content marketing is really about the best way to tackle a complicated logistics problem. Personalization for a few people is easy (think of your day to day interactions with friends and colleagues), but this becomes exponentially more difficult when you're a company with millions of customers. You run into problem with scale very quickly. Thus, it shouldn't come as a surprise that almost every example of personalization today comes from technology companies (Amazon, Pandora, Google, just to name a few). All these companies have taken a "personalization first" approach, knowing that the only way to remain relevant for each person is to solve the "who gets what" logistics problem via technology. In fact, the idea of personalization is so ingrained in these companies' DNA that one could just think of them as personalization companies who happen to be in commerce, music, and information. As more companies look for ways to connect with their customers, technology will emerge as the key drive to delivering personalization at scale.
Flying cops aside, personalized retail is closer than you think.
Today, we don't need to look far to see some evidence of personalization touching us in our daily lives. I think we're just getting started. While we're probably quite far away from flying cops a la Minority Report, it won't be long before my favorite clothing store has what I want neatly folded in a box the moment I walk in. Or heck, delivered via same day shipping.