Marketing personalisation, contextualisation and conversation

Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
August 8 2018,
August 5 2020

I don’t go to a lot of dinner parties, and I host even fewer. They’re just not my thing. Due mostly to a very real lack of cooking skills, a love of evenings spent in slumber-wear, and a preference for binge-watching on Netflix. Plus, I’ve endured way too many dreary evenings with dreary fellow-guests.

The last one I tolerated saw me sat next to the most boring man on the planet; though he clearly found himself utterly fascinating. He had no regard for my views or experiences, I was a captive audience and he exploited that to the max!


Lack of interest

There are parallels between my tedious dinner companion and the way some organisations continue to market to their customers. The relentless “telling”, when the consumer has shown no apparent interest, is not just pointless but bordering on rude. Unlike me though consumers can walk away. And they can reach for the “unsubscribe” option to make sure they don’t have to suffer again.


Out of context

It’s not appropriate, in any situation, to broadcast about ourselves. Taking the lead from the listener, his interests and preferences, is the only route to true engagement.

Much has been written about contextualised marketing. Predominantly (but not wholly) a digital marketing phenomenon, in this post-GDPR era marketers are increasingly waking up to its benefits where the processing of personal data can be fraught with issues. Back in 2015 an article in Econsultancy succinctly summed it up,

“Unlike personalisation, contextualisation doesn't take account of anything specific about the user other than the context in which the user is ‘found’, requiring no information about the user other than that they have appeared within this certain context.”

My dinner companion had failed to understand the context, and to recognise that three courses of fine food paired with good wine required a conversation, not a monologue.


The personal approach

Face-to-face most of us are pretty savvy at navigating our conversations away from the overly-personal. We know that some subjects are taboo and that being too familiar too soon is a no-no. That’s not always as easy with our marketing messages. Contextualisation helps. Done well, it paves the way to greater personalisation but avoids the risk of “creepy not cool”.

So, a retailer might know from my recent purchase history that there’s a new baby in the house and use that context to offer discounts on nappies, baby food and ear-plugs! Making specific reference to such a life-event however would be just weird. The rule with personalisation should be “it’s OK to be obvious, it’s not OK to be intrusive”.



Image credit: Econsultancy


Sparkling conversation

Don’t be that boorish dinner guest, nor that boring marketer. A top tip that works in both instances -  “listen more, say less, be interested…and interesting.”


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