When Neil Feinstein discusses relevancy and targeting with his marketing class at New York University, he makes sure to stress the difference between a campaign featuring name personalization and being personalized. Targeted, personal efforts, he explains, "require strategy and judgment calls paired with the ability of the creative [professional] to bring the idea to life."
As director, brand and creative strategy at direct marketing agency True North, Feinstein has worked on his share of both types of campaigns. But it's the fully targeted marketing that really makes an impact. "If you're scanning a letter and see your name in the copy, your eye goes there. But consumers now know this can be done in marketing. If you touch people on a deeper level ... it goes to the core of who they are and the decisions they've made about themselves. And that stuff starts to come over the line from being personalized to personalization."
Yet another dimension of consumer expectation is at play here. Josh Herman, multichannel marketing innovation leader at Acxiom, a provider of marketing technology and information-based services, recalls the days when companies pretty much could divide break the population into three main buckets of direct mail responsiveness: 1) people who will always respond; 2) people who will never respond; and 3) the mass middle. Simple segmentation schemes like this one meant a marketer could get away with not developing versioned creative. "When you fast-forward to a multichannel marketing world," Herman explains, "the creative plays a far more important role because the consumers' attention is fragmented so dramatically across all the different [media]. ... That's why creative versioning as the last step in the execution becomes so critical, because you have less time for the consumer to recognize himself or herself in that marketing piece."
Let's look at the key factors involved in building relevancy into the creative development process.