The Problem with Personalization…and the Solution

By: Sesame Mish | September 12, 2017 | Artificial Intelligence, B2C Marketing, Personalization

Personalization. As marketers, we’ve heard this term countless times. It’s become the norm nowadays for most brands to do some degree of personalization or personalized marketing. But as we’re entering a new age of marketing brought on by recent advances in technology (more on that soon), the concept of personalization is rapidly changing. There is now a distinct divide between old and new modalities of personalization, with the latter being the distinguishing factor in catapulting modern brands to the next level in a competitive marketplace. With endless product & service options today, consumers have almost been conditioned to not stand for anything less than the most personalized, 1:1 experience possible. As a result, emerging brands have elbowed their way into a world otherwise dominated by the likes of Amazon. And it’s now up to you to take note and deliver accordingly.

In order to give your customers the experience they expect and set your company up for success, it’s important to understand the difference between “old” personalization and “new” personalization, what we refer to as “extreme personalization.” Read on.

What is personalization?

Personalization is when brands customize content and the purchase experience for the individual consumer. Think: an email that says “Hello, [first name]! Welcome to our online store” or a push notification that exclaims “Get 10% off our latest women’s denim!” Here, we can see that the brand knows the person’s name, and the brand knows that the person is a woman, respectively.

This level of personalization has been a noble attempt to move away from (super) old-school generic (aka “mass”) communications that are sent and can be sent to anyone and everyone since they don’t contain any tailored language. The goals of this level of personalization are accomplished: 1) make the consumer feel special, which could encourage them to develop an affinity for the brand, and 2) filter out products & services that the consumer wouldn’t care about and strive to grab their attention with the ones that they would more likely want to view and buy.

The problem with old methods of personalization

This type of personalization worked well for marketers for a long time, helping them stand out from their competitors who relied on generic messaging. But today, with an ultra-competitive landscape brought on by the introduction of numerous digital-born companies into the mix, consumers virtually have their pick of the litter. That’s why personalization, as a differentiator, is key.

But the old method of personalization is no longer working to effectively engage consumers. The reason is two-fold:

  1. Brands only customize messages for content, not context.
  2. Even when customizing messages for content, brands are relying on demographic segmentation to dictate what the message should say (and therefore who it should be sent to).

What is extreme personalization?

Extreme personalization is what happens when both of these issues are addressed.

Extreme personalization considers both the content and the context of communications. This means that not only is content tailored to a person’s likes (and dislikes), but so is the context—customers only receive communications on the channel and on the device they prefer and at the time they prefer. This means that consumers are receiving your messages how and when they’re most like to view and engage with them, leading to maximized business results for you.

The key here is that we’re talking about the individual—not the individual as part of a demographic-based segment. Case in point: Marketers must start considering each person as an individual instead of grouping them into (impersonal) segments based on nothing but their demographics. The truth is that demographic segmentation doesn’t really work to tell marketers anything about an individual’s preferences that are unique to them. Just because two people are both 29 year-old females living in San Francisco doesn’t mean that they have the same preferences and buying behaviors for clothes, makeup, and music. Instead, extreme personalization ensures that each person gets the message that’s right for them—not what’s presumably right for their segment.

Today, advanced technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are making this deep level of personalization tangible to the marketer. AI-powered tools help the marketer collect consumer data, extract real-time insights as to the behaviors & preferences of that consumer, and then market and communicate with them accordingly—the message they want, how they want it, and when they want it. Relevancy is paramount.

Examples of extreme personalization

Here’s what it looks like when you use a marketing automation platform or email service provider (ESP) that leverages the power of AI to understand the ins & outs of individual consumers and then engage with them in a way that makes sense:


  • Your marketing platform learns that Eduardo opens and responds to emails on his desktop computer every Friday afternoon
  • The platform sends an email to (often forgetful) Eduardo at 3pm on Friday to encourage him to place an order for a dozen roses from his favorite flower vendor for his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day, which is just around the corner
  • Eduardo is actively working through his inbox, sees the email, and places an order before it’s too late (feeling relieved!)


  • Your marketing platform learns over time that Grace likes to watch romantic comedies in her favorite media app using her tablet
  • It sends other rom-com lovers like Grace a series of push notifications to encourage them to check out the latest one added to the app. The platform sends Grace the most popular message variant, ensuring that there’s the highest chance it will resonate with her
  • The next time Grace fires up her tablet, she receives a push notification and is enticed to check out the flick immediately

Final thoughts

Not all personalization is created equal. It’s imperative that marketers move away from old methods of personalization just the way they moved away from generic messaging at one time, too. Extreme personalization is the ultimate deal-maker of the future, enabling brands to better engage, convert, and retain consumers.


For more information on extreme personalization and how you can make it a reality in your organization, be sure to check out The Kahuna Blog. Simply click the button below!

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Author: Sesame Mish

Sesame Mish is Marketing Manager at Kahuna where she gets to find new ways to tell the Kahuna story and make it come to life. She holds an M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University.

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