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What Marketers are Getting Wrong About Personalization

Louise Copland

Louise Copland

Marketing Director
  • Last Updated: November 1, 2023

In This Article

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Is personalization overrated? We weigh in on a recent op-ed from Marketing Week.

Remember when personalization was the big thing? The allure of tailoring brand experiences and messages to a specific audience of one became impossible to resist. Before you could say “third-party cookies,” many marketers failed to implement personalization in their output – from targeted emails to recommended website purchases based on previous actions.

And the trend continues to be as popular today as it was in 2019 when personalization was triumphantly declared”Word of the Year.” Yet, despite its ongoing popularity within the industry, two authors (Weinberg and Lombardo) have put forward a compelling argument that will make you question personalization.

In the article, they highlight two primary issues preventing personalization from ever reaching its true utopian potential:

Data

All good companies understand the inherent value of data. But according to these two experts, the volume of good, accurate data needed to create personalized experiences doesn’t exist. Moreover, what data there is, is unreliable and can often be poorly applied.

Tastes

Like any creative output, good marketing succeeds when it shares universal truths that get people talking, thinking, and acting. And that’s before you consider the resources needed to accomplish that.

So, what does this mean for financial institutions (FIs) focused on personalization in their marketing strategies?

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Data: Future-proof your marketing strategies against reliance on third-party cookies

It’s been in the cards for years, but in the second half of 2024, Google is phasing out third-party cookies from its Chrome web browser. According to the search engine giant, “improving people’s privacy while giving businesses the tools they need to succeed online is vital to the future of the open web.”

Third-party cookies have been a critical weapon for marketers, helping them track visitors, actions, and other data that should allow targeting individuals with personalized content.

Black and white dartboard with yello dart in the middle


Google’s controversial decision is forcing FI to rethink how they operate. For example, personalization, as it’s currently defined and understood, will dramatically shift without access to third-party data cookies.

With the end of third-party cookies in sight, building out a marketing strategy that the upcoming policy changes won’t impact is a necessity. While 2024 may seem a long way off, now is the ideal time to pivot. Doing so can give FI a head-start in future-proofing any personalization plans. It also offers opportunities to assess and refine current processes.

Is the company getting the correct data?

Where is it coming from?

What is it telling us?

How can we action this information?

Because of the change in Google policy, FI will increasingly rely on data collected by first-party cookies drawn most commonly through the website or affiliate website partners.

As data sourced via third parties fall away, FI should use both channels to maximize their first-party data yield.

Tastes: Go broad in both your reach and resonance

Today’s audiences are broad, and they’re only growing bigger – in 2021, the number of internet users worldwide hit 4.9bn, up from 4.6bn the year before. That makes genuine personalization at the individual level almost impossible to achieve.

No financial institution has the resources to design creative content for every person’s taste at every level. But, even if they could, should they? Many successful marketing campaigns speak universal truths that unite us; they don’t fixate on our differences.

Genuine personalization at a granular, personal level is an impossible dream. Our tastes are too rich and diverse. And even if this was achieved, it risks isolating audiences. At best, it’s jarring; at worst, it deconstructs the emotional underpinnings of marketing content -the gold dust that gives it power.

The solution is to focus on reach.

According to Weinberg and Lombardo’s article, “reach is, and has always been, the greatest predictor of marketing success.” Effectively, reach allows FI to personalize output based on shared sentiments across a particular group or sub-set.

For example, let’s imagine a bank is offering a booklet of free movie tickets for opening a new account. Traditional personalization would mean different theatres, different films, and even different background music for every viewer -even those who never go to the movies.

On the other hand, personalization based on reach makes it far easier to appeal more generally to a broad, mutually aligned target market. For example, the bank might partner with influencers and affiliates within a particular film genre to spread the word, confident that their message strikes a chord with viewers.

Ultimately, instead of over-curating to be as personalized as possible at every turn, successful FI must focus on reaching the intended target audience – a universal group of people with some level of sentiment with the content.

When you’re on the proper channels, harnessing the power of the right influencers and affiliates to reach the right audience, it’s far more cost effective than trying to appeal to all the people all the time.

Look at personalization Objectively, not Aspirationally

Personalization, as we know it, isn’t just changing. It’s being radically redefined, helped in no small part by Google killing off the once-ubiquitous third-party cookie. That evolution is forcing smart FIs’ to get ahead of the game – whether they’re challenging the industry status quo or looking to retain their position at the top of the market.

Personalized experiences, online or in a branch, are a common strategy among any FI looking to gain a competitive advantage. However, it’s essential to look at personalization from a realistic perspective and evaluate what works for the FI – whatever the size.

See, the shift isn’t just benefitting mainstream mega-banks. Community banks, regional banks, and emerging fintech may find focusing on reach more beneficial to get the brand name out there and target new markets on limited resources. And influencers today are the modern masters of reach – authentically building communities of mutual interest.

Influencer partners offer a cost-effective way to boost reach. If you want to learn more about Fintel Performance and how we can help you place your brand in front of the right customers, reach out.

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