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Stop Calling Personalization ‘Creepy’

marketing personalization

If there is one trend that I can’t stand right now, it’s calling personalization “creepy.” Writers, industry insiders, digital marketers, I implore you: Cut it out. You’re giving the word creepy a bad name.

Maybe growing up in a historical little New England town filled with old homes and ghost stories makes me a little protective of the word creepy. Maybe it’s that I’m a big fan of Tim Burton (his earlier work) or that every time you say it, I get either Radiohead and/or TLC stuck in my head. Either way, leave creepy alone.

Creepy by definition means causing an unpleasant feeling of fear or unease. Watching The Walking Dead alone in a dark house should give you a creepy feeling, not when a website gives you a coupon based on your previous purchase history.

Yes, we’ve all heard about the time Target pretty much predicted a teenage girl’s pregnancy based on her purchase history and that they apparently knew before her father did. While simultaneously being impressive -- since they were right -- and invasive, this is not the norm. Let it go. Stop using it as the ultimate example of how personalization has gone too far.

We live in a world where we choose to share our lives digitally with others; friends, family and strangers. Anything from a major life event like getting engaged to what you ate for dinner is share worthy in the eyes of Internet. We optionally provide detailed information about ourselves all the time. We sign up for emails, we fill out profiles on various websites, and we freely post any passing thought we have, complete with a corresponding hashtag or ten. It’s also our choice whether we allow our browser activity to be tracked or not. We say that we expect brands to know what we like and don’t like, but when they predict our interests correctly, we accuse them of overstepping their bounds?

If you’re doing personalization correctly, you are adding value for your customers. As long as you take context into account, personalization is actually pretty cool and very needed on both the business side and the customer side.

Whether it’s recommending a relevant article or sending an offer based on their location, personalization should feel like a service, like a courtesy. People like to be treated this way. Providing great service has been a successful business strategy since, well, the beginning of business. Personalization should make your customers feel like you know them, that you pay attention and that you care. According to McMurry / TMG , 90 percent of consumers find custom content useful and 78 percent believe that companies that provide content customized to their interests are looking to build good relationships with them.

Making customers feel appreciated and understood leads to increased loyalty and revenue. If you’re making your customers feel uneasy, you’re doing it all wrong.

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