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Alexander Mahr Client Solution Professional for IBM Cognitive Engagement Solutions IBM

Personalized marketing: How to “be” your brand

Late last year, we were excited to announce that The North Face had partnered with IBM to include Watson in the shopping experience. In short, North Face shoppers get asked a basic but powerful question – “Where and when will you be using this jacket?” – which then leads to a highly personalized customer interaction.

I had read about the collaboration, but recently I was reminded of this topic when I spoke at the ADMA Global Forum and ran into Ian Dewar (Senior Manager Consumer Lifecycles at The North Face), who gave an inspiring presentation.

Making Customers a Part of the Brand Experience

To sum it up, in 2012, Ian and his team recognised a seemingly simple issue: customers didn’t come back to buy more. They were just happy with the quality of the products they bought. The North Face products just lasted too long.

To add a personal note to his story, Ian brought his 20-year-old North Face yellow jacket to the event and put it on a mannequin on the IBM stand. “Customers would buy one item of a single category and we wouldn’t see them again for years,” according to Ian.

So, The North Face came up with a solution: create a loyalty program. VIPeak was born, with The North Face applying a powerful concept: EXPLORATION REWARDED. From listening to speakers, to partaking in events, to being flown around the world to climb Mount Everest, customers can turn their passion for adventure into real rewards. Making customers part of the brand experience to gain customer loyalty – genius and still so simple.

​Getting Personal with Your Brand

To me, Ian proves that embracing new technology is only a part of a marketer’s path to success. You also need to add a personal touch to your efforts – something that resonates with your customers. “Be your brand,” he calls it. You can easily imagine that the team behind VIPeak put their love for adventure into their daily job. I’d bet that Ian is hiking right now.

When was the last time you got personal with your brand? When was the last time you experienced the marketing efforts of your own making?

Here are seven of Ian’s key findings for success:

Switching the loyalty emphasis from dollars to engagement
Finding correlations within transactional data
Identifying wider activity behaviours
Adopting increasingly sophisticated segmentation
Shifting the emphasis from marketing to customer engagement
Shaking up the marketing mix
Using data to change internal thinking

Personalization and the Customer Journey

I would add an eighth point that summarises to me what Ian has done: get a lot more personal.

In a study with Econsultancy in 2015, IBM found that the vast majority of respondents (88%) agree that their organisation’s growth ultimately depends on personalisation and better customer knowledge.

I talk about personalisation in my daily job almost all the time. The reason for that is simple: everybody needs to evolve into this space. IBM technology may be a part of that journey, but a more integral piece is saying goodbye to the mentality of campaign-based marketing and moving into a space where you ask yourself critical questions along a customer journey, such as:

Who am I talking to (and how much do I know about him/her?)
What gets personalised?
Where is the conversation happening (and how connected is it to other conversations?)
When are the personalisation decisions made?
How is the personalised message selected?
What else can I talk about in context?

One of of my key customers calls this “smarter conversations.” Regardless of terminology, I believe it’s possible to “outthink ordinary” and make things a lot more personal. Cognitive capabilities will again play a role, but it all starts with “being your brand.”

Take me – I got inspired by Ian’s message, and you’ll probably find me hiking this weekend.

To learn more about understanding the customer journey, check out “Customer Journey Maps and Buyer Personas: The Modern Tool Kit for Marketers.”

Republished from Think Marketing