Nic Young
10 November 2017 00:00


Nic Young, NEC Group Marketing Director, reflects on why it pays for brands to personalise.

Back in the days pre-digital marketing I worked on a brand that invested heavily in direct mail, in fact postal DM accounted for the biggest marketing investment with above the line advertising a close second. The reason for this was the product had greater appeal to a specific type of consumer, based upon their life stage, so being able to talk to them directly about the experiences they were having was the most effective way to market our product.  But in fact, this is true of all brands. 

Even if you believe your product or service should and could appeal to everyone it is highly likely that with a bit of research and understanding you will find that it has greatest relevance and appeal to a smaller group and being able to identify and target these people can generate the greatest return on investment. If you can provide a more individual experience, tailoring your product or marketing to the interests and motivations of the individuals you are talking to, your marketing will be more effective and this is why personalisation has been such a buzz word for the past few years. 

However, personalisation goes further than simply printing the individual’s name on a card, email or letter.  It is about making sure that what and how you communicate is relevant to them.  In lots of ways it is actually a return to the origins of marketing pre-industrialisation and mass production when individuals went to buy products from people that they knew.  The seller knew their customers and talked to them about their family and things they knew were of interest to that specific customer and in turn the customer knew they had been recognised, was engaged and felt valued.  After all none of us want to get stuck with someone who just talks at us about things that aren’t of interest to us personally but in fact this is what a lot of marketing does.

So, how do you personalise your event marketing? Well its simple…

  1. You start off by knowing who you’re talking to
  2. You talk about things that will be of interest to them
  3. You make them feel recognised and valued

So, who does this well?

Amazon are a great example of how to offer a personalised shopping experience.  They use the vast amounts of data they have on customers to offer recommendations – “you bought this…. you might like this….”, using data from other customers to try and match your choices to what we often call “lookalikes”.  In a world where we’re all pretty cynical about our data and how it is being used Amazon avoid a lot criticism by making sure that they use the information in a way which adds value to the customer – they’re helpful!

Channel 4
Channel 4 have a similar approach.  If like me, you watch most of your TV on demand you will find that the homepage you see differs from other people in your family as the shows highlighted are tailored to match your previous viewing with an algorithm that matches similar likes to new shows. Again, they use data to be helpful to customers

Spotify works in the same way, gathering intelligence on our likes and tailoring playlists to what they think we’ll like – to be honest I can’t say that they always get it right but on occasion they can throw up a few real gems.

And it’s not just the digital players...

Coke’s Share a Coke campaign was a simple but brilliant example of mass personalisation which is a bit of oxymoron but it worked.  It may have been cheesy but I think most of us were tempted to pick up a bottle with our name printed on the label.

Retailer VIP programmes

Not always personalised as much as they could be but as a shopper at The White Company the VIP cards they send out work on two levels firstly they act as a reminder and prompt, and as they are usually timed to coincide with the launch of new seasons products they encourage you to visit the stores and secondly, they make you feel valued for your custom.

'Share a Coke' Mass Personalisation Campaign. Image credit: urbanbuzz /

So, how can we apply personalisation in the event space?

  • Promoting Events and Selling Tickets – As a ticket agent The Ticket Factory, like Channel 4 and Amazon, collects data on what people like based on tickets they have previously purchased and uses this information when promoting new events. On any day of the year they will have hundreds of events on sale at the same time so their what’s on alerts are personalised to only showcase the events they think the individual will like – after all if you’re a fan of Imagine Dragons you’re unlikely to be interested in a Rod Stewart gig.

  • Invitations – Whilst it isn’t always possible to personalise tickets for all productions, if you host smaller scale events simply adding the recipient’s name to a beautifully designed ticket can earn you lots of brownie points.

  • Personalised Welcomes – Similar to invitations if you only have a few people to welcome personalising signs as they enter your event is a great way to start their experience. The conferencing space does this well with corporate welcomes for employees which acts both as a form of personalisation but also as a reassurance to staff that they are in the right place.

  • Food and Drink – At the Arena Birmingham and Genting Arena the Amadeus catering teams work with Group Research to understand the type of audiences expected to attend certain shows and based on this insight tailor the food and drink offered at events to appeal most to different audiences. For example, for events likely to appeal to a more family audience they create pop up sweets stores in the venue whilst kiosks at certain rock concerts may be transformed into extra bars for thirsty gig goers.

 The fundamental purpose of any personalisation is to let your customers know that you’re paying attention to them, not treating them as an anonymous mass. But getting the right balance between, “We think you’ll like this” and “we’re watching you” isn’t always easy, so you need to be sure you do your research and planning.  And it is always best to test your campaign on a small group of customers before you leap into any large-scale personalisation initiatives.


Starbucks image credit: Yulia Mozes /