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The Target Controls the Arsenal
Persona-shifting takes care of the "Ready, Fire, Aim" mistake.
Posted Jun 18, 2008
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In Rushmore director Wes Anderson's recent AT&T ad campaign, "Your Seamless World," various mobile-device users -- an actor, a working mother, and a college student, among others -- discuss their busy lives as they quite literally shift role and place.

The TV spots' clever revolving sets convey a frenetic, on-the-go surreality, allowing us to watch as, for example, the multitasking mother character "persona-shifts" to whomever she needs to be at that moment -- soccer mom, real estate agent, or cook. And each commercial ends with the character rattling off the cobbled-together name of some imaginary location that captures all the various personas.

Think of all the hats we wear in a single day: parent, executive, coach, personal financier. What if organizations knew enough to target us in a way that was relevant to our persona at any given time?

Call it "Personalization 2.0" -- a revolution that's being driven by two key factors:

  • First and foremost, the end user is now in control. Gone are the days of the networks airing programming without regard for the viewer's schedule. Organizations, not end-users, occupied the center of the first personalization wave. Today, however, with set-top digital video recorders (DVRs), networks making their shows available "off portal," and the mobile Web freeing us to watch what we want, when we want, we're now the center of the media universe.
  • Second, mobile technologies are creating "Anywhere Customers," but unless mobility can result in action or transaction, nothing is accomplished from a marketing or brand standpoint. For example, while being driven to a dinner party, a woman might persona-shift to the role of family financier and with a few keystrokes, makes her mobile phone payment directly through a handheld device. Now, the bank and likely her phone service have built some brand equity, because they've made it possible for her to persona-shift at her convenience.
Personalization really starts to look interesting when there's greater contextual understanding. Thanks to concepts like time-shifting and place-shifting, popularized by TiVo and SlingMedia, respectively, marketing professionals can better understand how and when we prefer to receive media.

For example, a father wakes up in the morning, turns on the TV and watches ESPN, MSNBC, or Fox News as he gets ready for work. Then his two young children enter the room. All of a sudden, the father's persona shifts. Now instead of monitoring the financial news or checking today's weather forecast, his persona-shifts to "cartoon-watching dad," flipping over to kids' programming to enjoy a few minutes with his children.

Which persona is the user assuming at any given moment? Marketers will soon have the framework to recognize this shift and tactically target demographic- or location-appropriate content accordingly. Content and advertising that might have interested the father while he was watching sports highlights -- a spot promoting the DVD release of the Bruce Willis film Live Free or Die Hard, for example -- is no longer of interest when his children are in the room.

On the other side of the Personalization 2.0 equation, marketers need to enable their customers to take action. That's why it's important for marketing and advertising professionals to know their audience on a more personal level. What are their personas? How often do they shift? What causes that shift?

Based on marketers' ability to measure personas, the day is rapidly approaching when multiple TVs tuned to the same program within a single household will display entirely different advertisements -- one aimed at Mom, say, and the other at her preteen daughter. Recognizing these shifts in persona is only half the Personalization 2.0 equation. Where this idea starts to gain traction is when the user can be in control of his or her experience at any time and place.

Imagine a personal portal that you can literally take with you where ever you go, where every function you perform on the Web- mobile banking, checking sports scores, accessing your company's Intranet, downloading music- is available without opening multiple browsers that require multiple logins. This is where "the Web" becomes "My Web," and that's the essence of personalization 2.0. This is where the technology gets out of the way, and let's the user take control.

Why would an organization want to yield control to the user? Think about the customer loyalty, the cross-sell and up-sell possibilities associated with delivering more relevant content and value-added services. Finally, increased customer satisfaction often leads to reduced customer churn.

Something to think about next time you're on Pineoleamainfourthelupe Street.


About the author
Conleth O'Connell, Ph.D., is chief technology officer at Vignette Corporation. Dr. O'Connell joined Vignette in 1996 as one of the company's first engineers and product architects and influenced the company's support for open standards.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

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