One of the most pop­u­lar refrains from the clas­sic movie The Wiz­ard of Oz is for Dorothy to fol­low the yel­low brick road to reach the Wiz­ard in the Emer­ald City. Today’s con­sumers are also receiv­ing cryp­tic mes­sages but are empow­ered to select many dif­fer­ent paths along their long, wind­ing road. To meet this rov­ing cus­tomer, mar­keters need to stop just offer­ing another brick in the road, only giv­ing every cus­tomer the same place to “step.” Per­son­al­iza­tion makes con­tent eas­ier to find for con­sumers when it is use­ful and unique.

Con­sumers can see through super­fi­cial per­son­al­iza­tion and they say it leaves them “jaded” (70 per­cent) and “numb” (63 per­cent), accord­ing to a recent Econ­o­mist Intel­li­gence Unit study. This means mar­keters must know the dif­fer­ence between Toto and Dorothy to avoid “mass mar­ket” personalization.

Today’s Cus­tomers Are Dorothy and Toto

The mar­ket­ing of yes­ter­year is exactly like the begin­ning of The Wiz­ard of Oz—a dull black-and-white where every­one sort of feels the same and the entire land­scape looks the same. The advent of data analy­sis hit mar­ket­ing like a tor­nado and plopped us down in the realm of bright, vibrant color.

The cus­tomer came along for the ride and has enjoyed the ben­e­fits of data so much they’ve moved beyond being just sim­ple Dorothy on a quest. Cus­tomers are now part Toto, always mov­ing for­ward toward the goal, but tak­ing lots of detours and run­ning in a few cir­cles as they move down the path.

Our goal as mar­keters is to be Glenda the Good Witch and give the cus­tomer exactly what they want before they fully know what they need: those ruby slip­pers. Glenda knew exactly how to give them and got the size per­fectly right. How do you do that?

Know Your Kansas and Your Oz

The most impor­tant piece of knowl­edge Glenda had is who Dorothy was. Glenda gives Dorothy the ruby slip­pers after their intro­duc­tion and ini­tial infor­ma­tion exchange; that’s the point you need to pro­vide cus­tomers with the best prod­uct, offer or service.

This per­son­al­iza­tion approach of what I call the “known cus­tomer” requires them to will­ingly give a lit­tle bit of infor­ma­tion. Cus­tomers are prov­ing more will­ing to do this, and mar­keters are find­ing it to be more successful.

Another recent mar­ket­ing study has found that 68 per­cent of US mar­keters plan to use more per­son­al­iza­tion because of its abil­ity to deliver higher ROI and response rates. This is shift­ing to real-time efforts and 77 per­cent of North Amer­i­can mar­keters cat­e­go­rize it as a high pri­or­ity, accord­ing to a DMA study.

To make this more effec­tive, 45 per­cent of mar­keters say they need bet­ter data. Acquir­ing this comes down to giv­ing cus­tomers a fair trade between con­tent and per­sonal infor­ma­tion while using what’s already been given.

Your audi­ence is more will­ing to trade if exist­ing, basic-level per­son­al­iza­tion is smart enough to avoid prod­ucts and ser­vices they’ve already decline. If your vis­i­tors tell you they’re in Oz, you’ll only upset them if you pitch goods for Kansas.

Get­ting Your Pretties

Meet­ing what the cus­tomer thinks he wants and pair­ing your offer to meet his need involves tak­ing a page from the Wizard’s book. His final gift giv­ing is the cul­mi­na­tion of the three main steps for proper one-to-one personalization.

  • Under­stand Your Cus­tomer. Ask for infor­ma­tion, watch them and strike up a con­ver­sa­tion. Con­stantly engag­ing means you know what your con­sumer is look­ing for, what they have, and what they need—not what you think they need. Know if they’re look­ing for a heart, brain, courage or just a faster way to go home.
  • Design The Cus­tomer Jour­ney Across Chan­nels. To help your cus­tomers move through your fun­nel, you need to define the jour­ney and the poten­tial roads your cus­tomer can take. Think of this as lay­ing down the golden bricks to give your cus­tomer a guid­ing road. Focus on cre­at­ing a con­sis­tent, rel­e­vant, and easy cus­tomer jour­ney.
  • Act in Real Time. The big secret to the Wizard’s abil­ity is to act at the moment of truth—in his case, it’s when every­one would believe him. Deliv­ery requires under­stand­ing where the cus­tomer is in their jour­ney at this very instant and serv­ing up the right offer to the right audi­ence at the right time.

Luck­ily, mar­keters don’t have to use the Wizard’s sor­cery to suc­ceed because cross-channel cam­paign man­age­ment tech­nol­ogy can pro­vide insight into know­ing your audi­ence and turn­ing that data into action across the cus­tomer journey

This is just the first step on our jour­ney down the yel­low brick road of per­son­al­iza­tion. As we head to the Emer­ald City, we’ll dive deeper into the three per­son­al­iza­tion aspects above, look at real Adobe case stud­ies that high­light these tips in action, and get anec­dotes from mar­keters we meet on our US per­son­al­iza­tion road show.


Great piece. The hardest part of understanding the consumer I feel is they can always be better understood. Add that onto the fact that, especially in this digital age, consumers are always changing. It makes for quite the challenge!