The days of searching for something to watch are over.
Open up Netflix and you'll see a personalized list of shows for you. Launch Hulu, the same thing's there: a list of shows based on what you watch. Instagram's feed of images is customized to you. Even Spotify has a Daily Mix waiting for you every day, built on your listening habits.
We're living in a world where every piece of content in our lives is personalized. The videos we watch, the images we see, the music we listen to. Everything...
...except for our marketing. Why?
The Usefulness of the Universal
If you ask me (and lots of people don't), saying the same thing to everyone had been a side effect of the media technology we started using in the 1950s.
You watched TV, everyone saw the same commercial. You read a magazine, you saw the same print ad. You listened to the radio, you heard the same radio spot. Everyone drove by the same billboard.
And so, we spoke universally, using universal themes: love, sex, babies, puppies, Kevin Hart. Universally beloved, because we had to connect with as many people at one time as possible.
People pay attention to what they care about. And they care about themselves.
And it worked. It still works. We connect people to the things we all hold dear, in order to make us all feel like we're part of something bigger. We had to, because we could only speak to everyone.
At least we used to.
The Power of the Personal
Things have changed since the 1950s. Media has evolved. Our consumption habits have matured. We've come to expect more than 5 networks to deliver the same thing to everyone.
And with that, we've become overwhelmed. We have an abundance of options. Too many channels, too many content streams, too many choices. So, media technology evolved to help us. And now everything is personalized.
And with it, technology has given us the ability to not only speak to people, but to speak to a person. Targeting has gotten so good that we can give the right ad to the right person at the right time. But we're not taking advantage of it. We're still saying the same thing to every person.
We need to find the personal in the universal.
We could do so much more. And I'm not just talking about removing waste from our budgets. Not just efficiency, but efficacy. People care about things that have to do with them. And when they care, they pay attention. And attention is what we're in the business of capturing.
I'm not saying we should disregard the universal. No, I'm saying we need to find the subtlety, the nuance, the part of the universal that is personal for each individual we talk to, and say that to them. Connect them to the bigger message, but do it by figuring out why it's important to them. Not why it's important to everyone.
The Personal Within the Universal
We need to make people feel like they're part of something bigger. Create a community and make it grow. But, once they're part of it, they need to stick around. They need to know the brand cares about them, understands them, recognizes that they're different from every other person they're talking to.
We shouldn't disregard the universal. We should embrace it and dissect it. Find the personal within the universal. Find the person among the people.