Addressability: The New Term for Digital Marketing
BuzzFeed's recent article on digital personalization reminds us again of how marketers can obsess on "the trees" (semantics) and miss "the forest" (the power of digital to drive great marketing).
To frame the issue, we must recognize where we are: at the precipice of a new age of marketing, where digital can empower unprecedented levels of consumer insights, knowledge and performance.
Let's step back and recall the wisdom of the Yoda of marketing, Peter Drucker: "The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well, the product or service fits him and sells itself." — "Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices," (1973)
Drucker's quote is famous because it's arguably the most succinct, yet complete definition of marketing ever published. Its power is in its implication to the professional marketer: if you're doing your job well, it shouldn't be that difficult … or complicated. Understand your customer.
His words are timeless. More than 40 years later, this definition and its implication are more relevant than ever. Digital's potential to provide a deep, accurate and timely understanding of consumer needs and demand is beyond the imagination of marketers from 10 years ago, let alone 1973.
And yet, instead of focusing on what's possible, we debate the "label" for digital marketing: Personalization? Relevancy?
It's neither and both. The best term is "addressability," which is the process of customizing a brand's message, product, placement and timing to match the personal lifecycle needs of the customer at a specific point in the purchase cycle, thus optimizing relevance.
What has to be understood and balanced in order to deliver addressability?
- Identity vs. anonymity: You don't have to know a person's name to be addressable. In fact, millennials want you to know them, without knowing them. Get it?
- Shopping experience vs. used car salesman tsunami: Remember the customer's perspective: looking at a pair of pants on a site doesn't mean I need to see 50 ads for 25 brands in the next 10 minutes. Lighten up, Francis.
- Connected recognition: Today, most retail brands haven't made the necessary commitment for strategic design, tools and process to understand the behavior of their best customers, and thus act in a way that will endear, not offend, customers.
How can I shop at your store so often, yet still get pounded by digital ads and emails that promote items I have no interest in? Or, at other times, feature items I recently purchased? You don't really get me, do you? Worse, you're not paying attention to me.