Can marketing get too personal?

It’s always nice when the barista at your local cafe addresses you by your name, because it shows that he or she understands how a personal approach commands greater attention. But in marketing, does the same tactic work to win over a customer? Can it be overdone and get too upclose and personal? We’ve recently received one direct mailer that sort of got it right.

Does this direct mailer from Westpac work? At least they got all the recipient’s personalised details correct

The fact that our creative director hasn’t responded may undermine its effectiveness, but beyond that, it’s quite well executed because:

  • The personal approach is appropriate as it’s a conversation between the bank manager and recipient
  • In the current banking climate where banks are desperately trying to gain rapport with customers after years of poor customer service, the personalisation here is a demonstration of the bank’s changed attitude
  • The personalisation reinforces the effect that Merinda, the bank manager is in the “same world” as Alvin, the recipient, that Merinda wants to speak in Alvin’s terms while having this conversation

So the first name approach is used in the right context here.

It only gets tricky, even creepy to the recipient if there’s no purpose to the first name approach other than to get close and intimate, such as:

  • when the recipient is receiving for the first time a communication from a company that he or she hasn’t dealt with before, the first name personalised approach can come across as insincere, like the sales girl that insists on addressing you “darling” or “love” even when it’s the first time you’ve entered the shop
  • When the recipient’s name is over-used in the communication such as being name-dropped at the start of every paragraph, it just comes across like a desperate “don’t break up with me” letter from a jilted lover
  • And of course, when the communication gets the personalised details wrong, such as the first or last name is spelt incorrectly. No one likes to see their own name butchered up by incorrect spelling.

And it’s for the last point above, that it’s best not to do a personalised communication, unless you’re sure that your data is absolutely 100% tip top. Because if you get the recipient’s details wrong, it’s always personal.

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