Using personalized marketing, especially in mediums such as direct mail, has always been highly effective. However in the digital space, personalization may not always be a good thing.

Ok, ok I know, anytime anyone uses the words “good” and “bad” in the title of pretty much anything (blog post, article, etc), we’ve become conditioned to also seeing the word “ugly” right behind them as an homage to the classic Clint Eastwood movie: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.

Sorry… there’s nothing really “ugly” about personalized marketing unless of course you refer to someone by their wrong name or worse, their wrong gender. But you would never do that, right?

Today I came across two articles re: personalized marketing.

One on hand you have the article in eMarketer titled “Personalized Marketing Brings Rewards and Challenges.”

And on the other hand you have the Media Post article titled “MIT: Personalized Ads Don’t Always Work.

The Good…

According to the eMarketer article, 34% US marketers consider personalized campaigns to be “highly effective and measurable” while “more than two-thirds of US marketers planned to use personalization in their campaigns within the next 6 to 12 months.”

The Bad…

Researchers at MIT have found that being uber-personalized it is not necessarily a good thing, at least not in the digital space.

Here’s what their research found:

Let’s say I’m interested in buying a new TV. I’m on an online review site to see what others are saying. I only go as far as the TV category page, I do not click on any one specific brand

If Mr. and Mrs. Advertiser start hitting me with personalized ads for TVs based on the fact that I was on the TV category section of a given site… I’m not going to like it and the ad will not be effective.

However, if I do in fact click through to a specific brand of TV then by all means hit me a personalized ad because then I will be more responsive to it.

Make sense?

It does to me…

Catherine Tucker, the MIT professor who conducted the study along with a colleague was dead on in saying “…just because you have the data to personalize, it doesn’t mean you always should.”

So, the morale is to use your best judgment when it comes to using all that personalized data your collecting. People are already up in arms about how much of their online usage is being tracked.

Don’t add to their anxiety needlessly.

Sources:,, Google Images, Original Post

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