Personalisation in marketing

The number of communication channels is constantly increasing, especially in the digital sector. However, digitisation is not only creating new media channels. It also enables the creation and targeted distribution of printed or digital advertising media from the recipient's perspective in marketing and communication.

This article looks at the different forms of personalisation and individualisation in the output of advertising media. Furthermore, the different variants of the inclusion of target group parameters in the technical creation of advertising media are analysed.

The data basis

The data basis for the target group parameters as well as the advertising material contents can be composed of the most different sources:

  • Databases: Media, product and customer databases, content management or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
  • Internet platforms: Webshops and websites, web analysis systems, apps or social media channels.
  • External Data Services: Address and household databases, market research or marketer data.
  • Real-time data: Weather and time of day data, location or device information.

The data is either maintained and collected on your own ("first-party data") or obtained from data service providers ("third party data").

Data sources for Big Data
The combination of different data sources - also called Big Data. © Melaschuk-Medien

The target group parameters

With the help of the target group parameters, their analysis and evaluation, the content of advertising material can be adapted to the target groups or delivered to the right interested parties. The term "target group" is broadly defined here and can also include a single person. Accordingly, the contents of the advertising material are personalised and tailored to a recipient or contain further target group-specific individualisations.

Examples of target group parameters: Customer or prospect, women or men, areas of interest, purchasing power, purchasing activities, geographical location and time of day information.

For example, address databases can provide advertisers with addresses that have a specific gender, selected interests and defined purchasing power. But also log-in-protected environments, such as online shops or social media platforms, provide features that can be precisely assigned to individual persons. In this way, expected needs can be determined on the basis of purchasing behaviour or activities.

The target group parameters can influence the content of advertising material in different forms, such as the depiction of cosmetic articles in a drugstore mailing for female addressees. In other cases, the target group information is only used for distribution, for example, the distribution of a furniture store brochure as part of a direct mail item to certain households.

Advertising media and media channels

Target group identification (English: Targeting) and the realisation of advertising campaigns are part of the core business in marketing. Advertising measures for specific products or events are distributed parallel in several media channels. One example is Aldi's emoji campaign, in which the "edible faces" can be seen on large format posters, city light posters, digital outdoor advertising surfaces, as advertisements in daily newspapers and in food retailers' brochures, and on the Aldi website.

This example also illustrates the distinction between the terms "media channel" and "advertising media": An advertisement as an advertising medium can appear in the media channels daily newspapers and magazines. The contents in the advertising media include address data, article data, pictures, video and audio files or real-time data such as weather or time of day.

Networking and retargeting

In "networked" campaigns, the advertising effect is to be strengthened by linking media channels with one another in order to direct users from one channel to another and to trigger actions by interested parties. Typical scenarios from the automotive sector are online advertisements on the Internet, which are linked to the websites of local car dealers, where test drives can be booked. The success of such a campaign is clearly measurable by the number of test drives booked.

The advertising media should be played, distributed and used where the target group can best be reached. In the digital field, retargeting is also used for this purpose. In retargeting, for example, customers are shown content on websites on the basis of their previous activities, whose relevance to buyer behaviour is assumed. This principle can also be applied to the print sector if, for example, personalised printed brochures take consumer behaviour in online shops into account and are enclosed with the consignments.

The following three variants describe the basic procedures for creating advertising material and can also be used in combination. The term "personalisation" used here also includes the target group-specific "individualisation" in the content design of the advertising media.

Variant 1: Non-personalised creation of advertising material

With this variant, advertising media are created without extensive personalisation or individualisation of the content. Media production is either automated with database support, semi-automated or manual, possibly by integrating export files from databases. Examples are brochures of furniture stores, DIY stores, electrical stores or advertisements.

At the same time, desired target groups are selected, for example using address service providers, household databases or special marketer data. The advertising media are then directed to these target groups, for example offline via direct mail items, postaddressed items, as supplements in newspapers or digitally in the form of online advertisements on websites or in social media channels. (See Figure 1.)

Non-personalised creation of advertising material
Figure 1: Non-personalised creation of advertising material. The advertising media are created without personalised or individualised content and distributed according to target group parameters or media channel. © Melaschuk-Medien

Variant 2: Part personalised creation of advertising material

The non-personalised advertising media can be partially personalised or individualised, for example by imprints in digital printing or in marketing portals of brand companies. Corporate-design-compliant templates are usually created without personalisation and branches, branches or sales employees supplement individual data in the marketing portal in the form of contact data, regional offers or prices.

Examples are flyers from insurance companies or bank branches which complement regional data or online ads which are also supplemented with regional data and displayed live in a specific regional area. (See Figure 2.)

Part-personalised creation of advertising material
Figure 2: Part-personalised creation of advertising material. The advertising media are largely created without personalised content, supplemented with content and distributed according to target group parameters or media channel. © Melaschuk-Medien

Variant 3: All-personalised advertising material creation

With this variant, the advertising media are created largely completely automatically on the basis of target group parameters and personalised and individualised content.

Websites are personalised or individualised in this way, for example by determining location data on the basis of the IP address and displaying local offers or contact data of branches and offices. Appropriate content can also be derived from the information on the device types used, i.e. whether a desktop PC or mobile device is used, or whether it is a new visitor and the click behavior.

Solutions with which parcel or catalogue inserts and mailings can be fully personalised are established in the print sector. This can be based on various data sources, such as customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and recommendation engines. These are software solutions that are integrated into online shops and analyze buyer and user behavior. The results show which products buyers are interested in and which products are likely to be of interest in the future.

The customer and product data is then combined, linked to layout templates in an automatic process, printed digitally and delivered to the recipients - either together with a shipment of goods or in the form of print mailings.

With this method, target group parameters and the advertising material itself are brought into almost 100 percent agreement. (See Figure 3.)

All-personalised creation of advertising material
Figure 3: All-personalised creation of advertising material. The contents of the advertising media are created for specific target groups and personalised, output directly or distributed according to target group parameters. © Melaschuk-Medien


Digitalisation makes it possible to design and deliver advertising media and media channels in a differentiated and highly target group-specific manner.

However, considerable challenges also have to be mastered: The structured setup and regular maintenance of data stocks as well as the intelligent linking of data sources require a relatively high conceptual effort. Then, however, marketing campaigns can be realised that align their messages with the individual recipient.

Competitive advantages are to be expected - through new customer acquisition, customer retention and higher sales.

Editor: Ira Melaschuk
Date: April 17, 2018