The Gist

  • Dreams and the path. Desire leads to personalized journeys and trajectories, as seen in my this author's own story of buying a Mustang and getting a marketing internship.
  • The evolution. Personalization has been around for decades, evolving from traditional relationship marketing to email marketing and now AI-powered personalization in almost all aspects of life.
  • Three-part series. This series will explore three main components of personalization in retail, digital, and the intersection of dissonance and action.

When I was in high school, I pined for a fast, cool-looking muscle car to be my first vehicle. At age 16, all I could think about was a convertible Ford Mustang — and I was really determined to buy it. My parents, being the traditional people they were said, “Son, if you want this — you need to work for it — that’s how life goes.”

So, I did what any 16-year-old would do — I decided to find a job at a local golf course as I played quite frequently with friends and thought it would be something I would enjoy. (It was.) Sure enough, I saved up the money and was able to buy the Mustang I wanted so desperately.

But what happened next is what would forever alter the course of my life in a personalized way.

An Internship and a Transformation

While working at the golf course — I also was attending classes at a university, specifically for a degree in marketing and advertising strategy. Part of the course curriculum required me to get an internship; and, well, working at a golf course didn’t quite cut it. I gave my notice and told the owner of the course what was going on and he said, “Justin, we loved having you here and hate to see you go — you know, I also work as a general manager of a medical product distribution company — we could use someone like you this summer.”

Eager to upgrade my Mustang, I accepted and spent the summer learning marketing and advertising within the medical space.

Related Article: How Personalized Customer Experiences Help Brands Thrive in a Recession

We All Have Our Personalized Journeys

This story is important to set the stage of this article. We all as humans have our own journeys, personalized to what’s important to us. For me, it was a Mustang convertible — my desire to have that car set me off on my own personalized journey and trajectory. I later accepted a full-time position at the above-mentioned medical products company and spent the next 13 years learning and absorbing as much as a I could, which provided me with the path to that I’m still on today.

The same holds true for consumers today who demand experiences built on AI-powered personalization. Consumers want and demand things in their lives, and marketers and advertisers must provide personalized journeys to help them intuitively find what they want, and ultimately — change the trajectories of their lives. But to do so, requires a little help from our computer conscious friends.

Related Article: 3 Customer Personalization Paths for Brand Growth

Personalization, From the Start

The term personalization is somewhat new, thanks to the vast and wide adoption of technology and AI that allows brands to display products and services that we desire; that being said, personalization has been around for decades and traditionally took on another term, Relationship Marketing.

The ANA (Association of National Advertisers) describes "relationship marketing" as “a strategy of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) that emphasizes customer retention, satisfaction and lifetime customer value. Its purpose is to market to current customers versus new customer acquisition through sales and advertising.”

Learning Opportunities

This holds true, to a point.

At its core, relationship marketing has really always been around. A customer visits your business, purchases a service or product, consumes that service or product, then hopefully if you as a business gave them an exceptional experience — the cycle will repeat. This of course has been prevalent since businesses have been around — however, relationship marketing also made a massive step forward during the 1990s, thanks to the rise of the internet and email marketing.

For the first time in the history of humans walking the Earth, we had digital mail. Advertisers and brands were now able to leverage email as a form of communication with their customers. Want to keep up to date on promotions and discounts? Sign up for our newsletter. Want to receive your receipt digitally? Enter your email address. 

This marked the start of what would eventually revolutionize the way consumers make purchases. Like with any other aspect of human history, technological progress constantly pushes the boundaries of what is possible. As we have seen, our entire lives are now personalized by AI engines that can predict what, when, how and where we will purchase products with great success — but where does it end?

The Current State of Personalization

As of 2023, personalization is ubiquitous, from dating apps to Netflix, creating tailored content, products and journeys based on the actions not only of individual consumers but also of others who share similar traits. 

When breaking down levels of personalization there are three main components that are vital in creating these curated experiences that delight us as customers and have what seem like the uncanny ability to predict what products we want, when we want them and within the channel that makes the most sense for us as customers.

Editor's note: This is the first of three articles. Please check back to read all about personalization’s role in digital in Part 2 and and the intersection of dissonance and action in Part 3. 

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