The Fine Line Between Personalization and Scamming
By Heidi Tolliver-Walker on June 17th, 2011
I received one of those refinancing letters in the mail today. It was perforated, tri-folded, and looked like some kind of official government document. The outside said, “Homeowner,” but inside, it addressed me by name, the refinance offer reflected my original mortgage, and the letter included a “pre-qualification offer.”
So the inside said, “Personal, relevant information for your home,” but the outside said, “We really wanted the cheap bulk postage rate.”
So which was it? A personalized offer or mass mail? In the end, of course, it was mass mail. We can do that in a data-driven way these days. But the interesting thing was that I looked up the company in a Google search and found lots of rip-off complaints. Not because the company was actually doing anything illegal, but because the perception was that recipients had been duped by personalized letters that weren’t really personal at all.
Basically, the data (from public information sources) was used only to get people to call the 800 number. From there, the information and qualification process began from zero.
For those of us in the printing industry encouraging clients to personalize their documents, this should serve as a warning bell. We can populate data fields in letters and documents using data, but it’s not really the same as personalization. Personalization has, at its core, the sense of relevance. In this case, the relevance was near zero. As a result, no matter how accurate the information, the perception was that it was a rip-off and a scam. The Internet is full of the outrage.
So the moral of the story is that data doesn’t make personalization. Relevance does.