A Little Too Much Relevance Sometimes?

By | January 29, 2013

I read an interesting write-up from MediaPost entitled “Targeted Serendipity: Thinking Harder About Relevance.” It makes an interesting point. What happens when relevance becomes so narrow that it stops taking advantage of customers’ desire for discovery?

For example, just because someone has taken a vacation to France every year for the past 10 years doesn’t mean they never want to go anywhere else. In fact, maybe this is the year they’ve gotten their fill of French culture, the French countryside, and French food and would welcome a related (or even totally unrelated) suggestion.

By over-targeting, the article suggests, we can actually limit sales opportunities by forcing our audience into an overly narrow profile or assumed set of behaviors.

It’s an interesting conundrum for marketers and PSPs offering 1:1 printing. People like relevant information. But they like serendipity and the process of discovery, too. The question is how to create effective print and electronic media communications that take advantage of both?

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3 thoughts on “A Little Too Much Relevance Sometimes?

  1. Stan Najmr

    I want to be over-targeted! Amazon.com, iTunes, Vistaprint and many others do excellent job. They create your profile, watch it, and enhance it. If you work with them just a little bit they will actually help you to discover products or events you would normally miss in your busy life.

    Compare this to a large printer near Boston. They gave me a tour and I gave them a large job. Last time I heard from them was almost a year ago, they sent me some information about increased postage coming up soon for USPS.

    Compare this to a large catalog seller. They publish catalog and they also have a web page. You can order over the internet or just call them. Problem is that their prices for individual items are different. Sometimes internet listed product is cheaper than the same product in the catalog and if you call you will be told that they change prices faster on the net than in the catalog. Where do you think this catalog will go?

    Looking around only very few do what they said they will do and almost nobody knows what is actually going on once they decide to communicate with prospects or existing customers. I want them to know more about me so I do not waste my time on offers I am not interested in. I want them to watch me so I do not slip into obsolescence with my equipment, my software or my services. I have no problem with giving them information they need but I expect them to treat me with respect and use their tools to save my time.

    Printing companies have a long way to go before they should worry about over-targeting.

    Wake them up, Heidi!

  2. Evans Graphics

    I’ve often heard the argument that rather than increasing education the Internet is having this effect by channeling users into narrow silos. People who get their news from websites rather than newspapers miss that experience of reading a broad summary of everything where they might see something new that they hadn’t considered.

    So, some people say this but it doesn’t reflect my experience of the websites that I like to use the most. If a site is narrow I might visit it once, when I need that specific thing. But as Stan says there are sites that are really good at suggesting new directions. When I have time and I’m feeling musical there’s nothing I like more than one of those long Youtube journies where you can cross all genres of music and inevitably end up miles from where you started.

    It’s not easy to see how a print company, or any nice supplier, can achieve that or whether users actually want them to.

  3. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    Certainly they cannot replicate a YouTube experience, but by helping their customers make use of the information they have (and add to it), they can certainly help them tailor communications on a demographics-relevant basis, and even completely personalized basis if they have the IT/database staff or relationships with companies who do. I don’t think the question is, “Can print companies do what online companies do?” I think it’s how they take that general model of personalized contacts and recommendations and apply it to the world of direct marketing and fundraising. It’s not going to be a direct application, but an application of the concepts in a way that complements the medium. Clearly, nonprofits do this extremely well.

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