Since 2014, the Association of National Advertisers surveyed its members to identify the marketing word of the year and the 2019 winner is “Personalization.”

As in years past, the ANA staff identifies a list of finalists and then asks members to cast their vote to determine the winner. This year, voting was done online during the week of November 18, with 341 ANA members participating.

Representative verbatim comments voters included:

  • Personalization is what customers expect. Every current and prospective customer expects that your brand knows them and can deliver what they want.
  • Consumers are busy. Too busy to invest time with anything that’s not relevant to them personally. It’s all about relevancy, aka personalization. “Make it all about me.”
  • We now have the tools to pay off this benefit. Technology is enabling marketers to personalize consumer experiences and communication.
  • In today’s world of “me,” personalization is how people want to consume information. Experiences need to be relevant and unique to the end user at nearly every interaction.
  • We’re all striving to show value to customers in a way that’s relevant to them. Technology is changing the way marketers are able to do so, and we’re all united by our efforts to showcase personalization.
  • As marketers, we can no longer think about customers as just a single large group. If we assume all customers are the same, then we are not meeting their needs.
  • Personalization is the holy grail of brand marketing. It provides the ability to speak directly to the consumer or shopper with the right message, at the right time, in the right medium.

Other top choices in the ANA 2019 Marketing Word of the Year voting were “equality and inclusion,” “data,” and “in-house.”

According to the ANA’s Marketing Knowledge Center (MKC) “Ask the Expert” service, member questions on personalization started to pick up in 2018 and accelerated in 2019. The MKC “Ask the Experts” team issued a report on personalization in mid-2019 that included these highlights:

  • Over half of consumers expect companies to know their buying habits and anticipate their needs.
  • Half of marketers plan to increase investments in personalization technology.
  • One report participant identified personalization as the most important marketing trend of this century.

Despite the promise of personalization, marketers should use caution with their personalization strategies and tactics. Per the MKC “Ask the Expert” report, there is data suggesting consumers can be underwhelmed by marketing efforts to personalize interactions, and there is a perspective that more personalization does not necessarily provide a better experience. There is some consumer skepticism, lack of understanding, and even mistrust over the use of data for marketing purposes.

Nonetheless, personalization presents significant opportunities for marketers to deliver more relevant communications and experiences for consumers and customers.

Note that personalization also aligns with the work of the ANA CMO Masters Circle. “Brand, creativity, and experience” is one of the 12 leadership agenda items of the Masters Circle and increasingly marketers are personalizing creative work and customer experiences.

Previous ANA marketing words of the year included:

  • Brand Purpose (2018)
  • Artificial Intelligence (2017)
  • Transparency (2016)
  • Content Marketing (2015)
  • Programmatic (2014).

The ANA (Association of National Advertisers)’s mission is to drive growth for marketing professionals, for brands and businesses, and for the industry.

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