Editors note: This blog post originally appeared on the Mad Marketer website and was re-posted here with the permission of the author and Mad Marketer team.
Recently, the New York Yankees, formerly noted for their traditional team uniforms and specific grooming code, which since the early ’70s has included a no facial hair policy, have started loosening up their upper lips. That is, they’ve joined the #stachesquad, an Instagram hashtag that has gone viral after prominent Yankees players started posting pictures of their newly grown whiskers.
In terms of branding, it’s not that the Yanks have gone full-on lumbersexual—defined by MacMillan as “a man who wears outdoor-type clothes, such as plaid shirts, jeans and boots, and has a beard, but lives a modern, urban lifestyle”—but they do seem to be expressing themselves more freely these days. Even though they have been wearing the same uniform since 1917, lately they seem to have eschewed their famous “Pride, Power and Pinstripes” motto for a freer marketing approach, at least individually, by adopting distinctive bristles.
Baseball, like marketing, is a team sport that is driven by collaboration and consistent deployment. As well, marketing has typically sought to attract consumers to a common idea and fuel the cult of personality. But in this new age of advertising, where companies have access to big data, which allows them to personalize marketing campaigns and appeal to specific tastes, individuality is starting to reign. Consumers are beginning to demand personalization from brands. A recent survey on online shopping behavior by IBM found that nearly 50 percent of consumers prefer on-demand personalized online promotions, rather than universal campaigns.
Other facts found by the poll include:
- 60 percent of shoppers want to know if an item is in stock before going to the store
- 48 percent value personalized communication with online retailers
- 36 percent prefer delivery of online purchases to store purchase or pickup
These figures indicate that consumers are putting themselves first when it comes to retail. To respond in kind, companies have to cater to these expectations by approaching buyers as entities not groups. In February, Forbes partnered with Gravity.com to customize content suggestions for readers in their Promoted Stories section. According to the money magazine, the intent is to boost user engagement through Gravity’s software, which determines reader preferences and delivers suitable content.
Last year, Travelocity launched a Twitter campaign asking users to name their dream vacation destinations with the #IWannaGo hashtag to win a trip. The brand, in turn, added over 34,000 new followers. Also, an IBM/eConsultancy study revealed this month that only 35 percent of consumers find communications from their favorite brands to be relevant, and four out of five believe brands don’t understand them as individuals. Years ago, personalized marketing would have been a pipe dream but, nowadays, technology like Gravity and HubSpot allows brands to target their promotions to the needs and aspirations of their consumers, making personalization a reality.
So what lesson can we learn from the New York Yankees?
Although brands need to retain their uniqueness and core belief system, they also must connect with buyers according to individual personalities, rather than generalities. Consumers, as stated by a new survey, are wary of allowing brands to gather unlimited amounts of data about them, yet, at the same time, they will share information with brands they trust to get personalized ads and content.
In the end, marketers need to respond first to the brand’s objectives and, second, to consumers expectations. As data collection becomes more expansive, so does the ability of consumers to opt out by turning off tracking technology. Software like Experian Marketing Services allows marketers to tap into Mosaic Global’s 10 distinct groups, which share common characteristics, motivations and consumer preferences, providing enhanced data about what motivates consumer lifestyles and priorities. In turn, marketers can create campaigns that help brands knock it out of the park every time.
Mark A. Lugris originally wanted to be a photographer and was even accepted into UConn’s Fine Arts program, but after realizing that writing was where his heart lay, he packed up his Pentax and opted to major in English and Creative Writing. A life-long pop culture junkie, Mark is quick to quote everything from “Seinfeld” to “The Sopranos.” He also has a fascination with mid-century design, which he explores in his blog. After newspaper stints in Connecticut and Massachusetts, Mark headed overseas, where he lived in Spain and Switzerland for 14 years. Honing his writing skills at PopGuide, a travel and lifestyle magazine in English and German he founded, and as a PR/Communications Manager at Swarovski, Mark returned stateside after realizing he could no longer live without New Haven-style pizza. Follow him @Mark_Lugris