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The Other Side of Personalization in Marketing


When I first logged into my new Spool email address, I had over 2,000 unread messages. As someone who never has more than 5 unread at a time, I felt it necessary to make one of my first tasks as the newest Spool intern to unclog the inbox. Most of the messages could be deleted, as they had accumulated between the time Spool’s summer intern Taylor had signed out of the account and I had signed in. However, as the number dwindled, I came upon more recent industry updates delivered by various daily briefs and media monitors. I decided to read all of the ones postmarked more recently than the new year, as these current trends would help inform my jump into the world of agency PR, communications, and every other asset of marketing Spool covers. Going through, one specific story caught my eye: “The 2019 Marketing Word of the Year.”

Personalization. ANA, the Association of National Advertisers, had deemed this word the most relevant one in the last 365 days. I could not agree more.

Everywhere I look, search, and shop online, I am bombarded with messages directed to the singular target of me, myself, and I (or at least it feels this way). Most fit me as well as a horoscope - blanket statements that I automatically pick and choose between to find the ones that match my present state. But, some actually do feel as if they are targeting my previous history and current interests. It’s nice to feel as if the big brand truly cares about little me as a consumer, even if it is based on data I am willingly (unwillingly?) supplying.

Personalization became the word of the year when 341 votes from ANA members were cast. Most of the rational given for choosing personalization followed my thought process above:

  • A “customer expects that your brand knows them and can deliver what they want”

  • “It’s all about relevancy, aka personalization”

  • “If we assume all customers are the same, then we are not meeting their needs”

  • Personalization “provides the ability to speak directly to the consumer or shopper with the right message, at the right time, in the right medium

But, as I wrap up my first month at Spool (wow that went fast!), I feel as if personalization has a larger meaning in the marketing industry. Personalization is more than just a customer’s feelings of fulfilled wants and desires attributed to a targeted campaign. It’s also the (in my opinion, ideal) way an agency interacts with its clients.

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My first few weeks at Spool have been chalk-full of learning. I learned what a media list is and created one for niche publications in both location and category. I can name almost 50 awards for PR and marketing agencies of all shapes and sizes that I hope Spool will one day win. I’ve also worked a little with Influencers, though this world is still quite new to me.

I have also seen and learned the importance of a personalized agency-client relationship. This sounds like it should be common practice, but I know this one-size-definitely-does-not-fit-all approach is unique to the team here at Spool. For the same reasons that consumers crave and cherish the “me, me, me” sensation, brands ask agencies to know their ins and outs, catering specifically to them and their needs. I have seen Spool take this idea and run (no, sprint) with it, applying it to every nook and cranny of the agency.

Templates and examples are told to be used with a grain of salt, as what has worked for one client in the past is explicitly stated to not always work for another in the present. No two conference calls sound the same, no two emails look alike, no two meetings are identical. I have been put on tasks to create documents and begin work the brand does not even know it needs yet, but is asking to begin a week later. While it is definitely not the easy way out, this method shows dedication, care, and genuine respect for each brand and the individuals working to support it that so powerfully helps to strengthen relationships and work in the best possible ways. It is these little things and more that show how hard Spool works to create a unique partnership with each brand stemming from personalized client understanding and work.

If I ended my internship right now (which I very much do not wish to do), the number one lesson I would walk away with is the necessity of personalization in work, communication, and relationship building. This intangible skill is one I am thankful to Spool for teaching me, and one I know will influence the way I work with future clients and co-workers. I know I am going to learn many more essential work and life lessons from the amazing Spoolers I have met and those I am soon to connect with. I cannot wait for these moments and to continue working at Spool!

Gracie Aaronson is a senior studying Communications at Northwestern University