Mobile/Video/Personal: the Beginning of the End of Persona-based Marketing


Posted By: Greg Ness
February 2nd, 2021
5 minute read

We’re not in the late 90’s anymore. It’s time to start treating people as people instead of static personas. And engage people with dynamic (versus static) content powered by video.

Persona was a brilliant concept… pre-1999.

In 1999 the internet was brimming with (static) content and email was all the rage.

The idea of a persona, invented by Angus Jenkinson about 1994, was about five years old.

Eyeballs drove dotcom valuations, at least temporarily.

There were no smartphones. There was no YouTube or TikTok. Just a mushrooming population of websites loaded with hyperlinks.

Within a few years a host of marketing automation and experience platforms emerged that allowed organizations to drive traffic to those websites. Various integrations and new modules allowed for enhanced tracking and automation of manual functions and the emergence of analytics.

That mode of engagement has had quite a run. I was an alpha tester for one of the early platforms, back in 2003. The capabilities (back then) seemed amazing.

Then along came mobile and video and algorithms for driving dynamic personalization of engagement.

Our inboxes have been filling up with unread emails. And that doesn’t even include our spam folders.

The rise of the mobile, video and personal engagement is so powerful we’ve seen consumer tastes and preferences shift almost overnight.

[The shift to mobile video is the convergence of three powerful trends: 1) the rise of streaming video; 2) the rise of smartphones; and, 3) the rise of powerful algorithms for making personal recommendations at massive scale. In 2015 most internet traffic was already video (70% per Cisco). In 2019 there were more than 3 billion smart phone users globally.]

The legacy experience and engagement platforms adjusted with new modules, which created even more complexity and cost. Read my previous blog for a deeper perspective on the digital transformation of mobile engagement: “Next Gen Digital Engagement…

See how a specialty pharma set new engagement records with mobile, even with a small marketing team. Compare those results with the declining email open and click engagement rates over the past five years experienced by pretty much every marketing team.

That has forced many marketers to struggle with mobile via legacy platforms and persona-bound strategies- to offset declining click-through rates and weakening “intent” signals. Ask any agency exec about the future of email and static web content in this onslaught of next gen engagement (including third party platforms) and shifting consumer preferences. I’ve already heard the answer.

Using persona-bound strategies for mobile can be disastrous if not done carefully.

If mobile isn’t personal it’s brand kryptonite.

Consumers can be quickly alienated by intrusive, irrelevant “personification.”

Sites like YouTube and TikTok are generating personal engagement with powerful algorithms delivering highly personal content recommendations. The algorithms aren’t perfect, but as you engage the recommendations get even better.

The winners have embraced digital, mobile and personal so powerfully that I’m convinced they’re taking engagement/experience share from the various legacy (complex, costly, cumbersome) engagement platforms.

TikTok has about a billion monthly users, up from 680M in 2018.

As email click rates decline, video engagement is exploding.

The future is happening now, and it isn’t about personas and email anymore. It’s about dynamic personalization, video and mobile. Experiences and engagement are now being built with data, not static webpages populated with massive sets of hyperlinks.

There is no new module option for the leading platforms (augmented by high external or specialized skill support costs).

There will still be email and static pages. But they will be less effective over time as audience preferences continue to shift.

The way forward is purpose-built for this new age, just like the rise of persona-driven architectures was… in 1999.

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