Taking It Personally to Make It Personal

How to stop marketing to the masses and start thinking about individual experience.


How many times have you heard this: “Don’t take it personally!”

This directive usually accompanies a statement that is offensive to our colleagues, our alma mater, or some other group we identify with. Such as: “Don’t take it personally, but everyone I’ve met from your law firm is an entitled jerk.”

How can you not take that personally? And why is taking it personally a bad thing? Maybe if we took these comments to heart, we could help effect a positive change.

Freeman President Bob Priest-Heck,

Conversely, as marketers, we urge our people to personalize messages when engaging consumers, without regard to how we might inadvertently offend them by getting it wrong. In a recent study conducted by Forbes Insights, in collaboration with Oracle Marketing Cloud, 38 percent of the marketers and agencies surveyed indicated that they don’t deliver content tailored to specific customer personas. The intention is there, but not the follow through. Case in point — how many email messages have you received that didn’t even get your gender right?

Fortunately, in the world of face-to-face marketing, we can invite a broad spectrum of people (e.g., people who want a new car) and then design experiences that let them self-identify (those who only want a sports car, and only from a specific few manufacturers). That means we have a better opportunity than most to make each experience personal. We do this by thinking about what individuals want out of the experience. And we strive to make it more human, intelligent, thoughtful, interactive and meaningful.

If we’ve learned anything from the internet, it’s that the future is about letting people make their own choices and create their own universe. We can fight the disruption, or we can be the disruption. In experiential marketing, it’s no longer about the one brand speaking to the many. Or even the “many to many,” as on YouTube. It’s about creating opportunities for many people to connect on a one-to-one basis.

When we “take it personally” as content curators, we acknowledge that peoples’ interests, passions and needs are uniquely different. We can then design in various opportunities for people to choose for themselves how and what they experience.

That’s how we get it right. That’s how we make it personal.

Bob Priest-Heck