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22 December 2023

Your personalised emails are creepy

It might seem like a lot of fuss over a data field, but trust me, no one wants to be thought of as a creepy marketer.
Your personalised emails are creepy

Earlier this morning, I came across an interesting post on TikTok by the creator @jaskaransainiz.


Firstly, the post was a carousel, which in and of itself, I thought was interesting for TikTok. Usually, you would clearly associate TikTok with video content and think carousel content is more fitting with Instagram, Facebook or even LinkedIn.


Despite this, the carousel post caught my attention, stopping my ‘doom scroll’ and my head was bopping to West Christmas Kanye x Wham (sorry reader, you just failed Whamageddon). This is definitely something any social media executives or managers reading this should make a note of.


The first carousel said “People don’t like to buy from over-personalised Ads. They’re creepy. I know marketers want to use AI, but Embryo’s market research and many others share; If Ads are too accurate, people will creep out.”


Immediately I was on edge. After spending years building automated email journeys in previous in-house roles, I began to sweat. Were my personalised email templates creepy?


I hastily headed over to slack to ask the team what they thought.



Here’s what their immediate reactions were:


“Yeah first name and an update is more than enough. Otherwise it is creepy.” – Harry Martin, Digital Marketing Executive (Doesn’t like apple crumble)


“Personally I think first name + sending me an update on a product or service that they have a reason to believe I'm interested in, is a good start. So basically getting the audience segmentation right.” – James Harbottle, Digital Marketing Manager (Doesn’t mind a bit of apple crumble)


“I’m a bit indifferent one way or the other. It can be a nice touch, but I wouldn’t be more likely to purchase something just because they use my name - the content of the email is more important!” – Lucy Taylor, Client Growth Manager (Does indeed like apple crumble but won’t buy just because you used her name)


A second bead of sweat ran down my forehead. I’ve included a lot more than just first name data fields in previous email templates. Am I actually a creepy marketer? Surely not, maybe the team just needs more context.


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“I think there is nuance by sector, looking at that example I'd be pretty happy that I'd been to the gym 16 times in the first month, but if I'd been twice, I probably wouldn't want to be reminded I'm wasting my money (Not sure it would serve as a motivator - but everyone is different!)


I guess the answer is that it depends on the sector and thinking about how the different outcomes of reading the communication will make the customer/prospect feel, maybe getting some second opinions when putting together the journey if that makes sense. Everyone is different so it's not going to suit everyone, best to resonate with as many as possible. My take on it!” – James


Phew! Maybe I’m not a creep after all? Let’s take James’ advice and get a second opinion.


“I think it depends on how I've engaged with the company before. If it's a random company, name is ok because that's public info, but if it's anything like "we see you've been looking at this" or "here's some things you might like" I think you'd be a bit creeped out if you didn't understand how they've got that info about you.” – Samantha Smith, Senior Digital Marketing Manager (does not like apple crumble)


I totally agree with James. It's quite subjective and it can differ from Industry to Industry.” – Purva Sheth, Digital Marketing Manager (Tried apple crumble once, likes it)


I wiped my brow; maybe I’m not a creepy marketer after all. But, I should take care to understand my audiences needs and wants when creating email marketing campaigns in new industries.


The team were cooking, I had a lightbulb moment that this might make a good blog and then, the flood gates really opened.


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Bespoke content for sales leads to improve revenue.

James highlighted that when used effectively personalised email content can help you build a valuable relationship with your target audience. Personalised email copy utilising data allows you to send them relevant products without annoying them with unrelated and unwanted products.


“On the subject of email and personalisation, in my previous job we had a Klaviyo email plugin for Shopify.


I didn't use if for long but you could tailor it to send bespoke email to segmented groups based on the stage they were at in the funnel. I'm pretty sure it used AI to select which products people would be most likely to need at which particular time in the day/week/month/year and automatically personalise it to them as a one off, with follow ups. It used to do pretty well in terms of revenue.


I'm sure there are multiple platforms that will do this and more now. (For this type of product, people really appreciated the fact that you had all their data (Car - Make/Model/Year/Variant), so you didn't waste their time sending them emails about products for all other vehicles.” James


Product recommendations & the customer journey

On the other hand, Samuel highlighted that the effectiveness of personalised email content depends on how much the customer already knows about you.


I'm not bothered that amazon sends me obviously tailored recommendations - but at the same time I do insta-delete those so it’s not like I'm engaging with it.


As a bonus: I find a lot of "more you might like" style things (email, product pages) a bit worthless. Unless it’s a store I’m completely new to, the chances are it’s serving up things I've already seen/know about when actually I’d be far more interested in things that are new or which I don’t know about.” – Samuel Skinner, Creative Lead. (Likes apple crumble)


Treat emails like a face-to-face conversation

This all got me thinking. The way we communicate in with audience in email should be similar to how we would speak to them in person.


“The conversations I'd have with my doctor would be very different to the conversations I'd have with my barber back in the day and the conversations I'd have my barber would be very different to the conversations I might have with someone in a shop when I'm buying stuff.  I expect my doctor to know my name and a lot more about me, I expect my barber to remember my name too, but I’d be a bit creeped out if a supermarket worker I’d never met before called me by my first name. And so, any email content speaking to different audiences should be different too.” – Me (I like my apple crumble with Bird’s custard)

As always, there’s no black and white answer to this marketing question. Personalised content in email marketing is a tight rope act of respecting your audiences’ boundaries whilst providing useful content that adds value without them feeling like you’ve invaded their privacy.


Our recommendation would be to carefully research your target audience, analyse your competitor's activity and err on the side of caution if in doubt. It might seem like a lot of fuss over a data field, but trust me, no one wants to be thought of as a creepy marketer.

22 December 2023
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