Meredith Albertson, Tealium – Personalization: The Struggle Is Real

January 16, 2020

Personalization has moved from an industry buzzword to a top priority for most organizations as they strive to put the customer at the center of their business.

Learn from Meredith Albertson, VP Marketing at Tealium, about how to implement personalization in your organization, specifically about how to:

  • Unify data across channels
  • Develop an ongoing personalization practice

Fill out the short form to view the presentation on-demand.

Meredith: (00:00)
Okay. Hi everyone. Welcome to the ObservePoint Virtual Analytics Summit. I really appreciate everyone joining me for this presentation today. My name is Meredith Albertson. I'm the VP of marketing at Tealium. I've been with the team for about four years. I'm actually getting ready to hit my four year anniversary with the company. So very excited about that. But yeah, to set the stage today, my presentation is about personalization, but it's probably not in a tactical way that you may be thinking. I really want to discuss the operational and organizational strategy around personalization. Lots of you watching today are I'm sure getting your hands dirty with personalization strategies at your company on a daily basis. All of us have personalization initiatives taking place at our company. I'd actually be shocked if there was a brand out there not trying to do something with their marketing or their customer data strategy to really help drive personalization.

Meredith: (01:07)
So one of the things I wanted to start off with was this story back from March, 2019. I'm sure a lot of you probably remember this because it was such a big headline, but this is the story of when McDonald's purchased the personalization company Dynamic Yield for I think it was about $300 million. Now I remember when this story broke and I thought I was misreading the headline. I mean I was shocked. The reason I wanted to show you this to you guys is I think that this is just such a great example of how much businesses are really focusing on personalization and the role that is going to play in their future. So consumers today, we all know they are expecting these amazing personalized experiences when they are interacting with brands. They've gotten so used to these personalized experiences that they expect every engagement, every touch point to be super relevant in real time and relevant to where you are in the journey.

Meredith: (02:09)
So let's think about Spotify or Netflix for a minute. You know how they're able to capture your attention and just bring you in. And that's because everything is so personalized. Now, I know you all know this, but I thought that this statistic was really relevant and helps to bring it home. 80% of customers are saying that the actual customer experience that a brand delivers is just as important as the product or the services that the company provides and because consumers feel this strongly about a personalized experience, all of us marketers, all our companies, we all now have these huge personalization initiatives. We're saying personalization, increase revenue, reduce churn, reduce our acquisition and overall increase our efficiency. Personalization is just one of those initiatives that is constantly delivering ROI and that is ultimately resulting in brands and marketing teams trying to do more and more with it.

Meredith: (03:17)
However, as big of a game changer as personalization can be, in all honesty, most companies are just not getting enough out of their data and their tech investments are companies were investing all this money. Yet 68% of our of us are really struggling to actually bring the data and bring the creative and bring the technology altogether and in my opinion this is the true heart of the problem. This is the struggle of personalization. So my goal here today is I want to talk through some of the areas of opportunity that exists within your current organization's infrastructure. Some some opportunities that might help you reduce the struggle, personalization and speed up your process. now I'm not really going to dive into Tealium technology or tools or really the integrations today. Today I want to discuss organizational approaches that are going to help you and your team find success with personalization.

Meredith: (04:23)
So we're really going to hit on three areas. The first one, now I'm sure you guys have heard this statement before. This isn't anything new, but I think this is really important. The first one is the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And this means that it's, it's super easy to focus on our day-to-day to focus on the campaign or the initiative that you have that's right in front of you. Forget about all this complementary channels, all those touch points that you also have that actually touch and impact personalization.

Meredith: (04:57)
If you look at most marketing in consumer experience channels that your company's using, you are probably going to see something like this. Now, depending on your business, you may not have all of these, but you probably have something similar. So you get the picture. Okay. Most marketers actually grew up focused in one of these channels. I would, I would say that a lot of up and coming marketers are doing more work earlier in their careers that are working on cross-functional teams and cross functional campaigns. But a lot of us started our careers in one channel and then as we grew up and progressed in our careers, we actually moved into more omni-channel roles. So all of these different marketing channels actually have some technology or software attached to them that they need to really run and perform.

Meredith: (05:48)
To provide a little bit more context, the average company today is using about 90 different marketing and sales technologies. All these tools, they each have their own database that they're using to to engage with customers. They have their own ways to measure. They have their own ways to drive analytics. They're really, they're really separate. Then as we get further into building out our marketing strategies, we start to connect them in these channels. An example might be where you're connecting your website to your email, you're connecting it to your mobile, your paid search, I would say that this is a fairly basic strategy. But then we started doing a little bit more. We start connecting our CRM system. The CRM team wants to get in the game, so they want to connect the CRM system to their other channels. Now you're seeing here we're getting a little bit more advanced where you see the dotted lines are actually one way connections.

Meredith: (06:41)
The solid lines are two way back and forth connections. We're making determinations in our strategy of how we want the data to flow. Now we're getting even more advanced and we're getting super excited. We're starting to connect our DMP to our call center and our paid media. Now I understand when I show this to you that it looks a little bit crazy. It looks a bit chaotic. You're like this, "Hey Meredith, this is a total exaggeration." You probably think it looks like one of these infomercials use like she opens cabinet. All the Tupperware falls on her head. I mean she really commits to this theme. Look at those feet fly up in the air.

Meredith: (07:20)
This diagram, it does look crazy. It does look chaotic but this is very true for a lot of companies out there. This is actually a very real example of a company in the automotive industry. Even with the setup of these campaigns, the channel team at this company was doing some very successful things and finding a lot of success. They were buying the third-party data. They were enriching their CRM system. They were performing advanced segmentation in their CRM and their paid media. They were doing a lot of great modeling with their paid media. They were performing activation. These were a lot of separate campaigns and separate activities. But it was happening, this is a very well run-based channel organization that was doing some super cool things, but they were doing it all in silos. So if you think about it, we're all doing a lot of sophisticated marketing, which we should all be very proud about, proud of ourselves and proud of the work that we're doing, but we're just often doing this with within our own teams, within our own channels, very focused silos. The unfortunate result of that is this inability to really maximize the value out of these programs because they aren't connected in the different channels, aren't feeling each other. Okay, so this visual, it's really, it's really what I meant by that earlier statement of this section, that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This visual represents what happens when we treat these programs separately and not as one system.

Meredith: (08:59)
So let's take a step back. What if we, what if we tweak this diagram just slightly? Yeah. What if instead of connecting these channels individually campaign by campaign, what if you had a customer data platform, a CDP in the center like Tealium audience streams, orchestrating your data and really driving that first party data strategy. Now you can't just purchase a CDP and plug everything in and go. we would recommend that you start off with a few key channels, make sure that your audiences are working, then connect a few more. You've got to test those audiences out and if something's not working, take a step back and then you test a few more until really you get to this place where all of those different marketing channels are connected. Now, if you think back to that chaotic diagram, we just spent a few minutes looking at all those systems were connected, but in this scenario, the difference here is all of the data is being treated as one comprehensive set of data and not as those individual datasets and silos.

Meredith: (10:05)
Now this one singular comprehensive dataset is your single view of the customer. Now again, previous chaotic diagram, you didn't just have different sets of data. You also had different audiences. You had different broken views of your customer that were simply based on one channel. In this scenario, the data about your users, the data about your customers, it's the same everywhere. Each of those individual channels is now fueling the single dataset and this comprehensive picture. Now this approach is what we call moving your organization to more of an audience-based data organization rather than that channel-based that we were looking at earlier. In this scenario you are now thinking about your customer first. You're treating your data as one comprehensive dataset and as one entity. So I want to take a step out of our day-to-day for a moment and give you an example of someone who I thought did this really well.

Meredith: (11:07)
Now I also realize that by showing you this example, I'm letting you guys in on a secret that I don't share with many people, but I'm now sharing with all of you. But I'd say like say hello, my name is Meredith and I do love all of the Marvel comics movies very, very deeply. So, but I digress. But this is serious. I do want to take a look at this because I think this is an absolutely fantastic example. This is the Marvel Cinematic Universe and this is actually the timeline of all their movies. The men and women at Marvel have obviously been thinking about these stories for a very long time. I think there are like 23 of these Marvel movies out now and it just ended this past year with Avenger's End Game. Now they're starting at the bottom of the screen.

Meredith: (11:55)
You can see Phase Four and now that's where the Marvel world is moving. The reason why I wanted to bring this up is I want to take a look at just how they have been planning this out from the very beginning. So normally if you have a movie franchise and you're building out all these little sub-franchises, you would end up with something that like looks like this. I think you could use DC comics as a great example here of like what they tried to do and how it resulted in a super siloed movie situation. But to tie this all back to personalization, why you're here today, think about Nick Fury as paid media, and Iron Man a CRM, and the Black Widow as social. This is what a siloed organization looks like.

Meredith: (12:44)
But Marvel had this crazy vision, like they coordinated timelines, they coordinated characters and plotlines and villain, all these things. They coordinated across 20 movies and 10 years. I mean, let's be honest, there are days, and I'm in the same building with a lot of my team members most days and I can't get things done. And like these guys built out this huge ecosystem, this huge world of movies. It's just fantastic to take a look at. This integrated strategy didn't result in this siloed Marvel universe. It resulted in this like totally coordinated integrated world. This ecosystem of all these characters that really felt like they belonged together. Marvel treated their data as a single entity and not separate channels.

Meredith: (13:39)
Now you can achieve your own Marvel data strategy. You can get the same immense payoff that they did when you too treat your data as a single entity. So this is really my first recommendation. You have to unify your data in your individual channels. If you do that, each one of those channels will become more powerful in your personalization strategy. Let's talk about the sort of the second area of opportunity within personalization, the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is practice. All right, so like let's talk a little bit about what I mean by that. Normally when we look at personalization, we imagine it with something like this, these different stages of mind. So I want to take just a minute to talk about each one of these stages so we can level set and make sure we're all aligned. A lot of us start with personalization in that far left area, that one to all stage.

Meredith: (14:39)
And this is that moment where you send one email out to everybody. It's the same message. It's a batch process. It's just this blanket marketing strategy approach. Then we move to one-to-many. and this second area is where you start doing some simple filtering. You're dividing some of your groups into smaller groups. They may be divided up by region, age, it's, it's fairly simple. Then you start moving into one-to-some. Your team is probably getting a little bit deeper here. You're combining variables. Maybe you're looking at women over 40 in North Carolina that like cycling. Now this is still a simple rules-based program, but you're seeing how the maturity is progressing. Now you're starting to work a little bit smarter. Now you're starting, your team is now incorporating behavior. You're combining different variables. You're doing more of that collaborative filtering.

Meredith: (15:37)
The next stage is where you start combining channels and really targeting individuals across different mediums. Now, the final stage, this is what we're all striving for. This is when you are super sophisticated, you're able to start targeting individuals and consumers in the moment, targeting them at different times during the day, depending on what they're doing. This is where the magic really starts to happen. Now, the reason I wanted to surface this visual is we all have goals for our personalization practice. We're all trying to become more sophisticated. We're all doing everything we can to try to reach that in-the-moment stage.

Meredith: (16:17)
And we assume that as we mature, as we progress through all of these personalization strategies, that our ROI is going to increase with us. Our assumption is our ROI in each one of these in each one of the step ladder graphic is going to get higher. You do more, you personalize more, you target better, you get higher ROI. That is our assumption. But what I want to do is walk through a couple of examples to see to see if that actual line of thinking is true. This is an example of a sporting brand company doing a global CRM campaign. So in this you can see consistently the company found that with the campaigns as they increase the relevancy, the performance increases. So that's what all the little green dots represent. Each one of those is a CRM campaign. And some of these highly relevant campaigns performed as their highest there yet. So one would naturally walk away from this with the assumption that when a program is highly targeted, and it has a great personalized campaign with it, it's going to result in super high performance.

Meredith: (17:33)
However, you can see in this next example, and now this is a consumer electronics brand, you can see that they are not seeing those same results. This company's highest return actually came in the form of less personalized campaigns. So that's weird. That's going to make want to kind of take a moment and pause and possibly reevaluate and now we're asking ourselves a question like, is it possible that super highly targeted and relevant campaigns maybe don't always result in that high ROI and high performance? As you progress in your personalization journey, as you try to build out this amazing program, it is key that you continue to test your personalization initiatives. You really do really do realize that this is not a program. This is a practice. You have to be willing to test and understand how it's going to work for you and your business individually.

Meredith: (18:35)
This is personalization is not a cut and paste initiative. It is not going to be the same for everyone. So again, we typically in the past when we thought about these stages of personalization and the trend of ROI is up to the right, it's graduating as you go, it looks like this. But in actuality it's more like this. The six stages are really truly an evolution of maturity. They're not necessarily, they're not necessarily built in a way that they have to build on each other. They can actually coexist. The key, the challenge is, you have to find the right mix and the right strategy for your business and products. So let's take a look at just a couple of examples of what that personalization practice might look like in some of these other companies. So let's say you are a retail focused, CPG brands. Your personalization strategy may very well look like this. So you, as you can see on the left, like you're not doing a lot of one-to-one personalization. You as a CPG retail focused company, you're actually finding more success with some of the traditional, broader, less personalized sort of old school strategies.

Meredith: (19:54)
But then we look in a B2B company now you'll see a lot of B2B companies these days are focusing on really individualized marketing, more ABM programs because in a B2B, you're not only moving an individual along, you're often moving an entire organization along as well. Now you can see on the lef in the green, the B2B company is doing a lot of broad outreach that may look like magazine ads or signage or billboards at airports. And then once you as an individual engage, you're then sort of brought into this individualized nurture campaign, and you're moving into the right and to that blue area. I thought that this was just a really great example of sort of how a personalization strategy actually evolved with a customer. The takeaway here is you just can't assume that a sophisticated personalization strategy is always going to result in a higher ROI for your business. There are mixes, there are different variables. You're going to have to find the right strategy and mix that actually works for you. Again, it's not cut and paste. There's not a simple answer and there's not a standard formula. You have to think about your personalization strategy and you have to base it on your business model. Take some time to think about your different products. Think about your different customers, think about your different markets, your regions, what works for one company or why even works for one group of customers doesn't necessarily work for another.

Meredith: (21:25)
So number three, tech and data, and I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news for a lot of people, it's not a silver bullet. It's just not going to be that, that magical thing that's going to fix all of your problems. We tend to think about the money we spend on technology as this investment and unfortunately we assume that if you are spending the money that that is automatically going to result in a payoff by investing in technology. It's not like going shopping in a mall or eating at a nice restaurant where you plop down your credit card and you get this beautiful new sweater or you have this, you know, fantastic meal. So I want to show you this, this diagram. Now, this is a Nationwide. Now this is, you guys can go out and find a ton of these on the internet.

Meredith: (22:13)
These, this was submitted as part of the MarTech Stackie awards. There's tons of these online, which are super cool to look at, see how different companies are approaching their tech and data strategy. But the point I really want to make here is look at how many logos of technology companies are on this diagram. You can see, I think this is a great example of just how complex marketing strategies are becoming when you're buying all these different pieces that you need. But this is how a lot of companies are thinking about their technology and their marketing strategy. But there is one fallacy that I want to call out in all of this. So let's, let's take a look at Ferrari. Now, I'm sure that this is on your wishlist probably or something very much like it if you ever win the lottery. I know that it's on my husband's.

Meredith: (23:06)
It's definitely the first thing he will be buying. I don't want to burst your bubble, but I think that there is a problem with this vehicle that you should actually know about. Statistics actually show that these types of cars are more likely to crash than the the Nissan or the Ford that you're driving. So why is that? You know, these are beautiful well-designed works of the particular art. Wouldn't they have like these amazing safety features that would keep us from crashing. The sad thing is it turns out the problem is actually us. We humans are overestimating our ability and underestimating the complexity of technology. We just believe that the more we pay for technology, like the better we assume it should perform, that it should just work. It's going to be super simple.

Meredith: (24:02)
It's going to be intuitive. But in fact, oftentimes expensive technology is just more complex and it's going to take more time and more investment to actually make it work. You know, companies will go spend $10 million on a new initiative and buying new technology and then they surprisingly only set aside the small amount of money to train this handful of people on the technology and then they expect it's going to work and it's going to deliver all this ROI. But like that, that's just not the case. If we want sophisticated strategies, if we want the sophisticated outcome, they are not only requiring like this investment in technology, but we have to be ready to invest in the training. 62% of companies are saying people and process are the primary issue that's actually preventing their organizations from furthering the performance in these data-driven initiatives.

Meredith: (25:04)
The second part of an investment that's really needed is content. And especially those of you in personalization, you know that this is a pain point. Content and an investment in training are just these two big hurdles that we have to learn. How to overcome along the path of furthering our maturity and furthering our personalization strategies. Now again, let's go back to the the point of this session. Tech and data, not the silver bullet. There are four, at least four major areas that truly impact personalization. As you can see from the screen right now, like tech and data are only a quarter of the circle. There are three other areas that are equally important for your success. People and process, created content, insights and analytics, all play just as big of a role.

Meredith: (26:02)
Evolution by your organization is really what accelerates growth. You must invest in your people. You have to be willing to shift your mindset. Your people must evolve with you in order to accomplish all those goals. But I'm not going to lie to you. Personalization is tough. There's not a simple answer, it's a constant challenge to understand like what today are your customers expecting of you? What are your competitors doing? What is the tech that you've invested in allowing you to do? It is really easy to get stuck in this churn of personalization. It can feel hard a lot of days, but it is super exciting and it can be a lot of fun. If you're willing to try new ideas, try different ideas, be open to experimentation. In all honesty, there is no shortcut. It's complicated. It is a capability that you have to build, that your teams have to build and now your organization has to build. It's a muscle that you have to work out. But if you're honest with your expectations, if you really take all aspects of it seriously, you can build your company's own evolution roadmap and you can map out how you as an organization are truly going to move up the personalization data maturity curve. Most importantly, focus on the why. If you do that, there's a huge chance that you can have your own Avengers End Game moment.

Meredith: (27:37)
I want to thank you guys so much for your time today. I really hope that you enjoyed the presentation. if you're interested in learning more about CDPs, you know, we did talk a little bit about the customer data platform and it's a crazy space out there right now. Please go to We're releasing a brand new report, never been seen before. We're going to give you guys a sneak peak on how organizations buy, implement, and use customer data platforms. This guide is going to help you make sense of this landscape. It's going to, talk to you about how you use a CDP to break down the internal silos that we were talking about earlier and really how do you use this technology to set up your organization for success. Again, please visit Thank you guys again so much. I really enjoyed the time and I hope you enjoyed the rest of the presentations today.

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