Personalization perils of AI: Don't freak out your audience.

Personalization perils of AI: Don’t freak out your audience.

By Andy Seibert

April 17, 2024
A focus on relevance will help your personalized marketing efforts realize their potential

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is putting personalization within reach for more businesses than ever before. More companies have access — whether direct or indirect — to more data on audience preferences, and AI will help them find new ways to use it. Where will be the line between delighting those audiences and giving them the heebie-jeebies?


Audiences’ AI fears often are rooted in privacy concerns, but they’re not the only ones. These fears could soon drive marketers to throw in the towel on personalization, according to recent Gartner research: “By 2025, 80% of marketers who have invested in personalization will abandon their efforts due to lack of ROI, the perils of customer data management or both.”

Our recommendation: Instead of focusing on “personalization” as such, focus on relevance. If you increase relevance, you increase engagement. You want people to think “this was made for me” and/or “this came at just the right time.” How do you do this?

What freaks people out

The first step is knowing what not to do — and that is to over-index in programmatic and/or targeted advertising. These tactics have real power but can get creepy fast if overdone.

Recent research found that “advertisements that follow you across devices” are seen as creepy by 56 percent or more of all U.S. adults. Even more adults — 63% or more — find advertisements from companies they don’t know that are based on location data creepy.

AI has made it easy to get in front of your audience, just remember to use programmatic and targeted ads judiciously.

The timeless power of mastering relevance

The most effective content gives audiences the impression they found, learned or discovered something. This is where AI and classic marketing tactics can work together.

1. Update your strategy, paying particular attention to the customer journey. Without a comprehensive journey map, your odds of delivering relevant content are about as good as a blindfolded dart player hitting a bullseye.

2. Map your existing content — and all new content — to that journey. This way the AI tool(s) know what content to guide them to next.

3. Capture as much clean data as you can. Obviously adhere to strict legal and ethical bounds, but the more you can record about your audiences’ behavior (e.g. which emails they opened, which webinars they attended) and preferences (e.g. which social posts got the most comments, which topics consistently see the most engagement) the more helpful AI can be.

4. Use that data to make sure your audiences are seeing the content they care about most. By taking this approach, you all but guarantee a seamless and satisfying experience by having relevant content waiting at every turn. This can take the form of a single newsletter that includes different content for different segments, improved related content modules, and customized CTAs — just to name a few.

In some cases this work will be automated, in other cases you’ll work “offline” with an LLM to develop options you can deploy via your CMS. Either way, the data is not front and center — the most relevant content is.

We’re here to help 

We’d love to learn about your team’s personalization efforts and goals, and how we can help. Please reach out to us at or fill out our contact form here.

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