Managing Digital Personalization


In 1991 a presentation was given by T. Knoster, where he presented a matrix for operational change.  The audience was The Association for Severely Handicap (TASH) Conference; not marketing, not private business.  Below you can see his structure and how simply it illustrates key components of affecting organizational change.



Having been involved in growing agencies and working with evolving brands since my entrance into digital marketing, this complex change model has always been in the back of my mind.  I often refer to it both as reference and as inspiration.

I began to think about how this simple and illustrative model could be used for complex digital change and achieving the marketing goals brands are facing in today’s market. When I speak with my clients about solving their Customer Experience and Transformational needs I always start with a simple message: marketing tools aren’t solving problems, humans are solving problems with marketing tools.  The 2015 ChiefMartec graphic of the Marketing Tool Landscape then becomes even more daunting, not only because the landscape is vast, but because it represents only one facet of what is needed to achieve the promise of digital excellence and personalization the market is demanding.


Personalization appears daunting to marketers because it is complex and requires more steps and more effort than traditional ‘set it and forget it’ marketing models.  Direct mail, billboards, radio ads and other traditional models benefited from the ability to segment the message, but it remained consistent across the segment.  Perhaps a brand had two or three different radio ads, broken out by station/segment or audience type, but this remained about as complex as a targeted message got. The fact is that digital personalization has a series of requirements in order to become realized.  An omission of any one of nullifies the personalization promise and instead delivers a different result. Below is an adapted model focused on Managing Digital Personalization.

Jason Fields Managing Digital Personalization

Though simplistic in its design the model remains valuable in identifying the importance of having each of the components.  It does so my calling attention to the result of omitting each one. Often times we think we can streamline or come up with a ‘creative solution’ to a challenge where time, money or skills are being used as a constraint for planning.  In the end, there are always minimums which need to be achieved in order to make a plan come to life.  And digital personalization is no different. To ensure I am being as articulate as possible, I offer the following notes on each of the different facets in the model.


These are the actions and behaviors that if we can monitor act as a prompt a decision on our part. In a brick and mortar it might be things like: opening the door, looking at a price tag, coming in with coupons, approaching the check out desk, having an empty drink.  Digitally we can suss out similar actions and use them to decision on, such as: arriving from a partner URL, search engine, adding something to a cart, not having been to our site in a certain amount of time, being logged in, not being logged in etc…

Variable Content

First off the definition of content – “the things that are held or included in something.”

This is pretty broad, but we need that because variable content is not just related to having versions of the same thing (think translation or imagery based on region of the country) but also is moving content within the visual layout so the right kind of content is prominent. Customer service in person is simpler, largely because as humans, we are able to make near real time decisions on how we assist our customers.  If someone is struggling to reach something on a shelf, we help them.  When someone is checking out, we offer them the frequency card.  In digital, those same decisions need to be made and the content to communicate the meaning needs to be created. Additionally, we need to administrate the content in a digital tool.  It’s more complex and more time consuming. Like transcribing a customer service training manual to a digital playbook.

Tool Skills

Pretty straight forward.  Know how to push the buttons to make it work.  With a digital tool landscape that is growing each month, choosing the tools are important, but so is assuring you have people who can learn them, manage them and affect change within them.

Conversion Points

Conversion by definition is the act of moving someone through a process of converting.  Though a lot of heat in marketing is put on the most attractive conversion point (SALE) there are micro-conversions throughout the process.  Personalization is about a singularly impactful conversion, but about creating the appropriate movement towards the macro-conversion.  Spending time ideating on the various levels of conversion will help in making your personalization more impactful, and more easily expanded upon.


Personalization is a fun concept that can drive real results for your business. However, without knowing what those results should be and tracking how the program is running, there is no way to prove it and thus evolve the program itself.  And measurement isn’t just about a CYA (cover your ass) activity with higher ups, measurement should be informing the programs growth and maturity.  Once you have measurement as part of the program you can move from ‘planning to measure’ to ‘measuring to plan’ which is a major shift for many groups.

The Results

The omission of any one of these pillars becomes problematic for either the resources inside a brand or the consumers of the brand.  Neither of which we want to have to fight through.  There are many steps inside each one of these components to managing digital personalization.  Before rushing to a process that appears to make strides towards personalization in your own company, ensure you have the ability to execute each one of these gears.  Assured success depends on it, if not, you can see where you will arrive…

Want to know more about how Agency Oasis can assist you in creating a Personalization Strategy? Just let us know!

Feel free to download the ‘Managing Digital Personalization’ PDF or ‘Managing Digital Personalization’ JPG  and share it with your colleagues and network!