To anyone working in marketing, it won’t be news that the digital economy has changed how we all behave, and has altered the expectations of our customers accordingly. We all want recognition and relevance – for companies to be where we are, to understand our individual contexts, to offer things we each value in exchange for our time and attention, and for our journeys to be seamless – no matter where, when or how we engage.

At last week’s highly successful Merkle European Marketing Summit, held in Barcelona for the first time, this issue of addressability at scale was very high on the agenda of priorities for our executive guests. Unsurprisingly – since it’s such a key driver of competitive disruption in the marketplace. For the uninitiated, addressability at scale translates as allowing brands to better connect with individuals to create competitive advantage by delivering more targeted, personalized experiences to consumers – answering the needs described above.

But what does this mean, in practice? In the past, the best that organisations could do in terms of marketing was to segment customers – to create broad or narrow tranches containing thousands or even millions of supposedly lookalike individuals, who in theory should respond to the same messages. There are lots of potential examples out there to illustrate the imperfections of this method, but here’s just one…

A common segmentation strategy works as follows:

Segment by age – ok, here are two individuals who are both 53 years old.

Segment by gender – fine, they’re both male.

Segment by assets – both own extensive property portfolios and have assets worth millions – high net worth, tick.

What other factors you’re able to segment by will depend on your organisation, but to take a travel example – an airline might look at travel frequency. This segment flies extensively, so into the same pot both these men still go – to both now receive the same style of communications, the same treatment if they were to call, the same messaging… Segmentation strategy complete.

Except that one of these men is Johnny Depp. And the other is Prince Edward.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot imagine these two individuals responding the same way to comms…

Segmentation was always a rough and imperfect measure. David Williams, in his keynote speech in Barcelona, showed how Merkle aims to make things different with this very effective image:


People-based marketing goes far beyond the fuzziness of segmentation – targeting real individuals based on numerous different elements that we know about them – taking each customer’s preferences into account, enabling seamless journeys, truly leveraging the power of customer knowledge. This builds incredibly strong brand connections and thus increases business value – by making millions of customers feel like one in a million.

The value of marketing to known individuals, though, can only be realised if we get three things right –

  1. Identifying to whom we wish to speak, or knowing exactly who is speaking to us (in other words the outbound targeting and the start of the outbound and inbound decisioning process)
  2. What we want to say (messaging and comms to fuel decisioning treatments accordingly)
  3. How we are performing (measurement and optimisation).
    This being the case, it’s not surprising that data is the fuel to competitive advantage in the new digital economy, and it’s at the absolute core of how Merkle powers our people-based marketing strategy for our clients – enabling tech, analytics and a common data platform to deliver outstanding customer experiences.

A connected and addressable world requires an integrated approach in order to optimise customer value, and the European summit showed clearly that this is where we excel – with presentations from a huge range of major clients across a spectrum of industries, all focused on one goal: marketing to real people, not proxies, treating people as individuals, not as a clump of demographic information. Throughout the summit, our clients shared their struggles and their successes – and the (often unsolicited) feedback showed how inspiring this was for our attendees, who left with new ideas and new energy. After all, Merkle has been built to accelerate the ability to make these exciting transformations in capability happen for our clients – and we do it at scale, for some of the best brands in the world.

If you’d like to join us at our next summit, do drop Charlotte Joseph an email, and we’ll let you know how you can sign up to our regular events – sharing knowledge, networking, and learning from the best in the industry.

Iain Levein

Managing Director (UK)

Iain is currently a Director at Comet Global Consulting. He joined Comet in 2010, following a 10 year career at Chordiant Software, in which he occupied senior roles initially in Consultancy Management then as Client Executive responsible for the overall relationship including the enterprise sales activity with a number of major accounts such as BSkyB, RBS, Barclays, and Elisa. He achieved considerable enterprise sales success across the Chordiant suite and in-particular the market leading Decision Management solution that delivered many tens of millions of pounds of business benefit to his clients.

Iain’s real passion is ensuring that clients leverage their investment in IT solutions to optimise the value obtained from each and every interaction they have with their customers. When not in the office, Iain can be found on the golf course – his second passion in life.