Designing for Personalization at Scale

Why do healthcare brands need to get so personal?

The phrase “One Size Fits None” gets tossed around a lot these days at Publicis Production in our global work sessions with healthcare clients. It’s a way of reminding ourselves that audiences today, both HCPs and patients, are more demanding than ever about the way they receive messages from brands: on their own terms, not ours!

Gone are the days when we could put aside differences in audience segments or behaviors, large or small, and simply serve up the same brand campaign to everyone. The creative challenge then was (not so simply) to find that one key visual and headline with universal appeal. The “Big Idea” that speaks to everyone.

Not anymore. Personalization is the name of the communications game for modern health brands and with good reason! Today, people expect more from brands than a generic sales pitch. They want us to be useful and serve up information when they need it, where they need it, and in a way that feels relevant to their individual lives, behaviors and preferences. Especially when it comes to their health!

Brands are also finding that when they answer that call, the rewards are well worth the effort.

One McKinsey report estimates that companies that excel at delivering personalization generate 40% more revenue than average. And our Publicis research has shown that personalized digital assets can consistently deliver more than 30% higher rates of in-market performance, including CTR and VTRs.

Of course, it’s one thing to add a physician’s name to a responsive email. But to really make a meaningful business impact, we need to think about driving personalization at scale.


What kind of “scale” are we talking about here?

There are lots of ways to think about scaling up personalization when it comes to healthcare brand marketing, from global campaigns to regionally contextualized digital touchpoints.

The easiest example to consider is perhaps the oldest challenge every global marketer has faced– trying to get a global campaign to be adopted around the world. When core assets in a brand book don’t make it simple for regions to personalize to their local audiences – whether it’s language, visuals, or even approvable or prioritized messages – the campaign goes nowhere.

At the regional level, many brands speak to multiple audience segments, both physician and patient. Whether audiences are from different parts of a country or segments have clearly defined differences in beliefs and behaviors, opportunity abounds to speak with more relevance to each individual. And relevance is the key to driving performance.

There are even opportunities in today’s media touchpoints to incorporate “personalization” in the form of messages tailored to the context of the media itself: the page on which a banner ad appears, or the weather outside when a social media post is discovered.


Sounds complex. Is there a step-by-step design solution?

The good news is, getting more personal in your campaigns doesn’t mean changing your process. It means changing your strategic and creative mindset every step of the way.

There are 5 steps in campaign development with which we are all familiar: Strategy, Creative, Production, Distribution, Measurement. Traditional campaign creative started with a fixed “Big Idea” at the top that trickled down to touch points along the customer journey.

To design for personalization at scale, while the sequence of steps remains the same, the content and delivery at each needs to change. We must embrace the vision of a more dynamic creative execution, with flexibility and opportunity for optimization built in from the start.


Step 1: Gather more, better insights.

If you’re planning a campaign that feels personally relevant, especially if it’s to multiple audiences, then by definition you need more than a broad demographic understanding of those customers. The more insights, the better, to keep campaign thinking not only at a high enough level to have broad relevance, but also with plenty of specific detail for personalization.

Partnering strategic planners, creative teams and media teams to look at behavioral data is one way you can create rich and viable audience personas. Creative briefs can then highlight specific insights around beliefs and behaviors that become points of focus for campaign idea development.


Step 2: Create “Platform Ideas.”

Traditional creative development of “Big Ideas” usually started with the biggest tactic – a professional journal ad or DTC television script. It expressed the brief in a story form that was specific to the singular execution. Adapting that idea to all the other personal and digital media was an afterthought–and often ended up looking that way!

As Jon Lefley, one of our “Power of One” global ECDs puts it, “The starting point for modern brand campaigns isn’t a storyboard anymore. It’s a sharp, simple expression of an idea – a platform idea that creates a compelling framework for individual relevance. I tell my teams. ‘You’re looking for one story we can tell a thousand different ways.’”


Step 3: Design modular assets.

With the perfect Platform Idea in hand, the next step is perhaps the most radically different, at least for creative teams. They are asked to develop assets that are not unique, singular executions, but rather dynamic, flexible constructions built with modular elements.

“If I say ‘templates’,” Jon likes to joke, “teams look at me like it’s the death of creativity. But actually dynamic, modular creative thinking is incredibly exciting and challenging.” It’s about thinking ahead about all the possible variables to create a seamless experience of the idea that can be infinitely varied in its specifics. “Nothing we create with a template should look like it came from a template,” is Jon’s motto.

The goal is to give every execution the Illusion of creativity with the firm guardrails of control to fit brand guidelines. Opportunities for personalization are carefully anticipated and built into the design–from new languages to new visuals to new contextually relevant message variations.

Furthermore, the design must ensure the end products meet regulatory standards for approval. In fact, this new dynamic approach to asset creation requires new ways of working with MLR review in which individual finished assets are replaced by a design template and content matrix. This requires a close partnership between marketing and MLR stakeholders, and benefits from a client champion to help facilitate the change.


Steps 4 & 5: Dynamically execute, distribute, measure, and optimize.

In the final stages of development, these dynamic, modular assets are then produced and distributed with equally dynamic technology. At Publicis Production, we have a global team trained on a wide variety of tools that enable the highest level of scalable, dynamic production and distribution regardless of the medium.

According to our Global Production Strategic Operations Lead, Stephanie Mylam, “Scalability of personalization is only really possible when assets are built on platforms that automate versioning and asset optimization in real time. We’re excited to be leading the industry in proprietary tools and partnerships to deliver this kind of forward thinking innovation.”

When assets exist in these dynamic forms, it’s also easy to add real-time measurement and optimization to every campaign. Not to mention incorporating contextual responsiveness to every creative execution.


Getting more personal doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable.

I can’t imagine a brand marketer who wouldn’t want their communications to feel as relevant as possible to each and every individual they reach. The benefits in terms of media performance and brand growth are clear. But admittedly, a change in thinking around campaign design– from fixed assets to dynamic platform ideas– might take some getting used to. Nevertheless, once you understand that the process you already follow doesn’t change, just the deliverables and creative approach at each step, you can start to map out your brand’s journey to more relevant and successful campaigns ahead.

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