Consider a brand you love. You likely find value in the brand’s products. But the brand’s products alone probably aren’t why you feel a deep affinity. The source of your brand affinity is more intangible—it’s the sum total of your experience with the brand. It’s how the brand talks to you in ways that fit with what you want or need in the moment. It’s all the ways you touch the brand in your daily life. Marketers with the world’s leading brands all aspire to connect with you, the consumer, in this way. But most of these marketers don’t achieve their goal. If you’re a marketer, you probably know why. There are formidable obstacles on the road toward achieving a seamless customer experience across all touch points. Even when you have data about your customer’s wants and needs in the moment, can you act on these opportunities at scale, and reach individual customers in the way that resonates best? Very few companies can. In fact, in a recent review of 100 email campaigns from well-known brands, Forrester Research (a market research company that focuses on technology) gave a failing score to 90 of them. Let’s look at a few companies who are achieving a highly personalized customer experience–and building brand love as a result. We’ll focus on email personalization because email is one of the most important customer touch points. To personalize an email is to dynamically tailor it to the wants and needs of the individual. Personalization goes far beyond showing a person’s first name in an email—the entire experience of the message is assembled to be highly relevant for that person. Who’s Doing Email Personalization Right? Spotify delights listeners with highly personalized artist and song recommendation emails. By applying their deep understanding of a customer’s listening habits and the musical preferences of others in the customer’s network, Spotify is able to dynamically send emails that tell you about an artist just as the artist is getting hot, or emails that suggest the perfect high-energy song just before you’re putting on your headphones for your morning workout. eBay sends emails with real-time, personalized offers selected by a machine-learning model. As described in the eBay case study, eBay now even uses open-time rendering of email content so that product recommendations are personal and relevant based on the latest customer activity and product availability data. So if you browse a Nikon camera on eBay.com, you may see that same camera when you open an email from eBay, even if your camera browsing took place after the email was originally sent. Airbnb impresses me with the way they know where I want to stay and what I might want to do for fun. On the last night of my stay at an Airbnb in Denver, I received an email asking if I might consider extending my stay (I did). When I was back in San Francisco and considering my weekend plans, I got an email entitled “Your Weekend” with tailored suggestions of great activities (I went for the wine tasting at The Perennial). By attuning their email offers to where I am and what I’m doing, Airbnb naturally weaves their brand into my life. In part 2 of this series, we’ll explore the common approach and strategies among Spotify, eBay, Airbnb, and other sophisticated brands who are on the leading edge of personalization.