Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Power of Personalization in Customer Loyalty - Airtel does it right

As I swung my car into the driveway, our security guard ran up to hand me a thick manila envelope that had arrived by courier.

I drew out a red cover on which was printed – “Wishing you a Happy New Year”. Inside was a desk calendar. The first leaf had the calendar month of April 2010. It had the image of a neon light, on the front facade of a cinema house, with the words – “Now showing Guru. Premier Tonight. Azra Fathima in a Leading Role.”

“What’s this?” I was confused initially. And then, I couldn’t help smiling and saying “wow” at the same time. The “wow” grew bigger with each turn of the calendar leaf.

Using a simple, time-tested formula, Airtel had reinforced the power of brand personalization. They personalized each page of the calendar month, by including my name beautifully in each message:

 May had the words – “It’s good to be ahead, Azra Fathima” painted on a race track

 June had a golden egg, nestled among many white ones, that said – “One in a million – Azra Fathima”

 July announced a message on the airport departure board – “Azra Fathima – your private jet is ready for departure. It will take off at your convenience”

 An Olympic track & field stadium with side boards screaming – “Sponsored by Azra Fathima” was splashed on the August page.

 September displayed a rack of thick, velvety book, standing in a row. On one of them were the words – “Eid Mubarak, Azra Fathima”

 An iPod playing the song – “All time hit Azra Fathima” showed up on the October leaf

“Happy Diwali Azra Fathima” in a burst of fireworks were splashed in November

 No prizes for guessing the December & January messages

 February, my birthday month, had a yummy strawberry custard cake with just – “Azra Fathima” squeezed out in a bright red syrup

Even as a dyed-in-the-wool advertising and marketing professional, all too familiar with the “customer loyalty and brand strategies” that go behind such an effort, I responded and reacted just like any other customer – absolute delight.

The warm glow of brand loyalty did not stop with me - softly, but surely spreading to my 13-year old, who has been showing off the calendar to just about anyone who’s been visiting home. No prizes again for guessing what will be her first choice, or at least the first brand in her consideration, when she starts to go mobile.

If the timing of sending this calendar has been part of the strategy, (and not a horribly gone wrong design-print-production delay), then it is brilliant. No one expects a calendar in April! Airtel combined the oddity of the timing with the awesome power of personalization. It’s precious, everlasting and forever. And it’s going to replace the nicest desktop calendar on my table.

Personalization and customization are age-old and revered laws of marketing. However, its implementation is a labor of love. You have to be in love with your customer. That’s the only way to love your brand. When you take your brand out and keep the customer in the center, you ensure that your brand is loved. Paradoxical, but true.

Personalization is an easier love story to script in the B2C industry. In B2B marketing, it gets a lot trickier. And if the objective is prospect/demand generation in B2B – then it calls for a more detailed wooing strategy – the target; the timing; the content; the persistence; the intimate knowledge of the organization and the individual. But then, that’s the topic of another Blog!


  1. Personalisation to this degree is always captivating. I too have received excellent examples like this. The best one was from an Australian magazine called "Marketing". The actual front cover of the mag had my name integrated into the front cover headline stories. This occurred on 3 different issues. Needless to say I was buzzed by the level of personalisation, and to this day I have kept all the issues.

    The magazine did this for all their subscribers specifically to show the power of personalisation in marketing.

    There is no doubt that when we speak to our audience as people and not as member numbers we will always receive a more positive experience back from them.

  2. Ayal, yes, I remember that "Marketing" magazine had done this too. Personalization is not a new trick. Still, I do not see too many brilliant examples by marketers.