Turning off and getting personal

In the final part of JWT's Trend Report, we check out the need to de-tech and the creepy factor of predictive personalization.

At the end of each year JWT takes on a global initiative, tracking upcoming trends likely to influence consumers’ lives in the coming months. For the 10th anniversary of this report, the agency looked back on its past predictions to see which ones would still be big in 2015. JWT Canada conducted its own survey in this country to localize the global trends, and in this five-part series, exclusive to strategy, the JWT Canada Front Row Insights Team break down the 2015 Trend Report with new Canadian data and examples. 

By Victoria Radziunas and Melanie Reiffenstein


There’s a growing understanding that tech is an enabler and improver of life, but that it also comes with a dark side – and its negative effects may outweigh the positive if we don’t find ways to incorporate it in our lives more mindfully.

JWT’s 2015 trends research confirms the vast majority of Canadians (84%) believe we are losing some important human qualities by spending so much time with tech – in line with Australian (86%) and American (83%) respondents. As today’s real-time mentality makes it harder to unplug, and technology and social media become more pervasive and addictive, we are becoming more absent from offline life – Canadian millennials are the greatest offenders with 57% admitting to spending too much time with social media, compared to the overall Canadian population at 36%.

Thanks to the need to be connected and the extreme proliferation of new gadgets, wearables and screens, 69% of Canadians fear technology is outwardly taking over our lives. Some companies are turning tech-addiction into opportunities, recognizing the importance of regulating tech use and inventing tools to regulate time we spend with our heads down. Globally, MIAmobi created the SilentPocket, a sleeve lined with colloidal silver which blocks cellphone transmissions that allows users to be completely off the grid, while the Checky and Moment apps help consumers with the goal of reaching a tech-balanced life track and regulate phone behaviour.

Canadian brands are also working to save consumers from themselves. In support of the Heads-Up Movement, Telus launched its “thumbs up, phones down” campaign this past December, tackling distracted driving by inviting drivers to put their thumbs up and ironically, phones down. With 83% of Canadians worried about kids’ dependence on digital devices (on par with the global average of 84%), Canadian non-profit ParticipAction is promoting unstructured play time with its latest campaign message “Screen time is taking away play time. Make room for play.”

Time will tell if we see greater participation in the Heads-Up Movement or if technology will only become more of a distractor. The question is, will brands sit back or be part of the solution?

Predictive Personalization 

Increasingly, it is becoming the job of the marketer to know what consumers want before they do. The good news is that their crystal ball is only growing clearer.

Predictive Personalization – the ability for brands to determine your wants and needs using your data – is no longer a far-off phenomenon in a Tom Cruise movie. More and more companies understand the value of utilizing their customers’ data to create a more seamless experience between purchases.

So how are Canadians reacting compared to the rest of the world? Many are wary if it’s not to their benefit. In fact, 65% of Canadians find it “creepy” when companies customize their communications to individuals, the same as the global average of 65%. But, we are coming around to the notion of customized communications: 59% of consumers say they’d want brands to do so, within certain circumstances (globally it is 68%).

So what are marketers to do? Likely, the answer is to be transparent about the consumer benefit. In fact, 54% of Canadians agree it’s okay for companies to predict their wants as long as it makes shopping easier. Already, 89% of Canadians assume that most services they interact with are gathering their data. By clearly stating the reason and benefit for the consumer to provide their information, the consumer doesn’t feel violated.

Looking at this trend in action, specifically in retail, Shoppers Drug Mart has become an early adopter of personalized discounting in Canada, rolling out a national program for its Optimum Card members just over a year ago, following a pilot program in 2013. It introduced personalized weekly emails that include up to 10 product or category-specific coupon offers relevant to how a person shops.

Subscription services are prime hubs for behaviour-related personalization. Netflix recently introduced multiple profiles per account so that different users can get more tailored recommendations. Google, undisputedly the biggest giant in data, determines songs you might enjoy based on previously played music tracks with Google Play, which launched in Canada last May. And Google Now helps determine your best traffic-free commute by analyzing your most-used routes and current road conditions.

In today’s market, it is the brand’s job to neutralize their consumer’s negative feeling surrounding personalization and turn it into a positive.

Image courtesy Shutterstock