Personalising content? Think cocktail party

Written by on June 8, 2015 in Guest Blog with 0 Comments

Different cocktails or longdrinks garnished with fruits

In addition to providing us with the ability to access useful information and enjoyable entertainment, the Internet also manages to quench our thirst for personalised experiences and content. Retail sites will offer up suggestions based on previous purchases, while on-demand streaming services provide recommendations on what to listen to or watch next.

While many think these are quirky or clever features to win us over and encourage further interactions, they are actually addressing a deep-routed desire within all of us. Personalisation has been studied in great detail and scientific research proves we crave these tailor-made experiences.

But what has this got to do with creating content? Well, it concerns the importance of RAS and the Cocktail Party Phenomenon. Sound confusing? Don’t worry, everything will be explained in due course.

The science of personalisation

Our preference for personalised experiences is driven by two things according to a study from the University of Texas. These are desire for control and information overload.

First off, when you receive a personalised product or piece of content, you are getting something tailor-made to your own requirements. For this reason, it makes you feel more in control of your destiny. Even if this is somewhat of an illusion, as you might not have an actual say in the matter, it can still has a positive effect.

Secondly, personalised experiences means we filter out everything else that is unnecessary and don’t suffer from information overload. There is no need to sift through countless resources in order to find what you want, as it has been created with you in mind.

Making personalisation work

But even though there is something inside of us that desperately wants personalisation, we still need to know when this is the case. If not, the notion of being in control and reducing information overload becomes much more difficult.

Having said that, personalisation still works because we are consuming relevant and interesting information, which has been created according to our own individual inclinations. Again, this comes down to the way our brain works, specifically the Reticular Activating System (RAS).

This part of our mind is responsible for orientation and the concept of selective attention, which suggests we give preference to things that we are invested in.

The Cocktail Party Phenomenon

Now we can explain how the Cocktail Party Phenomenon works. Say you are in a crowded room where you can’t hear specific interactions. As soon as someone mentions your name in conversation, you instantly become aware of this.

The same thing works if you hear someone talking about a subject that is of particular interest to you, as your RAS blocks out irrelevant noise and allows you to concentrate on the things you are invested in.

We all know about the importance of relevancy when it comes to creating content, but can we rely on interests alone to attract attention and ignore everything else? According the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, you need to give precedence to your audience’s names.

Making RAS work with content

“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language,” noted Dale Carnegie. But putting this into practice isn’t exactly easy, especially if you need to create countless pieces of personalised content, each with individual names on.

Thankfully, there are solutions out there. Your audience fills in a few fields, including their name, and they will receive a customised piece of content, which also features other highly relevant information according to their particular wants and needs.

Not only are they being given control over what is included, they won’t suffer from information overload either.

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Jake Coventry

About the Author

About the Author: Jake is founder of Matizmo — a marketing technology company focussed on helping organisations create one-to-one content for their audience. He has over 15 years industry experience working primarily in the B2B technology sector and a wealth of knowledge on digital communications. He writes for various online publications, and his own blog at .


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