As I’m sure all of you saw, Katy Perry’s Super Bowl Halftime performance was… something. Between Katy herself dressed like everything from your past, dancing sharks, a giant mechanical lion, and random, unintegrated performances by Missy Elliot and Lenny Kravitz, it was, as Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic wrote, a “vision from pop culture’s uncanny valley.”

“Terrifying and glorious” wrote Kornhaber the morning after Perry’s performance, “[the performance was] a fever dream [and ultimately] empty.” And that sentiment, that there was something unsettling about the performance, is something to pay attention to.

That feeling you got when you weren’t sure whether you were watching a concert in the middle of a football game or an episode of Pokemon, or a “The More You Know” infomercial from the 80’s, or an old episode of Power Rangers… that comes straight from a miscalculation on the part of Pepsi’s marketing department. This spectacle, clearly dreamed up in a conference room by corporate creatives with a massive budget, aims to please everyone. Don’t like Katy Perry? No problem. How about Missy. Oh, you think football is dumb? We bet you like Pokemon and ironic gestures toward 80’s television.

Or so was the thinking in writing Katy Perry’s Super Bowl performance.

What we’re really seeing, though, are the effects of schizophrenic personalization which is, in some ways, the inevitable conclusion all our digital marketing best practices. Yes, we (us marketers, anyway) are guilty of working our data hard to understand exactly who our consumer targets are, what they think, and what media they like to consume. We measure our segments, create personas, refine our approaches based on feedback from analytics, and repeat. And for our multi-channel approaches to user engagement, it works fine.

But now let’s consider a different scenario. What do you do if you’re given the task to create something that will, guaranteed, be seen by 114.5M people who span across all of your segments? No A/B testing, no analytic intelligence on how to engage an audience that can only be described as “the American public”, no nothing. Instead, you have (what I can only assume are) unlimited resources and the charge to create a positive brand impression.

Let’s be real honest here. If 100 of us were given this task, 99 would produce something similar (or worse). Because, at this point, we’re so analytics- and segmentation-driven that, despite our foundations as “marketing creatives with fingers on the pulse of public desire,” what we really are are people who’re used to leveraging analytic intelligence to create various digital product experiences. We’ve adapted to our environment (and rightly so).

And this is what we get when we stack our efforts on top of one another: a shape-shifting, pop-culture-referencing, giant-robotic-lion-riding, shark-dancing void of inexplicable spectacle for spectacle’s sake, a brand swallowed by the weight of its own consumer intelligence. Or, rather, we see the brand as it is to the public: a gargantuan, multi-mouthed entertainment machine so invested in engaging its audience that it alienates them.

This is schizophrenic personalization of the highest order and it’s something to watch for as we develop more complex, more integrated, more highly visible marketing.

Also, while you’re at it, give CircleBack a try. By keeping your contacts clean, complete, and updated, CircleBack makes it easy to deliver personalized messaging to specific contacts even after they change jobs, companies, whatever!  

Image Copyright: Andre Durao /