Name Similarity Encourages Generosity: A Field Experiment in Email Personalization
54 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2018
Date Written: August 1, 2018
In a randomized field experiment with the education charitable giving platform DonorsChoose.org (N = 30,297), we examined email personalization using a potential donor’s name. We quantified the effectiveness of matching potential donors to specific teachers in need based on surname, surname initial letters, gender, ethnicity, and surname country of origin. Full surname matching was most effective, with potential donors being more likely to open an email, click on a link in the email, and make a donation to a teacher who shared their own surname. They also donated more money overall. Our results suggest that uniting people with shared names is an effective individual-level approach to email personalization, even when name-matching is transparently designed to promote generosity. Potential donors who shared a surname first letter but not an entire name with teachers also behaved more generously. We discuss how using a person’s name in marketing communications may gain consumers’ attention and reduce the social distance between them and a name-matched entity. This process may benefit the firm when consumers’ existing attitudes toward the entity are favorable, but may backfire when consumers would prefer not to be associated with it.
Keywords: field experiment, charitable giving, individual targeting, personalization, one-to-one marketing
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