Persado has raised $21 million in a Series B round led by StarVest Partners with participation from Citi Ventures, American Express Ventures and Bain Capital Ventures. The company uses natural language processing to tailor email, site, search, SMS and social ad campaign copy.
Persado is among a class of companies that specialize in algorithmically selecting language that will most appeal to a consumer’s emotion or state of mind at the time a message is served.
Some companies approach this strategy from the standpoint of the publisher. One such firm, Automated Insights, works with customers like Yahoo and AP to machine-generate short-form content with human undertones.
In Persado’s case, its intent is to make text-based campaign copy more predictive.
“We look at what are the components of language we can give to a machine to generate language that the consumer would most identify with,” said CEO Alex Vratskides. Persado “lets the marketer or brand deterministically figure out what emotion, feature, or combination of words is going to generate the most persuasive message.”
Persado is commonly integrated with email, marketing automation or campaign management systems, including ExactTarget, Oracle Responsys and Experian. There are planned integrations with landing-page optimization tools like Adobe Target and Optimizely.
Fifty Fortune 2000 companies are customers, including financial services companies and telcos such as Citibank, American Express and Verizon. Citibank and Verizon, respectively, use Persado to generate higher email open rates on card offers and to drive higher renewal rates for contract plans.
Persado’s technology essentially scans and scores key terminology used in marketing campaigns and maps those phrases to associated emotions and values. By predicting optimal combinations of words, it claims it can improve the overall effectiveness of multichannel campaigns.
For instance, Persado predicted subject lines most likely to stick in email campaigns for customer Verizon, including “Don’t miss out on the new Samsung 4G phone” for new customers or “You’re being rewarded for your loyalty” for recurring ones.
“When someone triggers a message or communication, we act like the middleware before that communication hits the consumer,” said Vratskides. But despite the benefits of natural-language processing, it does have its limitations, including integration challenges to all of a marketer’s delivery systems, he said.
Persado has raised $36 million. In 2012, mobile marketing company Upstream Systems spun off Persado as a standalone division focused on optimizing response rates through natural language processing, employing about 40. Today it employs about 100.
The company will use its new injection for global expansion and to aid in product development.