Is that a lot? Too much froyo is never a bad thing–and neither is personalization. Taking your dessert to the next level with sour gummy worms and graham crackers lets people know what you like, and also keeps gummy-haters away from your ice cream. Customizing food choices, apparel, and other products has become a perk of companies that want their customers to express themselves while promoting the brand.
Personalization distributes the creative power between brands and consumers; it has progressed from choosing the contents of a gift basket to creating unique products from start to finish. Depending on the item, consumers can add original designs, photos, names, or combine some of the brand’s choices. Whether it’s a name or flavor, consumers gain power over their product when companies provide creative freedom.
Chocolate utilizes the most high-tech personalization tools–or maybe just the tastiest. Chocoholics can create their own chocolate bars by choosing from over 60 ingredients, or put their names and faces on M&Ms for special events or gag gifts. For customization as extreme as BMX biking, 3-D printing takes control; it enables customers to create a product completely from scratch, based on previous products or original designs.
Boutiques, keepsake stores, and embroidery shops became pros at personalization long before large corporations adopted the practice. Both specialty shops and websites allow groups to design company or club t-shirts, as well as promotional items. If your office plans on participating in a group run, you can order matching t-shirts, a celebratory cake, and personalized wall clocks for the winners. On a mass scale, consumers appreciate being noticed for products that they use every day, like fizzy beverages.
Brands often select the most popular names or features to put on their product, striving to create an intimate yet widespread relationship with consumers (they want everyone named Alex to feel special). Similar to visiting a gift shop and scouring the rotating display of name keychains, consumers search for their name among a collection of mass-produced personalized items. Ugh, it’s always hard to find a kid’s hipster name at gift shops. Do they not understand that Chia will be the #1 baby name in a few months? With Coke’s “Share A Coke With…” campaign, soda-lovers can choose from over 1000 popular names or customize their own label online. The open and endless options let consumers’ imaginations run free. Whether you have an obscure family name or a superhero alias, brands will make sure to include you in the world of personalization.
Though some companies worry about losing their brand image once they offer customization, other brands have incorporated it into their brand’s personality. Converse prides itself on their classic shoe, but their Design-Your-Own sneakers option gives consumers more control. One Boston store gave consumers the power to make sneakers on the spot; thanks for the customization, conversation, and a pair of wicked cool sneakers. Converse cycles through exclusive artist content, but their entire line of options requires a complex algorithm to calculate all of the unique shoe combinations. You would also need a large walk-in closet to store them in.
The only downside to personalizing products like sneakers, clothing, or food is the additional price. Between flat fees for custom items or an added charge for each feature, brands establish a trade-off between price and personalization. The majority of the time, you can’t return personalized items, except for L.L.Bean, who allows returns for mistakes (or perfectly fine monogramed items that you don’t want). They resell those items at a cheaper price, so if you need a cheap canvas bag or an idea for a new last name, L.L. Bean is the place to go.
Brands attempt to develop a close relationship with customers by asking for their creative insight. Every year, Lay’s asks customers to create an original and delicious flavor for their “Do Us A Flavor” campaign. Fellow consumers whittle down the bizarre combinations until one is chosen. Though the customized product becomes available to a mass market, the consumer impact on the product helps Lay’s stand out.
With some products, your opinion does matter and you, as the customer, are always right. Not all companies strive for consumers to serve as walking advertisements–instead they want to promote originality. Depending on your interest in blending in or standing out, you can transform even the dullest items into your favorite things. Corporate-made t-shirts with logos and kittens…bright engraved medals and monogrammed mittens…brown paper packages stamped with your name, these are examples of personalized things.