I was speaking at an event recently. During the Q&A I was asked if I thought we had reached peak personalization? My answer was a firm no. Through the ages, we have added value to many things with the addition of initials – cuff-links, handkerchiefs, shirts, jewellery etc. Even Henry VIII had his current wife’s initials embroidered into the curtains of her quarters until, rather scarily for said wife, she noticed them being un-picked in preparation for the arrival of a new wife! So, we like this kind of thing and as I said – it isn’t new. What is new, is the way that we can now deploy personalisation utilising digital printing techniques across a wider range of products and substrates than ever before. And this has unleashed the current wave of personalised product marketing campaigns around the world that we see almost routinely.
So the question was asked again but phrased differently – have we reached the peak of putting our names on products?
My answer was possibly. I think it is safe to say that global brands are still wanting to offer personalization but are starting to see that only using people’s names is now a bit old hat. Ironically, the breakthrough campaign of ShareaCoke is now starting to look a bit tired especially when you consider the capability that the print industry has at its disposal – this was after all, just a re-labelling campaign.
I have said for a long time now that the whole Coke campaign was not even personalization but simple customization, with consumers choosing from a pre-ordained list of names which is not personal at all. In life, most people don’t even use given names to be personal. For instance, my name is Richard but only my Mother calls me this on a Sunday, or when I am in trouble! All my close friends and family call me Rich – so if you had bought me a personalized product with Richard on it, I would know you don’t know me very well – not very personal at all!
The true value of a personalized gift can only be unlocked if the buyer is able to convey a message that is truly personal between them and the recipient – a song lyric maybe or a line from a book or a film that means something to them both. But this needs to be matched by the right products that offers such an option – just because something can be personalised doesn’t mean it should be as we saw recently in the UK with Unilever’s badly conceived campaign for Mother’s Day using personalized Vaseline!
But if brands get it right and select the perfect product and allow consumers the ability to choose a personalized message for themselves, then this can be truly a great gift. We shouldn’t forget why we like them. Because it unleashes the inner ego in all of us that likes to feel recognised, likes to be made to feel like an individual by massive companies and global brands. And that’s before you see the effect it has on our children – remember the excitement at finding a key ring at the seaside with your name on it – that is the reason why we like it folks.
Richard Askam is an accomplished speaker and successful entrepreneur who now shares his vast experience with other organisations, and individuals, keen to succeed in our ever-changing world. Key topics include: developing brand strategy, customer engagement, acceptance of failure, employee development, understanding (and sometimes avoiding) new technology and, of course, how to treat your customers personally. His tailored presentations will assist any audience with both their immediate and long-term challenges.