Want to grow? Let’s get personal

August 7, 2016

Here’s a question for you: How easy do you make it for customers to like your brand? Also – do you keep up-to-date with what today’s customers want? Do you follow trends and watch what other businesses are doing to keep people engaged?

If you’re not sure about the answers to these questions, then here it is in a nutshell. You should make it as easy as possible for customers to like, even love, your brand. You should definitely keep your finger on the pulse of what today’s consumers want (and need) to stay loyal to a brand, and you should follow trends and watch the competition.

Right now? It’s all about personalisation.  Whether your business is large or small, your delivery needs to feel like a customised, bespoke experience for every client lead or prospect.

 

Why individuality matters

Remember Coca Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, which ran during the summers of 2013 and 2014? The global brand removed its famous logo on Coke bottles, delighting consumers who could pick up a bottle with their name on it.

A Coca Cola spokesperson said: “The campaign capitalised on the global trend of self-expression and sharing, but in an emotional way. Coke is big enough to pull off an idea like this, which speaks to the iconic nature of the brand. Who would want their name on a brand unless it was as iconic as Coke?”

Of course, there are a fair few other iconic brands in the world and now, they’re all jumping on the personalisation bandwagon. Why? Because increasingly, this is what customers want. The Millennials and Gen Z have grown up and are growing up with their lives on full view to the world. Social media and the internet means everyone can and does promote themselves online. In a world where the average Joe down the street can collect thousands or more followers on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube or Facebook, everyone has the chance to attain almost celebrity-like status.

What helps them to achieve this is by being an individual – by promoting themselves in a unique and interesting way – and for this, personalisation is key. What’s more, all the big brands are catching onto it and are doing their best to keep up with customer demand by introducing products they can put their own stamp on.

Today it’s all about the personal brand and, if your business isn’t offering consumers personalised products or services, then someone else will – and that’s where they’ll go.

 

Global giants giving the personal touch

It’s worth noting that all of this personalisation is happening from the top down. New York fashion label, Marie Claire St John, created customised shirts where consumers can have personalised embroidery on the backs of their garments. Levis also introduced custom embroidery options for its jeans. NIKE let customers customise their trainers, shoes and bags. And there are more doing the same.

You’ll notice that these aren’t just any old brands. These are leading, globally known – and loved – brands, doing what they can to keep their customers happy. If even big names like these are trying hard to keep consumers interested and engaged, then the question is – why aren’t you?

 

How customisation became cool again…

Once upon a time, we probably all had something that was personalised. Maybe back in the 70s…? Maybe when we were kids? It was cool for a while and then it became kitsch, dweeby and very much uncool. We grew out of it. Whatever happened, customised products were over.

Who knew that we’d develop a nostalgia for branding ourselves again in the Noughties? Sex and the City fans revived the craze for name necklaces a little while back, when the hit sitcom was still on TV and everyone just loved Sarah Jessica Parker’s gold ‘Carrie’ necklace. But now, the personalisation trend is back with a vengeance and thanks to the internet, it’s become more popular and in demand than ever.

“Historically, monograms or your name on your clothes was [seen as] preppy, old fashioned, or stuffy,” says Jackie Chiquoine, associate retail intelligence editor at WGSN, the leading trend forecaster.

“Fifteen or twenty years ago, people wouldn’t have wanted to be so publically identified with their own name,” she adds. “[But] because we spend so much time on social media, everyone lives their life as if they’re a public figure. Having something no-one else has creates an Instagram-able, postable product.”

We’re all selling our personal brand online these days – putting our faces and our names out there for all to see. More and more brands are realising how effective this is for marketing their businesses and engaging with and keeping customers. Love them or hate them, you’ve also got to acknowledge that Starbucks has been doing it for years – personalising their takeaway coffee cups with customer names.

Luxury brands like Prada, Burberry, Gucci and Louis Vuitton have also got in on the act, with personalised shoes, monogrammed blanket scarves, handbags and leather-stamped monograms.

 

It’s all about ‘the twist’

The psychology behind it is simple – personalisation makes people stand out and in today’s digital world where, let’s face it, most people now hang out, that’s exactly what they want. It’s all about being different, grabbing attention and standing out from the crowd. Having that same product – but with a twist.

What makes your business stand out from the competition, and how can you offer something that does the same for your customers?

Brands like Dove are championing the individual with their ‘Real Beauty’ campaigns, celebrating their customers’ uniqueness. Consumers are increasingly encouraged to ‘be themselves’ and to ‘embrace their individuality’ – it’s how lots of brands are now choosing to sell their products.

Social media is also saturated with uplifting hashtags and words of encouragement to the same effect, the message being that we should celebrate our own worth and be proud of who we are. Personalising the clothes we wear and feeling valued by the brands we buy from – being acknowledged and treated as an individual rather than a number – is all part of this.

 

Back at the office

Personalisation is all very well and good for global brands, but how does that translate for Joe Bloggs back at his Belfast office?

Personalisation comes in many forms, so it’s finding what works for your brand and going with it. You can even ask customers for feedback using surveys, offering prizes and just asking them outright on social media.

If you sell services, try using your photograph on social media instead of a business logo, or have staff tweeting under their own names alongside the official account. Interact with your customers and show them through the content you create online that they matter – that you see them as individuals and that they can expect individual treatment when they buy from you.

If you run a product-based business, look at developing your own way of personalising what you sell. Do you ask customers for input when you’re creating a special menu; do you provide bespoke artwork or tailor-made, customised clothing? Do you make items to measure and let customers select their own colour schemes and designs?

Businesses which don’t attempt to personalise their brand do so at their own risk. Customers expect you to make the effort and if you don’t, plenty of other brands will. It’s becoming more and more important to get creative with how you engage with consumers and if you want to stay in the game, then you have to be aware of this.

The psychology of personalisation is really quite straightforward. It’s simply about giving customers what they want – more of themselves.

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