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1.1. Enhance customization and personalized consumption
The emergence of digital technologies has enabled brands to engage a personalized dialogue
and a concrete relationship with their consumers. Thus, we could observe in the first part of this
project that consumers are increasingly demanding to take a role in the creation of their
products. When consumers are given the opportunity to shape and influence the construction
of their brands, companies develop more chances to increase their customers’ loyalty.
Consumers love their own creations and with the increasing development of digital platforms,
they are demanding to have a word in the creation of the products they will become loyal to.
People want to find their identity through their purchases, and consumption is a massive tool of
identification. According to J. Brewer and F. Trentman (2007, p. 42), “consumption is an act of
discovering and cultivating the shelf.” Therefore, consumers expect from brands that they tell
them which kind of person they are. “Consumers gather around object which define their
identity and become centrepieces of particular routines of sociability,” according to D. Miller &
al. (1998, p. 89). Brands must build on this quest from consumers to find distinction and
difference in the use of their products to enhance customization and personalization.
The development of interactive digital technologies encourages brands to build platforms that
enable people to customize their own products. The idea of customization requires from brands
that they stop thinking in terms of control and start to open themselves to customers. On this
regard, A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble, quoted in an article from L. Crombie and A.
Simmons (2008), challenges marketers to “stop trying to control their brands and allow
customers to engage with them in creative ways.” Moreover, according to D. Tapscott (2009, p.
79), “the desire is about personalizing and accessorizing, it is more aesthetic than functional.” In
fact, consumers are becoming overused with standardized products and they want products
that are perfectly tailored to their needs.
Companies such as BMW, Converse and Mars have fully embraced the idea of customization
and allow their brands to serve for their consumers’ personal expression. For example,
consumers can draw the exact features, colours, and designs of their Mini Cooper cars and
Converse sneakers. In the case of M&M’s, brides can even serve monogrammed chocolate
candies for their weddings. Nike also pioneers customization since it created its service Nike ID
in 1999. The basic idea of the Nike ID platform is to use technology as a solution to let
consumers customize their own products and experiences.
Customization became one of the key elements of Nike’s strategy that is to shift its perception
from being a sportswear brand to become the enabler of customized and personalized
experience for its consumers. In the blog Buzz Canuck, Nike’s Brand President, Charlie Denson
(2007), explains it in the following words: “customization is a very important part of the way that
consumers interact with anybody or with brands today. We have spent the last 20 years trying
to bundle things, adding value to a purchase or a relationship. And now, it’s almost in reverse,
because you have to unbundle everything if it’s going to become customizable.” Therefore,
Nike’s strategy tends to illustrate the fact that we are leaving an age of controlled and limited
product offering to an age of customization and creative personalization.
The Nike ID platform is the perfect example of brand customization applied to the digital age.
Either on the Nike ID website, on Nike stores, or through Nike ID applications, people can
experience customization in very entertaining ways. Across all these platforms, customers are
given the opportunity to very easily build their own shoes from special sets of colours and
materials. Using the advances in technologies, Nike went further in the interactive experience
and created a mobile service, Nike Photo ID, which enables customers to create their own
customized shoes from pictures of the real world. The service, using MMS technology, identifies
the two dominant colours in a picture, matches them with the ones available from the Nike
Store, and finally generates Nike sneakers inspired from these colours, sending them to the
user, which can purchase them instantly using a unique Design ID code on the Nike ID website.
See Appendix 2.6.
The power of the case from Nike is that it matches visual technologies, very simple and easy to
use interfaces, with a real customer desire which is to customize their own experiences. Other
examples of brands that created customization platforms include a certain number of luxury
brands, including Zadig & Voltaire, which enables its consumers to customize their own
watches on its interactive website (See Appendix 2.7.), and Longchamp, which offers the
opportunity to its consumers to create their own personalized bags. (See Appendix 2.8.).
The idea of brand customization can also takes much simpler forms. Consumers are looking for
personalization and brands can provide them with additional choices or options to accessorize
their own products. Companies can enhance simple details that will provide a different
experience and develop the feeling of owning truly personalized products. For example, Apple
gives the chance to its consumers to add a personal laser-engraved message at the back of
their iPod for free.
We insisted in the importance of physical and digital experiences in consumers’ choices.
Enhancing customization provides brands with the opportunity to enhance their experience
through interactive or physical platforms. Brands should definitely seek new ways to improve
the customization of their offering and use the opportunities of evolving digital technology to
provide consumers with truly valuable ways to personalize their brand experience.
1.2. Encourage customer innovation and participation
Brands should not only enable consumers to customize and personalize their offering but they
should also open their organization to encourage customer innovation and participation. D.
Tapscott explains in his best-selling book Wikinomics (2006, p. 4) how the “traditional plan and
push mentality is being replaced by an engage and co-create economy.” The collaborative
revolution that D. Tapscott describes impacts companies in much more areas than brand
communications only. It involves changing the way companies do business.
Companies such as P&G and Dell have found that collaboration with customers could be
extremely successful and drive the emergence of powerful innovations. P&G launched a
website dedicated to open-innovation called Connect + Develop, which solicits externally
developed intellectual property and provides an environment to share knowledge around its
brand. On its website, Procter & Gamble looks for innovation around all areas of the P&G
business, including packaging, design, marketing models, research methods, engineering and
technology. With this platform, P&G uses technology and networks to seek out new ideas for
future product innovations that would both improve its products and services, and benefit the
lives of consumers around the world.
The computing giant Dell recently launched IdeaStorm, an online crowdsourcing platform that
enables consumers to generate ideas about Dell’s products and services. This open platform is
a direct invitation for customers to take ideas into the company, and ultimately challenge the
way Dell does business. Users can post suggestions and recommendations about Dell’s
products and services, and the community of users can vote, so that the most popular ideas
are well visible on the website.
In addition to IdeaStorm, Dell built EmployeeStorm, an internal website, which also enables
employees to share and discuss ideas for Dell’s products, services and business online. These
two platforms have had very successful results for Dell, as IdeaStorm experienced in 2008 more
than 40’000 unique visitors weekly, 8900 ideas submitted and 67’000 comments, while
EmployeeStorm garnered more than 2’700 ideas submitted and 140’000 votes, with
approximately 22 percent of Dell employees visiting the site, according to the agency that built
the two platforms, Cohn Wolfe (2008, see agency website).
Dell and P&G’s examples demonstrate how companies could benefit from the intelligence and
the creative capabilities of their customers. For these two companies, the development of
external collaboration has proven to be a successful path to innovate. Rather than innovating on
their own, these companies have engaged new type of collaborations and models, which
enhance the participation of their consumers. Opening organizations to find new answers for
product development is becoming more relevant in a world where everything is more complex.
Y. Benkler (2006, p. 125), in his book The Wealth of Networks, sums it up extremely well: “the
world is becoming too fast, too complex and too networked for any company to have all the
Opening the organization is also an ingenious way of predicting and delivering what the market
really needs. In addition, it brings the organization closer to its more passionate and engaged
stakeholders. L. Huston and N. Sakkab (2006) both argue that “connect and develop will
become the dominant innovation model in the twenty-first century.” They insist on the
decreasing effectiveness of the classical closed innovation model: “for most companies, the
alternative invent-it-ourselves model is a sure path to diminishing returns.” The results of the
Connect + Develop platform for P&G demonstrate the positive effects; according to S. Kuipers
(2009), P&G net profit tripled to $10 billion in 2007, after just a few years of really embracing
open innovation and crowdsourcing.
1.3. Enhance content creation
Brands are given the tools to benefit from the collaboration of people. We noticed how
customers increasingly participate in the customization and personalization of products. People
don’t hesitate in providing ideas and insights to improve brands’ existing products and services,
and as a consequence, brands should also considerate the benefits from customers’ creativity
regarding the creation of content and advertising.
We presented in the first part of this project how the emergence of computing tools and the
access to digital platforms transformed the development of content production and distribution.
The success of the video platform YouTube demonstrates that people are not only attracted by
professional content but also by content generated by amateurs. These conditions present
opportunities for companies that should benefit from the creativity of their consumers.
When the agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners pitched Nike’s $10 million Converse account
in 2004, it persuaded Converse executives to outsource the production of their advertising to
their fans. Consumers were rewarded, as the 30 persons whose ads would be selected to play
on TV each would get $10,000, and the brief attracted many fans, which produced massively
great advertising. In addition to providing great quality content for a low cost, Converse’s
external sourcing strategy turn out to be a great way to engage consumers and passionate fans
of the brand. Erick Soderstrom, Converse’s global marketing chief, quoted in an article by D.
Kiley (2005), explained: “our customers tend to be creative, and we’ve given them the biggest
canvas we have to express themselves, our advertising.”
Last year, Doritos decided to encourage its consumers to produce the commercial that would
be aired during the Super Bowl. This decision has been extraordinarily successful for the brand
as it generated many different ideas, and the selected commercial ranked number one in the
USA Today’s Ad Meter panel, which measures the effectiveness of advertising commercials
during the Super Bowl, while it was competing with advertisements from the best advertising
According to E. Bryson & J. Mullman (2009), two journalists from Advertising Age, “Jeff Goodby
and Alex Bogusky had nothing on a cheap crotch joke from two unemployed brothers from
Indiana.” These examples from Converse and Doritos demonstrate that consumers can have
brilliant ideas to express their brands. In addition, enhancing content creation brings precious
results in terms of brand understanding. Heinz, for example, asked its consumers to produce a
commercial for their brand, but the reason was not to spend less money on it but rather to find
out how people really connected with the brand.
The emergence of crowdsourcing can threaten advertising agencies. The costs involved in
these examples are very advantageous for brands. In the case of Doritos, the cost of the TV
commercial was of less than $100. It is legitimate to wonder what justifies spending large
amounts of money on a piece of creation while crowdsourcing advertising can be more effective
and at a lower cost. However, behind any successful commercial, there is a brand. Producing
commercials is easier for brands like Converse and Doritos because these brands are very
recognizable. These brands represent values, experiences, and very concrete moments in
peoples’ mind, which have been possible only thanks to the constant strategic and creative
work of advertising agencies.
Crowdsourcing and consumers’ content creation are opportunities for advertising agencies and
companies to open the creation and the production of some parts of their creative production.
Enhancing consumers’ content creation is also an interesting way to enhance consumers’
engagement and to benefit from their relevant insights.
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