Every once in a while, we like to push pause on our studies of today’s youth culture, marketing, and Millennial insights to look into the future, and forecast some of the trends that brands should have their eyes on next. From fast food to music listening we’ve seen young consumers’ preferences for customized experiences and products reshape industries. Now we’re seeing hints of the future of this trend, where hyper-personalized products are produced thanks to technology that can integrate individual tastes, histories, and aesthetics into everyday items.
Young consumers have already proven that their tastes for customized experiences and products can shift industries. The fast-food industry is undergoing a wave of “Chipoltefication” to keep up with the customized offerings of the successful chain. Marketing has begun to shift to beyond-niche levels and brands that are shifting from broadcasting a mass-message to reaching out to small groups, and sometimes a single consumer, with a tailored experience are rising above the marketing melee in more ways than one. Coca Cola’s personalized bottle and can #ShareACoke campaign was so successful that it reversed a decade long decline in U.S. Coke consumption, and was especially successful with young consumers, who are always looking for personalization in their products. In the words of one 22-year-old, “To see your name on a big brand, it makes it personal.”
In our round up of predictions for 2015, we included branding firm Landor Associates forecast that “Mass Individualism” is a major marketing trend to watch. Landor’s North America chairman told Marketing Daily, “‘Because digital has made everything personal, consumers expect that in their brand interactions. [They think,] ‘I’m not like anybody else, so why should I use the same products as they do?’” It’s clear that the desire for unique, individualized experiences is only intensifying. So where does the trend go next? We’ve been taking note of some niche brands and startups that could hint at the direction that customization could move, with hyper-personalized products that integrate individual consumers’ distinctive tastes, histories, and even their faces, into the items they buy. Here are three examples of taking individualization to the next level, and possible inspiration for the future of the customized world:
Vittel Couch Converter
French water brand Vittel is taking an extremely unique approach to get consumers to be more active—they’re taking away their couches with “the first service that transforms your old sofa into sports shoes to regain your vitality.” Vittel Couch Converter is a marketing campaign that reimagines participant’s used item, and gives it a new life as a completely different personalized product. Throughout this month, customers can send Vittel a picture of their couch to participate. They’re then asked to send a piece of fabric before March 29th—the first 50 to get their fabric in will have their couch turned into a new, stylish pair of sneakers created specifically for them.
Face Recognition Pancakes
We’ve talked about the idea that 3D printing could a big part of the future of toys, and initiatives like Amazon’s 3D printing marketplace give anyone the ability to print customized objects. In the far off future, there is a possibility that 3D printing will provide every consumer with the opportunity to create completely customized products for themselves, right at home. But there are also hints that the technology could personalize unexpected items as well. Innovation and design agency Kinneir Dufort experimented with that possibility with their Face Recognition Pancake concept project this February. In celebration of Pancake Day, the group created a prototype of a machine that would “take the humble pancake into the 21st century,” using face recognition to fry up a pancake that looks exactly like the person eating it. They received a huge amount of attention for the stunt, and wrote of their personalized treats, “Brands are constantly searching for ways to engage on a more emotional level with their target consumers. We believe that food production could be transformed in the near future if the same level of development and investment was applied to their creation and execution as on the development of rapid prototyping and mass customization opportunities in the consumer product world.”
Of course, physical items are just one element of consumer/brand interactions, and in-person experiences could become just as customized thanks to the technology we’re each carrying around in our pockets. Music platform Rockbot is working to make that a reality, creating background music in stores and restaurants that are crowdsourced by the customers in the space. The “#1 rated jukebox app” uses beacons to automatically add users’ favorite songs to the playlist of the participating venues they walk into. Since 2010, Rockbot has worked with businesses to allow customers to browse tracks, request music, and curate playlists via vote to create in-person environments that are more relevant to visitors. Their new Anthem initiative has put beacons into 400 participating locations that instantly add Rockbot users’ preferred tracks to the background soundtrack, ensuring the ambiance is customized to their tastes.