Have it your way: Using retail customization to drive brand engagement.

One of the most interesting marketing developments of this past decade has been watching Chris Anderson’s 2004 concept of the Long Tail play out across retail– specifically companies inviting fans to customize products. Recently the Wall Street Journal ran a story about Keds shoe company inviting customers to design their own shoes. Champion has also gotten into the act, but in a more limited way, by running design contests, then producing the winning design, while Nike has been in the customization business for nearly 10 years with NikeID. Next year Coca Cola will see a more widespread distribution of its Freestyle soda fountain that invites consumers to mix their own flavors, ultimately offering over a hundred different choices. Sweet-toothed consumers can even customize their own M&Ms. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the hipsters at Jones soda just launched an iPhone app inviting users to generate a photo for their very own customized Jones six-pack. Customization of mass marketed goods isn’t new for brands; some would say it started with Burger King in the 70s: Although this funky version is my favorite: Four decades later the trend has continued with online businesses like Cafe Press, Zazzle and Threadless letting customers design and even market customized tee shirts, mugs, mouse pads and other tchotchkes. But it’s not just packaged goods makers getting into the game. Global brand Toyota recognizes that customization begets brand loyalty by offering customers the ability to customize a Scion; Ford offered tricked-out cars with the roll out of its new Fiesta at the 2009 Auto Show. What does retail customization mean for marketing? Many a brand manager wouldn’t...

Have it your way: Using retail customization to drive brand engagement.

One of the most interesting marketing developments of this past decade has been watching Chris Anderson’s 2004 concept of the Long Tail play out across retail– specifically companies inviting fans to customize products. Recently the Wall Street Journal ran a story about Keds shoe company inviting customers to design their own shoes. Champion has also gotten into the act, but in a more limited way, by running design contests, then producing the winning design, while Nike has been in the customization business for nearly 10 years with NikeID. Next year Coca Cola will see a more widespread distribution of its Freestyle soda fountain that invites consumers to mix their own flavors, ultimately offering over a hundred different choices. Sweet-toothed consumers can even customize their own M&Ms. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the hipsters at Jones soda just launched an iPhone app inviting users to generate a photo for their very own customized Jones six-pack. Customization of mass marketed goods isn’t new for brands; some would say it started with Burger King in the 70s: Although this funky version is my favorite: Four decades later the trend has continued with online businesses like Cafe Press, Zazzle and Threadless letting customers design and even market customized tee shirts, mugs, mouse pads and other tchotchkes.  But it’s not just packaged goods makers getting into the game. Global brand, Toyota, recognizes  that customization begets brand loyalty by offering customers the ability to customize a Scion; Ford offered tricked-out cars with the roll out of its new Fiesta at the 2009 Auto Show. What does retail customization mean for marketing? Many a brand manager wouldn’t dare undertake a marketing initiative that they couldn’t tie...