One-size-fits all products revolutionized the marketplace. When assembly lines replaced craftspeople, we gained some things and definitely lost others. But for more than a hundred years, the factory-produced standardized product has been our default. Marketing in this landscape can be tricky, but it can also be an opportunity to stand out.
Henry Ford told salesmen they could sell the Model T to customers in “any color, so long as it is black.” And that’s been our model for products and services ever since. Even when brands create multitudes of spin-off products, they’re based on researcher’s estimates of what their average customer might like to buy. Most products aren’t tailored specifically to individual customers or clients.
There have always been brands and workers who prioritized customization above scaling their process, but they’ve most often produced niche products, not mainstream ones.
But that’s changing. Today, we have the technology to make customization available to everyone. Meeting the exact needs of more people, at a high quality point, is becoming possible.
Here are three companies shaping their model around doing just that (spoiler: number three is us).
Function of Beauty: Custom Hair Products
Everyone’s hair is different. Most people find and use hair products that work well enough. But when you’re designing products to work for a huge swath of people, working well enough is the best you can aim for.
Function of Beauty knew they could do better, even on a large scale. They created a system that allows users to customize their hair care orders to their hair type, hair needs, even their desired fragrance.
They’ve grown wildly, becoming a major player in the hair care industry in just a few years, demonstrating that if you build a system that allows people more choice, they’ll take it. People love using shampoo blended specifically for their hair, and they love the simplicity of the system Function of Beauty created.
You can learn more about how Function of Beauty revolutionized the hair care industry (and the marketing industry) in our interview with Lorna Sommerville, the Chief Marketing & Customer Experience Officer at Function of Beauty.
Spotify: Mixtapes Just for You
Spotify leads other music streamers by leaps and bounds. And it’s not because their app is that much better, or because they have more music. Other streamers do just as well on those counts. The difference is customization, specifically Discover Weekly. Spotify’s algorithms allow them to tailor suggested music to users based on what they like, and unlike earlier attempts by music streaming platforms, it usually works really well.
There’s nothing like discovering your new favorite song. That used to happen by listening to your favorite radio station, or by listening to tapes made by your friends. Now, Spotify is many people’s radio station, and it’s almost like getting music recommendations from a friend.
They built their brand on a customizable music experience – you can listen to what you want when you want – and expanded on that with tech that allows them to customize playlists for each individual user. Once you combine those with the personalizable self-expression opportunities of end of year stats, it’s a juggernaut of customizable music experiences.
Lamphouse Films: Advertising That’s Customized for Brands and Their Customers
We talk a lot about our model: we make films, not videos. Which is shorthand for a mindset. We believe each film is its own thing, just as each brand is its own. We build custom teams around each project, ensuring that each one is specific to the brand it’s created for. Our system could be more factorylike, but we avoid that on purpose. We don’t want to make assembly-line films. We want every company we work with to be uniquely reflected onscreen. And, even more specifically, we want to tailor each one to its intended audience within the brand’s customer-base.
Customization isn’t just for haircare and music. Good advertising is highly customized and tailored to the brand’s specific needs.
Good advertising tells a story that wouldn’t work for any other brand.
How Can You Customize Your Business?
You might not make shampoo, or playlists, or films, but there’s definitely some way you can customize what you offer customers, or the way you advertise to them.
There are countless ways to give people choices, to make them feel seen as individuals, and to resist conformity.
Let’s all get creative, and customize how we do business.