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How your brand can unlock a world of valuable consumer data.

Last Saturday was Nike Air Max Day (yeh I didn’t know that was a thing either but for fans of the brand this is a pretty big deal). Some of our cooler creative types decided to mark the occasion by showcasing their customised pairs of runners. They’re pretty cool, so I decided to give them a wider audience; and it got me thinking about customisation, personalisation and their impact on the marketing world.

As consumers, we place huge value on personalised communications and customised products.

According to the Future Foundation, 30% of us have customised a product after purchasing it. And this trend is growing. Millennials in particular expect to be able to tailor pretty much anything to their specific preferences. Born into a digital world where everything they touch has settings and options to adjust, customising and personalising their world is part of their DNA.

Even in older generations, there is a growing expectation that brands will provide the opportunity to impose a sense of individuality or self on what is essentially a group or tribe experience of product ownership and brand engagement. Where brands are able to accommodate this strange duality, they create huge value for the consumer.

And it is this value that opens up the potential for data generation and sharing.

Whether it's the value of truly personal, relevant communications or the opportunity to customise a product and have it bear a stamp representative of your unique self, it will usually provide a key with which to unlock a world of consumer data.

Consumers are often prepared to compromise their otherwise fiercely guarded privacy for the value of personalisation or customisation. Whereas any bald request for information would be met with resistance and oh so vocal online criticism of the brand, information shared in order to create valuable personalised or customised aspects to the brand experience are usually given willingly, voluntarily.

The caveat here is brand trust.

In order to engage with your brand in creating value through personalisation or customisation, the consumer must first have an adequate degree of trust in your brand. Some of this will obviously be garnered based on reputation and the individual’s personal brand experience, but there are ways that you can reassure and influence trust, as well as making sure you’re doing everything to maintain and build it in the long term:

  • Permission: The consumer must feel in control of how your brand uses the information they share with you. If they feel they are being taken advantage of or that you are overstepping the mark it will erode brand trust incredibly quickly. So, if I told you my hair colour because I wanted my free hair clip to complement it, that doesn’t mean I’ll automatically be open to an inbox full of “personalised” hair dye emails. Assuming and guessing (wrongly) based on people's preferences can often cause more damage that just blanket bombing your whole database.
  • Privacy: When a consumer enters a relationship with your brand and agrees to exchange data for value, they (should) have clear expectations as to how you will use the information they supply and they won’t take kindly to you sharing it with anyone, no matter what you put in the legal small print. Consumers expect your brand to be as fierce a protector of their privacy as they are and the value of them trusting your brand enough to share data with you will always far outweigh the value of sharing that information with others.
  • Management: Once you’ve begun the exchange of data for personalisation, you have to be able to deliver on it and maintain that level of impeccable relevance throughout the whole lifetime of your relationship with that consumer. And that means seriously smart CRM systems, a dedicated programme to maintain and enhance the data you hold and a responsible programme of governance for its use. Not too much then!

So, I’ve given you the keys, it's up to you to decide what custom paint job works for your brand. But tread cautiously and never ignore the “Stop” sign!