personalization posts

Postcards from Edge of Personalization August 2nd, 2011

Not so long ago it was commonplace to receive junk mail that attempted to make a personal connection by including your name or other salient facts in the body of the pitch. But they were always outed as inauthentic by the multiple printing processes, as your name would show up in ALL CAPS, or in a different type face, or a different ink color. As printing (and other back-end) processes become more sophisticated, that has basically gone away and now the pitch looks perfect.

New York’s Eventi hotel (a Kimpton property, known for their extra attention to detail in customer service) is going the other direction, with hand-written welcome letters to their loyalty club members. However, they bungled the task; instead of the warmth of a personal note, they reveal the simulated fakery. Let’s pretend I didn’t watch the check-in staff shuffle through a pile of identical envelopes to pull out the one with my name on it…the note itself is written by two people, using two different pens! The handwriting is different, and the thickness of the ink is different. One staff member is asked to write a bunch of blah-blah-we’re-so-glad-you’re-here notes, maybe weeks in advance? When they are preparing for that day’s guests, someone else adds the name at the top.

It’s odd to see the signs of the mechanized system’s shortcomings rearing their head in what we’d expect to be a personalized, hand-crafted alternate.

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ChittahChattah Quickies May 16th, 2010
  • Texting in Meetings – It Means ‘I Don’t Care’ [NYTimes.com] – For more than a decade, my colleagues and I have gathered data on incivility from more than 9,000 managers and workers across the United States, and we’re continuing this work internationally. We have learned a great deal about the problem’s causes and consequences. I define incivility as behavior, seemingly inconsequential to the doer, that others perceive as inconsiderate. Electronic devices lead to more incivility because of their powerful ability to claim our attention — no matter where we are or what we’re doing. No one likes to be snubbed, of course, but the offense can take on a new edge when the winner is a machine.
  • Putting Customers in Charge of Designing Shirts [NYTimes.com] – “The value proposition of customization at retail prices was a cornerstone of our company from the very start,” Mr. Bi tells me by phone from Shanghai, where Blank Label shirts are sewn to customers’ specifications and delivered anywhere in the world in about four weeks. But Blank Label, his Web start-up based in Boston, offers something else that off-the-rack doesn’t: “the emotional value proposition: how expressive something is.” “People really like a Blank Label shirt because they can say, ‘I had a part in creating this.’ ”
  • Google Restricts Ads for ‘Cougar’ Sites [NYTimes.com] – Last week, CougarLife.com, which was paying Google $100,000 a month to manage its advertising, was notified by the company that its ads would no longer be accepted. When notified by Google of the decision, CougarLife proposed substituting a different ad for the ones that were running, picturing older women and younger men together. Cougarlife said it would use an image of the company’s president, Claudia Opdenkelder, 39, without a man in the picture (she lives with her 25-year-old boyfriend). But the advertising department was told in an e-mail message from its Google representative that “the policy is focused particularly around the concept of ‘cougar dating’ as a whole,” and asked if the company would be open to changing “the ‘cougar’ theme/language specifically (including the domain if necessary).” CougarLife forwarded the e-mail messages to The New York Times. Google would not comment on the messages but did confirm that they were consistent with the new policy on cougar sites.
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Semantics of Skin November 18th, 2008

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A recent ad for Blackberry, showing every bit of the otherwise neutral device covered in imagery that references the richness of the life of someone who uses it. Evoking the strongly the aftermarket skins that enable a similar sort of customization. The ad is using the visual as a metaphor but it’s actually quite close to a product that other firms make to address the relative monotony of consumer electronics products.

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Automobile Avatars June 16th, 2008

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I’m seeing a lot of these lately on rear windows of minivans and similar larger family-sized vehicles: icons that represent every member of the household (including pets).

Seems like a new example of personalization; an untapped bit of car real estate, and a new message to publish (who are the – writ rough – people in our household).

I wonder if this is more common among Hispanics and/or the churchgoing. Any ideas? Do you have one of these? Where did you hear about it? Where did you get it?

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Trend Ecosystem January 15th, 2008

It’s fascinating how most successful products lead to an ecosystem of supporting products. The Crocs fad has provided the fan-base to support charms, little decorations that attach to the holes on the shoe’s surface and let the wearer further establish their individual identity within the trend of people who have established a unique identity by wearing Crocs in the first place.

Acknowledging that following a trend has a very different meaning in Japan, we bring you the Crocs family, who we saw on a bus in Kyoto, each with their own charms.

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Dad

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Mom

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Son

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Baby

In addition to aftermarket personalization, many trends also generate a safety backlash meme (iPod muggings, anyone?). In Taipei, it’s dangerous to wear Crocs on escalators.
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Manufacturers like Apple are very savvy about creating/controlling their aftermarket, but I wonder about the backlashes. Are PR people planting those stories or doing damage control or not realizing their significance?

Update: Karl Long on the Crocs backlash (safety and others) here

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