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Personalised Products: is it just a Gimmick?

FMCG products are often thought of as essential items that consumers tend to buy either on auto pilot, or as a response to price vs. convenience; they are not necessarily items that consumers want to make an emotional connection with. Consumer loyalty is becoming increasingly difficult for brands in this sector to achieve, given the wide range of products available, as well as individual store offers. For legacy brands to stand out, they need to look to more than simply spending on memorable TV ads, and instead look to make personal connections with consumers. Social media plays a big role here, allowing a brand to spark immediate two-way conversations with consumers, but increasingly, we’ve noticed a pattern of familiar names opting to launch campaigns that enable customers to personalise and customise products.

From Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign in 2013 to Nutella’s ‘Your Nutella Your Way’ and Marmite’s ‘Personalise Your Marmite’, it seems FMCG brands are jumping on the bandwagon, giving shoppers access to personalised products. But the question remains in how much value do these campaigns hold? Are they simply a gimmick to get people to temporarily purchase more of that brand’s product, or is there a long-term engagement strategy behind these campaigns, devised to increase brand loyalty in this crowded marketplace?

Taking a look at results from Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, it’s clear that the value of offering personalised products is in fact very strong, and carries with it an opportunity for brands to significantly improve sales, loyalty, and engagement figures. Back in 2013, Coca-Cola’s Facebook community grew by 6.8% globally and 3.5% in the UK, during the campaign period. At the same time, the brand also reversed declining sales, increasing its value sales by 4.93% year on year to £765 million in the 52 weeks to 17 August. Sales of all Colas in the UK grew 2.75%, all carbonates 3.11%, and the total soft drinks market’s value sales increased 2.36%. In fact, the campaign was so successful that Coca Cola has decided to forego a new Christmas ad this year in favour of a new line of festive customised bottles.

So why is this product personalisation trend so important? In this over-crowded and over saturated FMCG market, consumers love something that’s personal and unique to them and are increasingly looking to make a personal connection with the brands that they’re most loyal to.

Offline vs. Online

Perhaps not surprisingly, personalisation is something that brands tend to achieve more successfully online than offline. Take personalised email campaigns or online ads for example, or remarketing ads, that seem to show you the most relevant content from websites you’ve previously visited. There are many companies out there successfully running personalised digital campaigns, and doing so with relative ease.

Names like Netflix and Amazon have perfected the art of tailoring content just to you, suggesting movies based on your history, or products based on your previous purchases or searches online. In comparison, being able to personalise a product label on a bottle of coke or jar of Nutella seems childishly simplistic. But what starts off as a simple label customisation can in turn develop into much more. Take Nutella for example; in order to receive their personalised products, customers need to first purchase a promotional jar of Nutella and look for the on-pack code. They then enter their details and code via the Nutella website. As for Marmite, the campaign runs via a Facebook app, where customers need to enter their details and are subsequently prompted to connect to the brand via Facebook, which is a more engaging platform than the brand’s website.

What starts out as a simple product label customisation on a novelty jar, could develop into the brand eventually looking into personalising the product to fit the customer’s needs, for example altering the flavours and taste to each individual. It’s not a far-fetched idea, and will ensure these commodity and legacy brands can stay relevant in the digital age, where they’re fighting against digital start-ups that have personalisation baked into their heritage.

One could argue that merely adding someone’s name to a label isn’t product personalisation at all, but rather product customisation, which has its limits in how far you can really make an emotional connection with a customer. But it’s a stepping stone and the brands adopting these campaigns know that all too well. Product personalisation, when done right, is a long-term process that will take time to perfect, and brands that personalise too much too soon run the risk of being obtrusive or invading people’s personal lives. We’ll need to keep an eye on these FMCGs and see what they come up with next!

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