custom - Custom in practice

Brands are falling over themselves to help us realise our need to personalise our surroundings

Would you buy a bottle of wine just because it had your first name on the label? Perhaps. Or maybe it would seem a bit tacky. Not so for Coca-Cola: in September 2014 the Wall Street Journal reported that the soft drink giant’s sales were up 2%, reversing a 10-year decline, as a result of its Share a Coke campaign in which popular names were printed on bottles and cans.

Nutella and M&M’s have also produced personalised versions of their products. There are hotels that will embroider guests’ names on pillows, muesli suppliers that will tailor the recipe to your exact specification – and if you’re interested in a toaster that will burn an imprint of your face into the bread, you can buy one of those in Vermont.

The “Custom” trend is one that we identify in our new Global Consumer Trends 2015 report. It doesn’t simply refer to a narcissistic impulse to see our name (or likeness) on the products we buy – but growing consumer pressure to ensure that their personal needs and tastes are catered for.

In the drinks world, there are distilleries that will tailor the botanicals they use to a client’s specification; some craft brewers offer their own variation of this service. How might the wine industry respond? It’s not usually practical to make dozens of different blends for different tastes, but perhaps there are implications for packaging and how wines are presented to different audiences.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity is for retailers. It’s never been easier to collect and analyse consumer data, so marketing offers and special deals can be targeted much more effectively. As an extreme example, there’s probably little point sending Pinot Grigio as part of a mixed case to a customer who’s previously only bought Cabernet and Shiraz.

There is a balance to be struck. Of course wine companies want to give consumers what they want – but sometimes they want to tempt them into unexplored territory. We don’t always know our own tastes as well as we think we do.

In the end, the feeling of control, and belonging, both of which underpin the Custom trend, can be realised through subtle changes in the way a brand speaks to us. Coca-Cola didn’t change their product formula (they tried that with disastrous results over 30 years ago), but they did change their attitude – standing alongside their consumers rather than talking down to them.