One gold star in lots of grey ones 800x799 - The special one

For some customers, even the very best won’t suffice. If everybody else has exactly the same thing, is quality in itself really enough?

In our Global Consumer Trends 2016 report, we see how today’s consumers are faced with more choice than ever, and faster and more interesting ways of making those choices. We have our own tailored TV channels, personalised radio stations and newsfeeds, and we can get whatever we want delivered to our homes within the hour – behaviour which, not so long ago, was reserved for the uber-wealthy and privileged. In a way, it’s to be expected that as we get used to having certain things made tailored to our exact tastes, we start to demand more from everything else we consume as well.

And not only can many more of us get exactly what we want, when we want, but we make a habit of letting others know exactly what we’ve got as well. From holidays, to jobs, to families: we all know what our friends, colleagues, and old acquaintances are doing.  With so much personal information passed around so easily, the desperation to stand out from the crowd is somewhat understandable.

In the soft drinks industry, manufacturers have responded to this increasingly consumer-centric environment with the personalisation of their packaging. A trend started by Coca-Cola, with their bottles and cans featuring common given names, was wildly successful, and this year, competitors are following suit: Pepsi releasing cans featuring emojis and Dr Pepper releasing hundreds of unique label designs, each with a different theme.

Of course, technology has been a huge driver for today’s individualism, and it’s the new technology of recent years that has taken mass customisation to the next level. Personalised designs on mass-produced products such as soft drinks cans has resulted from advances in digital printing, and furthermore, the advent of 3D scanning and printing has changed the way we think about manufacturing. As this technology becomes cheaper, it is being increasingly applied to the mass production of customised consumer goods from footwear to chocolate.

The result of this is that things that have been traditionally thought of as mass-produced, homogenous, and not very personal are becoming that bit more special. You can even take your bottle of personalised Coke and pair it up with vodka from a one-of-a-kind bottle of Absolut.

The Custom trend ultimately consists of some things which are designed to a consumer’s specific personal tastes and others which are simply designed to be totally unique. What they all have in common, though, is that they all focus on a universal, fundamental desire: to make us all feel like individuals.

Find out more in our Global Consumer Trends 2016 report or book a place on one of our workshops. Places are still available for Lisbon and Madrid this week, and Soave and Santiago next week.

Author: Chris Giles