Striking the balance between standard and bespoke

I am always intrigued by the dilemma between standardisation and bespoke customisation in product delivery. As marketers, we like each customer to feel that they are the only person in the world that we are talking to at any one time – the emails that start ‘Dear John’, or the promotional offers that lift transactional data to try to pretend that you know their shopping habits better than they do. Naturally, our finance people want us to do the opposite – to mass produce a solution, and ‘cookie cut’ it as many times as possible to keep the cost down.

Secret Marketer

Some brands get away with it. First Direct has long delivered a standard product but overlain it with superlative service to make the customer feel special. John Lewis does a similar job on the high street extremely well.  

And in today’s advanced technological era, where ‘big data’ means we can identify segments of one, and laser printing gives us the ability to customise our delivery to an infinite degree, I still find it amazing that brands have failed to master the most simple of things – the humble instruction manual
– that is still produced in more languages than you even knew existed.

Why is that? My wife and I have just bought a fantastic new coffee maker. It comes with an instruction booklet that is an inch thick, but only has five pages of English direction; the rest is the same but in Mandarin, Hungarian, etc.

I am perplexed by this. Is this another example of where our operational colleagues remain out of line with what marketers are trying to do? Surely, the instruction manual is the one piece of collateral that the customer might retain, and hence is the lasting connection to the brand that we all seek?  Is the cost to produce separate instructions for each distribution region so much more expensive than the current approach that most brands have  succumbed to and few have resolved. Surely one of the more environmentally conscious brands should have mastered this by now?

Or is this just another example of an initiative that modern technology finds ‘too difficult’ to address?


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