Opinion

Personalising a brand: Trusting the customer to take control

6 min read

01 February 2016

Customers are now more savvy and cynical than they’ve ever been before, so you’ve got to be thinking about how you can introduce the human touch to your branding. We look at examples from Airbnb, Coca-Cola and more that you can take on board.

A while back, the majorly disruptive travel website Airbnb did something interesting with its branding. It gave more control of its brand to its users, enabling them to play with colours and backgrounds, which would allow them to feel a sense of ownership over the brand.

The marketing community has fallen in love with the concept, but the jury is still out on whether it’s a good thing.

Personalisation of a brand is a new concept and only possible because of the way the technology of the internet is allowing people to operate. It’s only natural that internet marketing specialists will adopt this trend and include it in their branding strategy.

I’ve recently been working on the creation of our new BrightHR (a HR software solution) brand and one of the key things we wanted to implement in this brand was an element of personalisation, which offers the user the chance to change an element of the logo (and even create their own), change the colours and upload their own images.

As a concept, personalisation in the delivery of content isn’t a new thing. We were doing it at Skiddle years ago, delivering content to people based on where they live, or their previous browsing history or their likes on Facebook etc.

In personalising the content delivered to the user, there was a definite increase in conversions and stickiness. However, we were still relatively protective of the brand.

Customers are now more savvy and cynical than they’ve ever been before, so you’ve got to be thinking about how you can introduce the human touch to your branding.

The idea of allowing the user to personalise the brand centres on trying to facilitate the customer to love the brand they’re interacting with because, in essence, they’ve had a hand in the design of that brand; they’ve tailored it to their taste in some capacity.

Read more on personalisation:

Personalised branding in the physical world

The age of the internet really brings personalised branding to life, yet it’s not just about what you can do online.

Probably the best known example of personalised branding is one in the physical world that Coca-Cola did a few years ago with #ShareACoke, adding names to the Coke bottles in the hope that people would want to buy them if they had their name on them, buy them for their friends and swap them. 

Later they included place names and words such as friends – and it worked, with sales increasing again.

Most brands will think about what can be done online because there’s only a limited chance to scale things offline – however, it’s still interesting to think about how it can be done in the real world.

As a brand isn’t just a logo and a colour palette, it’s essential to make the ethos of personalisation of your branding part of everything you do, giving individuals more control over how they perceive your brand. These are the new challenges brand marketers and online marketing specialists face.

A brand consultant must understand the concept of personalisation and talk about branding in terms of culture and how the brand looks, feels, smells and sounds in the real world. An SEO consultant must be sure part of that strategy is about personalising the brand experience in the search engines.

You might think it’s difficult to personalise a brand experience in the search engines however really it’s relatively easy – we all have our customers’ details, why aren’t we shouting about them online?

Create a page of content about your customer or about their area or about a part of their day-to-day, which is really unique to them and you’re starting to offer them a way into your brand online that no other company will be doing.

It’s scary to give away control to your customers and it’s counter-intuitive to what we’ve all been taught as marketers. Of course, a designer still has to follow the brand guidelines to some extent, but it’s about making them less restrictive.

Whatever steps you take next you need to start thinking about including increasing amounts of personalisation in your branding because this is one area of brand marketing that’s not going to go away.

We’ve revealed that 2016 will be the year of the challenger brand, so now is the time to ensure consumers are able to recognise your company from the crowd surrounding it – just look at the examples set by craft brewers, Uber and GoPro.

Simon Dalley is brand manager at BrightHR