How “Just For Me” Can Also Be “Just For You”

Mark Osborn

In my last post I discussed how personalization in consumer products can mean much more than customizing finished goods. And while product customization is a sure path to personalization, delivering a “just-for-me” experience in a moment of opportunity may in fact require little or no customization at all.

Considering consumers’ increasing expectations for personalized experiences, there’s a corresponding challenge that could be framed instead as an opportunity. While it’s true that delivering personalized experiences and outcomes may require new approaches to go-to-market, consumer engagement, and business processes, the benefits of engaging with consumers directly via personalization—consumer-created personalization, perceived personalization, or actual individualized product personalization—often dramatically outweigh the costs, and for the CP companies that pursue these strategies, this strategy can create significant “just for you” advantages that would be challenging for your competition to emulate.

Let’s take a closer look, using the examples I provided in my last post.

Consumer insights

Let’s start with the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. Coke has modified its fountain machines to enable consumers to choose from a wider variety of branded beverage options and to mix and match various flavors to create their own custom-blended soft drink flavor.

Each machine is standard, but by giving consumers more choice and new options, Coca-Cola is not only enabling consumer-created personalization, it’s also gleaning greater consumer insights than ever before, with little or no incremental effort or investment. For example, the company can monitor consumption and aggregate data on consumers’ selections and combinations over time to measure and compare local and regional consumption and flavor preferences.

The Coke Freestyle machines go a step further by providing consumers a login option via a mobile app. The app communicates with the machine to track a consumer’s consumption, including their preferred flavors and combinations. It can even deliver a consumer’s own “custom” soft drink whenever that individual uses a Freestyle machine. Not only does this deliver an inherently personalized experience for the consumer, it provides a treasure trove of data and information for Coca-Cola to leverage for R&D and new product innovation.

Consumer engagement

Creating valuable sources of consumer data via new approaches to consumer engagement doesn’t necessarily require significant investments in new technologies or marketing processes. Even relatively small technology investments can deliver substantial benefits and returns in data and insights, enabling CP companies to enhance product promotion, development and marketing, and advertising strategies.

Let’s revisit the Nivea Protection Ad mentioned in my last post. The company made no changes to its product, packaging, pricing, distribution, or marketing strategies, and the app it offered was presumably relatively inexpensive to develop and was the same for every consumer. However, once the consumer linked the bracelet to the mobile app, Nivea went from being a company that couldn’t measure the ROI of its marketing investments (because it knew only how many units were scanned through retail registers in a given market one month prior) to a company that could identify the individual consumer that was purchasing and using its products, which products that consumer was using, the publication the consumer was reading, where that consumer was located, how much time the consumer spent in that location, and presumably, how many other consumers were also using the sensor-enabled bracelet and app nearby.

Nivea’s approach creates a personalized, high-value experience for the consumer that simultaneously opens an entirely new channel for ongoing engagement with individual consumers. The insights the company can derive from that engagement give it a much deeper, more nuanced understanding of consumer needs and preferences for future product development, promotion, and target marketing.

Consumer dialogue

The ability to provide meaningful experiences in moments of need creates a unique connection between product and consumer. Taking the example one step further to delivering a truly customized product and experience for an individual consumer, CP companies have opportunities to develop deep consumer relationships that encourage long-term loyalty and create tremendous barriers to entry for other companies attempting to win that same consumers’ loyalty.

For example, the vision behind PepsiCo’s Drinkfinity program goes beyond hydration to creating customized nutrition and performance resources for today’s athletes. The company aims to deliver not only hydration, but eventually the nutrition athletes need to maintain and sustain optimal performance.

What might sound like a novelty actually creates an opportunity for companies like Gatorade to develop a much deeper understanding of consumers and to deliver ongoing value. By engaging with individual consumers, the company can modify its personalized hydration and nutrition solutions as consumer needs evolve based on changes in lifestyle, aging, exercise patterns, and more. Provided companies like Gatorade can sustain meaningful dialogue with consumers over time and continue to deliver customized solutions and meaningful outcomes, they will sustain deep personal relationships that will give them a strong advantage over competitors.

Meaningful benefits through personalization

Just as personalization can go far beyond customized products, it can deliver substantial and previously unachievable benefits. These include deeper insights into consumer preferences, new opportunities to engage consumers with new experiences and outcomes, and the ability to develop new models that can foster brand loyalty like never before.

To learn more about personalization, read Consumer products: Reimagined for the new economy.


About Mark Osborn

Mark Osborn is Vice President of Digital Strategy and Business Planning for Consumer Products at SAP. He focuses on strategy and thought leadership development, strategic growth initiatives, and operations and go-to-market planning. Prior to his current role, Mark was the global lead for the Consumer Products industry marketing for SAP. He holds a BA from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and an MBA from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management.