‘Ultimately the future of mass personalisation will bring us full circle. Industry itself will be contained in our own factory at home, where we can personalise anything for anybody at any time.’ (A. Sharif – ‘You: The New Owner of the means of Communication’)

New brands, products and services are driving mass personalisation. But are they really going far enough? It’s fair to say that we are starting to see something of a backlash with consumers still feeling as if they are being stereotyped, through increasingly outmoded practices, and treated as a ‘target’ audience rather than being credited as an increasingly active and opinionated part of the creative process.

Let’s put this into context. We don’t just live in a progressively age-less or ownerless society but an increasingly label-free one. We pride ourselves on the ability to promote the multiple facets of our personalities and avoid being defined in a one-dimensional way. We are more connected en masse than ever before but at the same time want brands to find new and more intimate ways to target us as an individual. On top of this, the transparency that we have demanded from our brands and services means that we know more than ever how the system works. This all signals an increasing urge for involvement and influence and underpins the huge potential of this macro-cultural shift.

While co-creation and collaboration is not a new story we are now seeing innovators taking their previous processes one step further with the recent advent of experimental ‘LABs’. From Google Labs renowned facility for testing their new innovations to the UK’s John Lewis JLAB, ‘a business incubator with a twist,’ which invests in a competition winning start-up, consumers are being invited to literally lend a hand and co-create – both in real and virtual time. But it is a concept that is already, and rapidly, becoming ubiquitous.

Looking to the brand world, we see leaders such as Starbucks taking customer relations to a new level with the creation of MyStarbucksIdea.com, inviting their consumers to share their ideas in a online discussion forum, ‘From revolutionary to simple,’ with Starbucks offering to help make it happen.

These initiatives are tapping into the current consumer motivation centred on how we ‘live’ rather than what we ‘buy’ – with people looking to organisations and enterprises that help facilitate and inspire their lifestyles. Swedish school Hyper Island is just one breakthrough enterprise using a more motivational approach to redefine what education can mean to the individual with a range of immersive learning programmes and experiences designed to lead change and facilitate a new sense of lifelong learning.

Of most note, however, is the fact that consumers are increasingly taking the reins back, becoming more hands-on and in control as we find new and ever-more personal ways to just create for ourselves. This has, of course, largely been facilitated by digital technology, such as Droog’s Design For Download: digital design tools that allow ordinary computer users to easily make functional designs.

Now and in the future we will want new knowledge, new inspiration and new possibilities to allow us to be more empowered in shaping the lifestyle we want to lead. How brands can engage with, and offer this to, their wider consumer base is the real question. Technology is way ahead of the game, already steering a new direction and facilitating more unique ways for us to curate and create our ideas, experiences, objects and networks, but it is not just technology’s domain – the opportunity is both an open field and infinite one.

And if we revisit the call to action of A. Sharif, he neatly concludes, “The components for this future are already in place. Someone just needs to join up the dots to make the label read: Made by Me’.

Originally published by PSFK