John Jordan writes:
The people who buy mass-produced stuff, often called “consumers,” want in some deep-rooted way to shape their environment beyond just piling up purchased goods. How much people want to stand out as unique, and how much they want to create something tangible, is of course impossible to differentiate or quantify, and of course sometimes an artifact embodies both consumption (or conspicuousness) and workmanship. But the current business landscape provides too many examples for this to be a fad: there’s something very potent afoot in the rise of personalization and customization.
Companies that fail to understand and market to the customization mentality will face an uphill climb: General Motors and Ford, the paragons of mass production, are in deep financial trouble. Toyota and Honda serve more niches more profitably and are thriving. Subway, where each sandwich is made to order, has severely dented McDonalds’ industrial model. Dell’s dominance of the PC market begins with customization. Financial services companies that rely on brokers and brokers’ commission structures like Merrill Lynch have had to respond to the Schwabs of the world – but now that firm is fighting a two-front battle against lower-cost low-service brokerages and established firms like Fidelity that provide a range of interaction options.