5 09, 2013

Frank Mini-Me Piller: Get Yourself 3D-Printed, Keep Your Young Self Forever

By | 2018-06-14T06:33:55+00:00 September 5th, 2013|3D Printing, Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, Design, Fabbing, Technologies & Enablers, Virtual Models|

Doob 3d printing
has developed far beyond a trend by now. Potential applications are manifold, ranging from medical gear to entire houses. And now you can even have a detailed replica of yourself printed in a variety of sizes, a kind of 3D printed Mini-Me, to give it away to your friends or just place on your shelve to keep a memory of your young, energetic self for the decades to come.

In Germany, there are several companies offering this service. I used Doob, or Deep End Productions, located in Duesseldorf, Germany. Founded by Vladimir Puhalac and Torsten Bernasco Lisboa, the companys offers 3D photographs to everyone. While standard sizes go from 15 to 30 coms, you can also get a lifesize figure (for 15K Euro onwards, the 30cm version go for about 300 Euros).

All you have to do is to show up in their studio and be photographed from all sides, simultaniously, by a 50 cameras (this process is called Photogrammetry"). These pictures than are transferred into a 3D model, which then is hand-modelled into the final 3D file. This file then is placed on a standard 3D systems prototyoing machine that can print in full color.

The founders are coming from the medical field and have a strong background in 3d modelling. Their first company is providing replicas of ears, noses, and breasts to unfortunate patients who lost these bodyparts. With this background, they discovered the stereo litography, and developed a quite efficient procedure to develop your "doppelgänger". After the photograph, a 3D model is created that then is manually prepared for the final print. While the later procedure takes about 2 hours, I believe it can be brought down.

They now opened a first store in Duesseldorf, but plan to enter the US and Japanese market, too, within the next months.

The result is really stunning, and while I belive that in general people like to see themselves, it really is a great feeling to have yourself as a mini-figure. But also everyone else found this really cool.

This is why I believe that this kind of 3D printing service may become the killer application that makes 3D printing a mainstream business application:

  • Established market. Our parents all used to go once every few years to a professional photographer for a family picture. While this market has almost disappeared, this 3D printing service may foster its revival.
  • Fast. The print is based on a photograph, not a 3D scan. This means you can also have a child, dog, or something similar quickly moving on your arm.
  • The quality is really stunning. You can see the pattern of your t-shirt or even your tatoo perfectly (I almost feel sorry that I did not have a tatoo to be printed on my figure).
  • Prices will go down rapidely. While the current price of 200-300 Euros is quite high, there is plenty of room for adjustments (I estimate that material costs are below 10 Euro).
  • There are many more options for business model innovation: You and your favorite soccer star in one print; you and your baby belly (very popular with German moms to be); the partners of a law firm greeting their clients on the reception desk, you holding a poster and a bunch of flowers proposing to your wife to be, …
  • Local production: While delivery in the moment takes a couple a weeks and is done in a central facility, production can be brought down to a couple of hours, opening an entire new market in malls and amusement parks.

So when you have the chance and like to experience a reall fun application of 3D printing, then get your doob, too.

Update: Here are some other posts about this technology and the picture taking:

Captured Dimensions and Twinkind (similar services)

– Report about COKE Israel advertising campaign featuring Mini-figures


3 04, 2013

[Interview] Matt Peterson of Big Shot Bikes: Customizing the Fixed Gear Trend

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:02+00:00 April 3rd, 2013|Cases-Consumer, Interview, MC/OI on the Web|

BigshotbikesWith plenty of bling and over-featuring of many products, in many industries now a counter-trend has started to emerge: "back to basics", advocating simplicity over sheer amounts of features.

This also has happend in the bike industry. While traditional bikes with many gears are certainly still in high demand, the opposite side of the scale has a growing fanbase as well: The single-gear bike, or the "Fixie". Being a popular and trendy product, it was just a question of time until somebody specialized in offering customized fixies to a growing customer base.

Matt Peterson Big Shot BikesOne such vendor is Big Shot Bikes. The Fort Collins, CO based company has been founded and is beeing run by Matt Peterson who we met for an interview on this special sector of the mass customization market and his role in it, his views on MC in general and the benefits of only having one gear.

FTP: Matt, you are the owner and founder of Big Shot Bikes.
Can you tell our reader a bit about yourself, your background and your passion
for quality bikes?

MP: Well, growing up in Colorado I had always been
active in the outdoors; traditionally I am a software engineer by trade and I
had worked for quite some time for a large telecom company. Having rode out the
tech and telecom bubble, I had become burnt out on the corporate
environment.  So in 2009, I saw an opportunity
to merge two of my passions, software and cycling. I had noticed a trend
emerging in single speed bikes with bright colors that people had built up
themselves. I
thought this was a natural fit for customization. With a small
initial investment, I dove in, leveraging my skills in software and ecommerce
to create a company and brand that is doing quite well and gaining market

FTP: Big Shot Bikes offers customized bicycles. While there is
competition on that market, what is special about your bikes?

MP: Hands down the most appealing part about our bikes
is the customization and sense of style that comes with owning one of our

People love the opportunity to create a design that
matches their own personality. We get quite a few emails from customers telling
us how they have been complimented on their bike and how they take a sense of
pride in the color scheme that they created.

FTP: What makes a single speed or fixed gear bike so
desirable? Does it not limit you to have only one gear?

MP: Single speed bikes have become a recent cultural
phenomenon. Sure, there are some limitations to having one gear, but there are
also advantages. The simplicity of going back to basics is what is drawing many
riders. No gears to tune or clicking derailleur to worry about.  This low maintenance factor means you can
just get on and ride.

FTP: Who is your main customer group? Are these bikes just for
the younger ones amongst us?

MP: The majority of our customers are definitely
younger, mostly college aged. But we sell to all age groups. In fact, we recently
sold a bike to an 81 year old ex-racer in Arizona. So really our bikes are
for anyone with a sense of style and just wants a fun bike to ride, no matter
what age or background.

FTP: Can you outline your customization, ordering and delivery
in a few sentences? How does everything work together?

MP: Sure, our system is designed to be fully
integrated with our inventory management system. If a color or part is
available on the build tool, that means it is currently in stock.  Once an item becomes out of stock, it
immediately disappears from the customization tool; this is critical in being
able to effectively fill orders. Once an order is captured, our inventory
system is updated and the order goes through a series of status change.  Customers will receive three notifications:
one to confirm the order, another to let them know the bike is being
.  The final notification is
integrated into our shipping software and a final notification containing the
tracking information for the bike. Lastly we integrate right in with our
shipping software and tracking provided once the bike is shipped. We also have
the ability to track and attach customer support tickets to orders that have
shipped just in case we have any issues once the customer receives the bike.

FTP: Especially interesting for our non-US readers: Do you
deliver worldwide?

MP: We do. We ship to just about any country that
FedEx will service via international economy air. We have shipped to most of
Europe and a few more exotic locations such as Egypt and South Africa. Granted,
the shipping charges are steep, averaging about $200 USD for international

FTP: What do you think will the future hold for the mass
customization landscape? Will it stay a trend, become a standard or even redefine
how we sell and buy products in the future?

MP: Honestly, I feel it will stay a trend, or more
appropriately a new established niche in commerce. Mass customization is  ideal for direct to consumer sales model.
I feel that traditional product manufacture and distribution will remain the
dominant form of commerce while mass customization will supplement it.

FTP: What are your plans for the coming five years?

MP: If the next five years are anything like the last
three years, we will continue to see strong growth in both our brand and
business. We plan to diversify our product line offering more bike models and
styles. From a technology standpoint, we have invested in HTML5 becoming the standard
in web based development
and will continue to stay on top of technology that
will allow us to offer the best customization experience we can.

FTP: Some of our readers might be looking for a job
opportunity in your branch. Are you hiring?

MP: We hire seasonal bike builders each spring/summer,
but these positions tend to be filled by college students looking for temporary

But where we do have significant opportunities is with
international distribution
. We are continually looking for individuals or
companies that feel they could effectively sell and distribute our bicycles in
their country or region. We have designed our customization tool and website to
be easily translated into almost any language. So the opportunity exists to
establish international distribution points and country specific versions of
our site.

Thank you very much for the interview, Matt! It will be interesting to see whether your predictions regarding MC as a trend hold true in the future or not. In any case, best of luck for your business!

And here are some really nice impressions of single gear bikes and the configuration process (even on iPad) in the official video demo:


Big Shot Bikes – iPad Bike Customization from Chris Bourke on Vimeo.

4 02, 2013

Lego CUUSOO: How Lego Turns Your Ideas Into Cubic Reality

By | 2018-05-07T15:19:22+00:00 Februar 4th, 2013|Cases-Consumer, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Design, MC Alternatives, Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers|

LEGO's Factory (later called "LEGO Design by me") has been one of the pioneers of mass customization.However, times change and Lego closed this "build on demand site" about a year ago and focused entirely on customer co-creation in the innovation process.

For this, they are partnering with CUUSOO; the mother of all crowdsourcing sites for product development (we described them in our 2006 paper on Threadless already!).

The project is called Lego CUUSOO and wors fairly simple: Everybody can submit an idea of what he would deem a great Lego product. Customers get to vote online and if the proposal gets sufficient buyer pledges the company turns it into reality and produces the toy.

Noew, there is a nice video giving more detail on this idea, it makes you instantly grab a pen and paper and start drawing your own powertoy idea…


17 01, 2013

Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 20): Photobox: Gifts and Decorations From Your Images

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:40+00:00 Januar 17th, 2013|Cases-Consumer, MC500, Personalization|

MC500_Signet_2012In our series of postings introducing companies that performend very well in our Customization 500 study, we are introducing the next mass customizer. Remember:  The order of these feature postings is more or less randomly!


Today: Make something special from all these holiday photos

The holidays are over and many of you will have put your new digital camera or 20-megapixle-smartphone to good use by documenting all the joy and pleasure of the christmas and new years celebrations.

Images are conserved memories and hence best shared with those who shared the documented moments, too. And while just uploading your pictures to facebook would probably do, why not take it one step further and surprise your friends and loved ones with some personalized books, cards, decorations and other kinds of gifts, individualized with the best photos from your celebrations (or last holiday).

German company photobox offers a wide range of individualizable products, from classical photo books, cups, puzzles and stickers to cellphone and tablet covers, calendars, magnets, the unavoidable mousepad and a lot of others. This is one of the most crowded and largest categories in BtoC mass customization on the web in general.

Their website and configurator appears pretty modern and seems to work fine so if you are looking for something to thank your holiday party host for a wonderful evening, this might be for you.

Note: Please see this post for detailed information on how to interpret the above data.

18 12, 2012

[Market Watch] CowCrowd: Wear Your Friends On Customizable Wooden Tags

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:15+00:00 Dezember 18th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, MC/OI on the Web, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers|

CowCrowd_3In conjunction with the MC2012 conference on mass customization in June we reported on CowCrowd,  a customization project by Viennese media agency cyLEDGE. Since our posting back then was in German only (as was the conference), here is what CowCrowd does. 

CowCrowd.com is an online configurator where users can create small wooden pendants with individual messages. These messages contain text or symbols and even photos, which can be uploaded an placed on the „cow tags“. As a special feature, users can directly connect to Facebook to engrave the profile pictures of their friends and family onto the tags.

cyLEDGE, being an innovative media agency, also does its best to make the project as customer-interactive as possible.  Users are invited to share their designs and use cases on Facebook to inspire others and spark new ideas. Via social networks the company stays in close contact with its fans and posts regularly on new infos and funny internet memes, most of them cow themed.

Now, part of being a customer-centric venture is to closely listen to customer wishes and to adapt one's own processes and portfolio to make the one individual happy that really counts: your client. Hence, for the holiday season CowCrowd created two new shapes to give the users more alternatives for their individual pendant. The new shapes are a Christmas tree for last minute presents and a simple round tag to meet the user's demands for more neutral forms than the classic „cow tags“.


Provided, when we first heard about CowCrowd, we were a bit hasitant about wearing a tag formed like a cow's head. However, when we got a chance to see and feel them live on the MC2012 conference, we were all charmed by their cuteness and surface quality. They certainly make a nice gift and there is no real risk in giving it a try yourself since the customizable pendants are available for under 5 EUR.

More about CowCrowd on the official project website

12 12, 2012

Interview with German handbag customizer Project OONA

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:17+00:00 Dezember 12th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, Customization Trends, Interview|

Oona_logo+claim_300dpiNot long ago we reported about OpenRunway, a mass customization venture enabling customers to personalize women's shoes and handbags.

For those (female) readers who can not get enough of customized bags, here is another very neat company from Germany: Project OONA

Project OONA features a nicely done configurator which lets you customize most aspects of your bag, after selecting one from a number of base models. 

Oona_screenshot Kopie


Maru-winnackerMaru Winnacker
, CEO of Project OONA, kindly agreed to give us some insight into the venture, what makes it different and how she sees the future of mass customization. 

FTP: Maru, can you tell a bit more about Project OONA? What exactly are you offering?

MW: Project OONA is a brand development company offering customization of handbags online. On our website customers will be able to customize their handbag. They start out with a design from our collection and then choose from different types of colors, linings, materials, etc. 

FTP: Personalized (Hand-)Bags are not exactly a new idea. What sets your company apart from the competition in this field?

MW: I agree that "personalization", i.e. the imprint of names or signatures, of fashion items has been around for quite some time. However, offers are rare, seldom integrated and mostly provided by high margin luxury brands. One prominent example is "Mon Monogram" by Louis Vuitton. 

However, "customization" as a means of giving customers full access to the production decision is a new phenomenon. The production and distribution processes involved are quite complex and we are experiencing a steep learning curve. There is only a small group of competitors online, all of which for less than 24 months and non supported by a global player. 

We researched all available offers online. However, these websites target either a very young audience or the mass market. We strongly believe that consumers deserve a recognizable brand to engage with: A logo, a specific style, excellent materials and perfect quality. That's how we try to distinguish ourselves. We are also targeting a premium customer segment focusing on internationally traveled business women who have an elaborate sense of value.

FTP: So far you are offering bags of different kinds (including iPad cases) from fine leather. Are there any plans to expand your business in the foreseeable future? Do you plan on diversifying your portfolio?

MW: Yes, of course! We started with handbags and fine leather accessories. We will quickly introduce additional handbag styles and materials. In the medium term new business segments (e.g. travel bags) will be added. In the long run, you will certainly see us experimenting with other customizable fashion categories.

FTP: What are your current markets? Do you offer exclusively for German customers or is Project OONA a world wide venture?

MW: As mentioned, Project OONA has an international claim. We started our service in Austria and Germany due to our local home field advantage. We will soon launch our English website and start shipping within Europe.

FTP: Where do you see your venture five years from now?

MW: Five years from now is a long time. I hope to be selling worldwide by then, with 2 – 3 more fashion product categories.

FTP: Do you think that mass customization in general is a long-lasting new paradigm that will change the face of retail significantly? Or is it just another trend?

MW: If there has been a paradigm shift towards mass customization it has happened years ago! The automotive industry has been adapting to this for years. The fashion industry will need to adapt quickly due to increasing customer demands as well as complete product and product value transparency. There are a myriad of innovative experiments currently online (e.g. virtual reality measuring, affiliate marketing etc.) that should leave not customer demand unfulfilled. Why should a customer shop around when she can design her fashion item herself? It is easy to get hooked to this kind of luxury!

So yes! I strongly believe that mass customization in the fashion industry is here to stay. It offers huge potential both online and offline. It brings customers and retail closer together. And I also believe that the current divided on- and offline retail chains will merge into one channel soon. Customers should be able to choose online and pick up offline and vice versa. 

FTP: Are you currently recruiting or looking for partners? Who would you want to work with if given the choice?

MW: Currently we are looking for more software engineers. Anyone interested?

 FTP: Thank you very much for this interesting interview! Im looking forward to see your venture grow and become an established brand on its market.

12 11, 2012

[Market Watch] Open Runway: A Women’s Customization Paradise

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:40+00:00 November 12th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, Design, Footwear, Personalization|

Open Runway #logoCertainly, vendors offering individualized shoes and handbags are not a truly new concept. But some do it better than others, at the very least in terms of configurator-usability.

One such example is Open Runway, a company founded by Monika Desai, one of the strong members of the Boston mass customization community.  Open Runway lets you crate individual shoes (soon) and handbags (now) and have them manufactured from scratch.

The web-interface is, as said, really convinient to use. You pick one of several base models, represented as silhouettes, decide which material and color individual parts such as heels, trims, straps etc should be in and see the results of your decisions in realtime on your screen.

As you can tell from the two images below, the process of designing is fairly simple even for men. Manufacturing time is announced to be 8 weeks, but if you have the chance to get the shoe or handbag, you have always wanted, what is two more months? (even if we know from our research that a delivery time of two weeks really improves the turnover rate .. so here is room for improvement for Monika).

Open Runway Shoe
Open Runway Bag

More about Open Runway on their website. I am curious to see how this develops and fits into teh recent trend of strong investments into custom fashion sites.

4 11, 2012

The MC Graveyard: Ideas that did not make it: Kidlandia strikes colors

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:56+00:00 November 4th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, Failures and Flaws, MC Graveyard, MC500|

Graveyard_by_flicr_CC_open_LicenseLast week we gave a short insight into the work of personalized kid`s goods producer Kidlandia.

Unfortunately, it has just been announced on their website that October 22nd, 2012, has been the last day to order any of their products.

truth appears to be that Kidlandia – like about 20% of startup companies
that we analyzed as part of our MC500 study –
could not establish itself well
enough on the market to become a long-term success story.

is perfect prove that a well-built configurator and a nice business idea
alone are no guarantee for a successful mass customization venture.
More factors play into it and, as we detailed in the MC500 study,
solid knowledge about both these factors and their proper combination
is key to make the difference between a good idea and a good business.

23 10, 2012

[Interview] One Just One: Unique 3D Printed, Very Individual Jewelry by Generative Design

By | 2018-06-14T06:50:07+00:00 Oktober 23rd, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, MC/OI on the Web, Personalization|

Sivam Krish, one of the veterans of the mass customization movement, is back with a new venture, building on generative design. HIs idea: a new toolkit to customize individualized jewelry.

This is not a new category In the old days, wealthy people went to their jeweler of choice and ordered a piece of earrings or such, matching their individual taste. With the concept of mass customization, customized jewelery has become a bit more affordable and accessible to "the masses". Usually, customization in this sector happens by picking a base model (online) and then changing materials, gems, color and so on. A number of high-profile startups have been busy in this domain.

Now, there is a new approach on the market, though. One Just One has just published their new concept on kickstarter where they hope to raise some investment capital to make their ideas reality. 

Onejustone_productsThe idea sounds fairly interesting. Instead of altering a few numbers of typical base designs for a ring or a necklace, they apply a technology which they call gererative design to generate 3D printed jewelry which is as unique as possible: they only sell one piece of each variation. 

We were lucky to get Sivam Krish of One Just One to give us an online interview and tell more about the idea behind the venture and how it is different from the existing competition.

FTP: Sivam, can you give some general outline of what One Just One is, and why it stands out from competition?

SK: Ok, we are trying here to reverse the influenced of the industrial revolution – which commodotized products. Before that, ladies would go to a family jewellery and say I want something like that but made like this. The jewellery himself would have some prototype types in his mind. We call these prototypes genetic models – but they are computable models.

One of the great disadvantages in design is that there is no way to map design information except in terms of geometry color or texture. Genetic modeling allow us to map products parametrically – which then means we can map at a very high level as what people desire, so it is going to open up new possibilities.

We should be able to do
what amazon does with books, in terms of not only what customers are likely to
like, but be able to generate from previous purchase patterns designs that are
they are more likely to like; that is, generate designs within the envelope of
consumer preference.

Before mass production a wide variety of designs emerged from the craft tradition, and it evolved. Only mass production created a fetish about  a single representation of design. We take a genetic view of design – in that we look at designs as belonging to families, as biologist do.
FTP: Can you go a bit in depth about the technical side of the design process? Can the potential customer influence the design process? If so, how much?

SK: We think that designers have a new role. That is to create genetic representations of designs rather than a single instance of it. Once this representation is made, we use genoform to create 1000s of variations, but many of them may be not manufacturerable or desirable. We leave it to the designer to use their expert judgment and taste to set the bounds of variations.

The buyer then selects within such bounds. One just One is a designers brand – and we believe that a good part of design is about selection.Evolutionary biologist would agree with us here. So the role of the designer is critical here. But unlike before within a larger range of design possibilities buyers may choose according to their own taste.

We are not in favor of customers designing. The rest of the 3D printing community may be into that, but we are not. We belive that the next generation of designers have a role to give designs form and meaning but gentic form not static immutable form.
FTP: You are getting your starting capital through a kickstarter campaign. What are your plans for the future if the business model heads off?

SK: We have set a very small maximum amount of 3000$ and a maximum number of products to 400 – which we can meet. I am a great believer in lean bushiness model and not wish to subject this little venture to the trauma that capital brings. Yet we need to raise some amout of capital. The less investment we have the more we can share with out design community. Out intention is to make it the most attractive platform for the most enlighten and talented designers who are willing to take leaps that others cannot contemplate.

How we are going to do this, I really do not know.

FTP: Thanks a lot for the interview, Sivam! I am sure you do already have some ideas how to approach these rather ambitious goals and I am looking forward to keep our readers updated about its future development.

More Information about One Just One can be found on their official website as well as from their ongoing kickstarter campaign.

15 10, 2012

Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 18): Kidlandia: Mass Customization Conquering Your Kid’s Room

By | 2018-06-14T06:50:24+00:00 Oktober 15th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, MC500, Personalization|

MC500_Signet_2012In our series of postings introducing companies that performend very well in our Customization 500 study, we are introducing the next mass customizer. Remember:  The order of these feature postings is more or less randomly!


Today: Great Individualized Gifts for the Young Ones

It's the time of the year again: With christmas fastly approaching (hey, just 2 1/2 months left!) the usual question arises once again: What do I bring my little nephew/niece/grandchildren as a gift when I go visit them? Tough question if you are an adult and hence a bit out of the loop on what the kids do and dont like these days.

Kidlandia might have something in (online-)store for you if you refuse to buy the standard plastic hero or DVD: Nicely individualized stuff that will certainly stick out.

From mugs to puzzles, mousepads, posters and growth charts to even some comics featuring the famous Marvel heros: There is something in it for about every age and interest. I especially like the idea of their blanket configurator (which is also, technically, well done): After deciding for one of several pre-designed adventure-map themed blankets you are given the tools and freedom to customize it by adding, removing, repositioning, renaming (…) various (sea-)monsters and other typical elements from that adventure book your boy loves to read under his blanket.

Certainly an example of a nicely done configurator.

UPDATE: Kidlandia has just announced that today, October 22nd, 2012, is the last day to order any of their products. Sad truth appears to be that Kidlandia – like about 20% of startup companies that we analyzed as part of our study – could not establish itself well enough on the market to become a long-term success story.

This is perfect prove that a well-built configurator and a nice business idea alone are no guarantee for a successful mass customization venture. More factors play into it and, as we detailed in the MC500 study, solid knowledge about both these factors and their proper combination is key to make the difference between a good idea and a good business.

Note: Please see this post for detailed information on how to interpret the above data.

27 09, 2012

Build-A-Bear in Numbers: 110 million animals, $400 million sales, 8 new technologies in stores

By | 2018-06-14T06:50:49+00:00 September 27th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, Personalization|

Build a bear homepageIn an extensive article in the NYT, Elizabeth Olson reports a number of interesting details on Build-A-Bear Workshop. This company is one of my favorite examples of mass customization, as it not just invented a new category and value preposition based on mass customization, but also is one of the premier examples of delivering process experience in an in-store environment.

Here are some interesting numbers on Build-A-Bear, according to the Ney York Times:

Corporate Data

  • 1997 founded
  • 110 million plush animals sold since it started
  • 296 own stores in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, plus several franchise outlets abroad
  • $394 million in revenue (2011), with a $17 million loss due to weak economy
  • $7.8 million of advertising spending in 2011, and $2.7 million in first six months of 2012 

Customer demographics

  • 8-year-old girl is core customer
  • 30 percent of customers are boys
  • 2-3 visits of average customer per year to create customized animal or to buy outfits.
  • 500 lost bears are returned to kids every year as bar code allows a lost animal to be tracked and returned

New store concept

  • 1st new store introduced this week in St Louis
  • 2 years of development for new store layout, working with Adrienne Weiss Corporation, a Chicago advertising agency that was part of the original brand development
  • Microsoft Kinect movement technology will allow customers to play games at large screen at the front by waving their hands in front of it 
  • 8 new technology stations in each store will increase hands-on engagement
    New “love me” touch screen where child can choose a heart for his or her stuffed animal.
    Other new options include customized sound chip and scents like chocolate chip or cotton candy that can be embedded in the stuffed animal!!


My last article of Build A Bear's European Operations is here.

1 09, 2012

Interview: Sound Designer Max Kickinger about how personalized sound branding can improve sales

By | 2018-06-14T06:54:10+00:00 September 1st, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers|

In my wrap-up post about the MC2012 conference in june I mentioned Max Kickinger, a professional sound designer, or, better: sound brander. At the MC2012-Salzburg, he gave a very insightful and entertaining presentation about what professional sound design is, how it is being done and, most important, how it can majorly contribute to making your company stick out and being remembered in a positive way.

Copyright Max Kickinger, all rights reserved!Sound branding, to me, is one of these (actually not so) little aspects of marketing that sourrounds us every day, yet we never think about it. Things like the famous Nokia-ringtone come to mind, which was omnipresent until a few years ago. Nowadays, if a certain ringtone sounds, five people in the same room instinctively reach for their Apple smartphone. Just two examples of what soundbranding can do.

Max Kickinger was kind enough to give us a pretty detailed interview in which he explains the concept in detail and stresses the importance of audible recognizability for all sorts of companies – including mass customization ventures!

FTP: Max, at the MC2012 you presented the concept of soundbranding. Since certainly not everybody is familiar withthe exact implications of that term, can you, as a professional, give your definition of what sound branding realyis – and what it is not?

MK: Sure! Soundbranding is a process of defining, creating and implementing a unique and recognizable soundprofile for a brand. Just the same as brands are used to do in the visual domain. Like most brands have a distinct typefont, colors,images and so on, we believe that every brand should have it's own sound. Having your own sound is an indispensable part of every brand.

FTP: What can sound branding do for a company? Do you deliver more or less a recognizable jingle?

MK: Well, it goes far beyond a single piece of music. Finding the right music in particular, for example a jingle, is an aesthetic process. Defining a Sound Identity for a brand is a much more strategic objective for the brand. This means defining ground rules how a brand deals with it's sound. The basic questions are: where does a brand sound, how does it sound and in which situations silence is more appropriate. We make sure, that everyone dealing with the brand has the framework for the right sound at the right time.

FTP: Can you give/ do you know of any numbers/ examples of how soundbranding notably increased sales/revenues for companies?

MK: Just think of T-Mobile Soundbranding for example. Their Soundlogo consists of two notes and is in it's shortest under one second long. With just one second of sound we, the consumers and listeners learned a whole set of values and propositions the brand stands for. Not that I am saying, that this comes all out of the Soundlogo itself, but the brand acted accordingly to combining it's sound to it's values. Something like this has to be built up and doesn't come overnight – so at first it is an investment into your brand, that pays of when it lowers your cost of music in the following years.

Times are getting more complex. I think brands create orientation in a complex world. Having your customers recognize you in this world pays off for every brand. So I think it‘s not easy to say how much money let‘s say T-Mobile made by having a distint visual identity, but I can tell you it would be less if they hadn‘t. It‘s exactly the same with the sound.

FTP: And how does the process work? Imagine I would ask you to sound brand my MC company, producing, say, customized handbags?

MK: It would be a pleasure. The process workes in modules. First we analyse your brand soundwise. Where does your brand already sound and what does it sound like. Then we take a look at other brands in your market segment, because we sure don't want to sound like they do. Once we've done that together we work on the question "What do we want to sound like?" After these Soundworkshop there will be the creative compositional brief for the composers. In most cases this would be me or a team of talents, that are just perfect for a particular music style. Of course everthings gets documented in the Sound Guidelines and stored properly in your own Sounddatabase. So that everyone working on and with the brand is involved and informed how to get the right sounds for the right occasion. From that point on, we accompany your brand to check if everything works smoothly.

FTP: How important do you think sound branding can be especially for our readers being interested in or professionals on the mass customization market?

MK: It think brands are about the experience. First and foremost music is somehow the customisation of your life. Many people show who they are, by playing you their favorite music. Brands can open up to this and deliver customized music experiences for their consumers, that just fit's their taste perfectly. Of course also in a formal approach, that allows you to be still recognizalbe as a brand soundwise.

FTP: Are there differences between a traditional company and an MC one in terms of sound branding? Do you recommend / have to take a different approach when it comes to designing and establishing their sound brand?

MK: I think every brand or company has it's unique DNA. And companies can be a very complex thing. In every case the process of creating a Soundbrand is of course defined by the brand itself and in most cases it is only as good as the brand knows who they are and what they stand for. We make sure, that our process works fine in finding what makes your brand special and build something, that is unique to you. Of course there a numbers of possiblities, that you can open your Soundchannels for your customers. Just look at the example Nokia Own Voice. People can record there own and others voices for the commands of the navigationsystem on their mobile device. It's just a perfect example of how customziable sound and product go together.

FTP: Many MC ventures are small(er) ones. Do you think sound branding can lead to a significant competitive advantage for small companies (MC and traditional alike)? Are the costs worth it, at that stage, so to say?

MK: Even the smallest companies have sound – think for example of your voicemail on your telephone. Even if you are a one man or woman brand. When it comes to costs it of course makes a substancial difference if you hire us for a whole soundbranding or for creating the right tonality for your voicemail.

FTP: What do you think about mass customization in general, will it be "just a trend" or become the business model of the future?

MK: I think mass customization is a huge opportunity to give your customers the chance to be a part of your brand. In the end it is a good proposition to make, since you as brand always try to be a part of your customers life as well. So why not open up and give your customers the chance to do that? I think as a brand now more than ever you have to be relevant or useful to your customers and I see a huge set of opportunites for the mass customisation market to play a role in this endeavor.

FTP: Max, thank you very much for this interview! It will be interesting to follow development in this field and I hope to write about some MC related projects of yours in the future.

More information about Max Kickinger and your options when deciding to get your own sound branding can be found on the official company website.

20 08, 2012

Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 15): Personello: Custom Printed Picture Gifts

By | 2018-06-14T06:54:24+00:00 August 20th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, MC500, Personalization|

MC500_Signet_2012In our series of postings introducing companies that performend very well in our Customization 500 study, we are introducing the next mass customizer. Remember:  The order of these feature postings is more or less randomly!


Today: A picture says more than a thousand words…

That old saying is actually quite true and despite smartphones and internet, many people still have the framed image of their beloved ones on their desk, or the children's picture in their wallet.

If you tend to find that boring, or if you are looking for a nice present to give to someone you care about, Personello might have you covered. Their portfolio consists of a large variety of products, from mugs over chocolate wrap and snow globes to note paper and even beer bottles. All of these can be customized by printing an uploaded picture of your chosing onto them.

The application of this is certainly not limited to family gifts: Imagine celebrating your next big match victory at the soccer club with beer bottles featuring a shot of the deciding goal!

They do also offer your image etched into glas plates, replacing the good old framed window with something a bit more modern. And if you tend to have long working hours like myself, maybe the illuminated pedestal is something worth looking into for you.

All rights reserved!

Note: Please see this post for detailed information on how to interpret the above data.

13 08, 2012

Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 14): CurlyQ Cuties: Personalized Plush Toys

By | 2018-06-14T06:54:31+00:00 August 13th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, MC500|

MC500_Signet_2012In our series of postings introducing companies that performend very well in our Customization 500 study, we are introducing the next mass customizer. Remember:  The order of these feature postings is more or less randomly!


Today: Custom monsters, fairy-teeth, splatopuses, moggins – you name it, they have it

Stuffed plush toys are a good application for mass customization. They are meant to be our children's best friends and hence should not just come off the rack. Companies like Build-a-Bear have pioneered this field and now you can order fluffy friends that go beyond bears in shape and form.

CurlyQ Cuties, despite their slightly user-unfriendly company name (try telling somebody about their url…), is sporting a nice portfolio of plush toys you do not see every day. Custom monsters of all kinds, fairy-teeth for those unlucky enough to be at the age of losing their (first) teeth or what they call splatopus: Their product line is certainly a bit special, yet the little creatures look (mostly) friendly and are probably quite lovable for the younger ones. 

Their configurator (and their entire website, actually) could use a bit of an overhaul since it looks a bit 90-ish but the technology itself is solid, simple and apparently just works. But see for yourself…


Note: Please see this post for detailed information on how to interpret the above data.

24 07, 2012

MC2012 Recap: Custom pasta live on location by Pasterie

By | 2018-06-14T06:54:50+00:00 Juli 24th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, MC/OI on the Web, Personalization|

2012-06-29 11.09.01A while ago I posted about Pasterie, a promissing mass customization company offering individualized pasta.  At the MC2012 conference their team gave us a great live demonstration of what they are able to produce.

While definetly the novelty of custom pasta ordered online is much larger than a customized meal prepared in fornt of you, their demonstration was a nice blend of pasta-cooking expertise and aesthetical design.

The live event however provided a good "offline configuration" experience as it (still ) is not possible to transport taste via the internet. But to see how they solve this problem, head over to their website or facebook page.

Here are some impressions of their live performance at MC2012.

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