16 11, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Kendall Square Association to Become Co-Sponsoring Partner

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:30+00:00 November 16th, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01The closer we get to this year's Smart Customization Seminar the more exciting news drop in from our team organizing the event. And the one we have today is really amazing: Kendall Square Association, the non-profit group working tirelessly to improve Kendall Square, where the MIT campus is located, for all residing entities, has agreed to co-sponsor the event and help to promote it amongst their members to get even more customization enthusiasts to participate in the seminar. We are really grateful for this tremendous support! 

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

You can download this year's Smart Customization Seminar's agenda here!

15 11, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Meet the Speakers: Marvin Minsky

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:33+00:00 November 15th, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01 Continuing our little mini series on speakers ofthis year's MIT Smart Customization Seminar, here is some more information on who will be there on stage to share his expert knowledge with you.

MinskyMarvin Minsky

Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, MIT
Professor of E.E.C.S., MIT 

Personal Website

Marvin Minsky has made many contributions
to AI, cognitive psychology, mathematics, computational linguistics, robotics,
and optics. In recent years he has worked chiefly on imparting to machines the
human capacity for commonsense reasoning. 

His conception of human intellectual
structure and function is presented in two books: The Emotion Machine and The
Society of Mind (which is also the title of the course he teaches at MIT). He
received the BA and PhD in mathematics at Harvard (1950) and Princeton (1954).

In 1951 he built the SNARC, the first neural network simulator. His other
inventions include mechanical arms, hands and other robotic devices, the
Confocal Scanning Microscope, the "Muse" synthesizer for musical
variations (with E. Fredkin), and one of the first LOGO "turtles".

professor with MIT’s Media Lab and AI Lab, he is a member of the NAS, NAE and
Argentine NAS. In addition, he has received the ACM Turing Award, the MIT
Killian Award, the Japan Prize, the IJCAI Research Excellence Award, the Rank
Prize and the Robert Wood Prize for Optoelectronics, and the Benjamin Franklin

You can download this year's Smart Customization Seminar's agenda here!

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

14 11, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Additional Keynote by Marco Mattiacci, President & CEO of Ferrari North America!

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:35+00:00 November 14th, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01 Truly great news! After we could already commit inernationally renown experts Joseph Pine and Alex Pentland to hold opening keynotes at this year's MIT Smart Customization Seminar, news just came in that we got another really exclusive speaker to share some insights with us!

MattiaciMarco Mattiacci

President & CEO of Ferrari North America



Marco Mattiacci was appointed Chief Executive Office of Ferrari North America, Inc. in January 2010. He oversees the largest market of Ferrari, which beyond the US included Canada and all Central and South America.

You can download this year's Smart Customization Seminar's agenda here!

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

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.

19 10, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Full Agenda and Additional Information Released

By | 2018-06-14T06:50:18+00:00 Oktober 19th, 2012|Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Events, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01 Wrapping up our previous posts and adding a lot of extra information about this year's MIT Smart Customization Seminar, the full agenda has just been approved for release! 

You can download this year's Smart Customization Seminar's agenda here!

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

16 10, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Session 4: Making, Open Hardware, User Entrepreneurship

By | 2018-06-14T06:50:21+00:00 Oktober 16th, 2012|Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Events, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01 Conitnuing our little mini series on year's MIT Smart Customization Seminar's agenda,  it's all about user design and making, and the tools to be successful at it:

Session 4: December 4th, 3:45pm – 5:00pm
Making, Open Hardware, User Entrepreneurship

Designing and making is no longer only done by experts with years of training.

Many of the digital design tools that were once available to professionals are now in the hands of consumers. Desktop 3D printers are popping up everywhere, sophisticated design software is freely available online, and the boundary between physical and digital is quickly blurring.

What is being made by these non-experts? How are they designing and making it? What new design processes are we finding with such easily accessible design tools? From the bottom up – including start-ups, DIY fabricators and at-home designers; and from the top down – software behemoths and construction giants, we are seeing dramatic transformations in design technologies and platforms that enable mass customized products like never before.

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

15 10, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Session 3: Personalized Cities

By | 2018-06-14T06:50:27+00:00 Oktober 15th, 2012|Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Events, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01The new week starts with some news from the planing team of  this year's MIT Smart Customization Seminar. Today it's about a matter relevant for most people reading this blog: The city of the future:

Session 3: December 4th, 2:15pm – 3:30pm
Personalized Cities

In the future, cities will account for nearly 90% of global population growth, 80% of wealth creation, and 60% of total energy consumption.Developing better strategies for the creation of new cities is therefore a global imperative.

Our need to improve our understanding of cities, however, is pressed not only by the social relevance of urban environments, but also by the availability of new strategies for city-scale interventions that are enabled by emerging technologies, taking a holistic approach over all of a city’s functions – water, food, waste, transport, education, energy.

This session will explore new data-driven approaches to urban design and planning with the ultimate goal of a 100x reduction in CO2 emissions, a 10x reduction in traffic congestion, a 5x improvement in livability and a 2x improvement in creativity.

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

12 10, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Session 2: Digital Biology and Personalized Medicine

By | 2018-06-14T06:50:30+00:00 Oktober 12th, 2012|Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Events, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01And here is another exclusive insight into the preparations of  this year's MIT Smart Customization Seminar's schedule and speakers! Today we tell a bit about session two:

Session 2: December 4th, 12:00pm – 1:15pm
Digital Biology and Personalized Medicine
Speaker: Ed Boyden
, http://syntheticneurobiology.org/

Personalization and customization have a long-standing tradition in
health care, where treatments and prescriptions have always been tailored to
individual patients’ needs

Over the last decade, further personalization
efforts were made by offering customized implants and diagnostics that adapt to
physical features of patients. New technologies will extend this much further
by building on an individual’s genetic predispositions to better predict
treatment outcomes.

In addition, selective control over specific areas of
neural circuits
for the first time enables a thorough analysis of how behavior
patterns and experience come about. On the other hand, from a more practical
perspective, those behavioral patterns and underlying neural circuits can be
readjusted using advanced mental techniques
, ensuring optimum performance in
critical situations
. In this session, we will
explore both new technical developments as well as the surrounding ethical
debate and its implications for technology

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

11 10, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Session 1: Responsive Consumption from Personalized Hedonism to Sustainable Choice

By | 2018-06-14T06:50:33+00:00 Oktober 11th, 2012|Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Events, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01As promissed we will share more details about this years MIT Smart Customization Seminar's schedule and speakers as they get ironed out. Today we can already give you a brief preview of the very first (non-keynote) session of the day:

Session 1: December 4th, 10:30am – 11:45am
Responsive Consumption from Personalized Hedonism to Sustainable Choice 

In this session we explore how personalization and customization is changing our understanding of consumer choice and behaviors. Consider the example of apparel: Over one-third of the value of textile industries is wasted on traditional mass production processes including warehousing, shipping, and retailing. Mass customization offers potential to not only reduce waste in back-end processes, but also to help consumers make more informed and sustainable decisions. At the same time, real-time data tracking and new devices for self-measuring are becoming the foundation of new business models and retail formats.

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

10 10, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Micro|Macro|Customization: From Custom Genes to the Personalized City

By | 2018-06-14T06:50:38+00:00 Oktober 10th, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization|

Seminar banner 2012-01

This December will have a lot in store for the customization enthusiasts amongs you. The MIT Smart Customization Group will host another edition of the Smart Customization Seminar on December 4th (following a welcoming and networking event on December 3rd), with its central topic being

You can download this year's Smart Customization Seminar's agenda here!


From Custom Genes to the Personalized City: Emerging Strategies and
Technologies for the Personal Economy

The MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012 provides a unique opportunity
for a deep dive into one the largest trends shaping our economy today: the move
towards personalization and the customization of products, services, health
care, mobility, and urban infrastructures

The seminar's foremost idea is to connect CEOs, new business developers,
consultants, corporate entrepreneurs, innovators, the investment community, and
leading researchers from MIT and other leading institutions
in peer-to-peer
interactions to foster an intense discussion and to co-create an agenda for the
Personal Economy.

Conventionally, mass customization has been seen as the efficient
creation of products and services meeting the demands of each individual
customer. But this still emerging development on the micro level – the
level of the individual firm-customer relationship – has recently been
supplemented by a strong application of customization and personalization
principles on the macro level. Enabled by new methods of imaging and
analytic testing, personalized medicine is replacing the blockbuster approach
that has dominated the health industry. Anonymous cities with mass scale
infrastructures are getting personal by real-time data apps, personal mobility,
and a stronger participation of citizens in the planning process. Mass
production is being supplemented by a distributed and local infrastructure of
digital manufacturing and open hardware.

These and other applications are strong drivers of disruptive innovation
and value creation in many industries. We are at the advent of the Personal
that changes the dominant logic of business from a mass society
characterized by homogeneous customer segments and mass production of products
and services towards a value system that creates profit opportunities from the
reality that all people are different.

The objective of the SCS 2012 is to educate and inspire critical
thinking on the Personal Economy on the micro and macro level
and to set an
agenda for future debate and value creation
in this domain. This event offers
great networking opportunities for everyone interested in mass customization,
personalization, and customer co-creation – inspired by the creative
environment of MIT and the MIT Media Lab.

The presenters of the SCS 2012 will share their latest research and
business insights of trends, strategies, business models and enabling
technologies that are the foundations of profiting from personalization and
customization on the micro and macro level.

The 2012 agenda will present divergent and complementary voices along
four of the core areas where personalization today is shaping our economy and
society most:  Consumables, Health Care and Medicine, Urban Living and the
City, and the new production system based on digital technologies and easy
access to hardware and data

We will publish more information on the event, the agenda, its topics and speakers here as they become availible, so stay tuned!

You can download this year's Smart Customization Seminar's agenda here!

For up-to-date information and registration please also head to http://scg.mit.edu
and follow our conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

28 09, 2012

Interview: Glubal: A configurator for university-level education to solve the complexity of choice of study programs

By | 2018-06-14T06:50:46+00:00 September 28th, 2012|Customization Trends, Interview, MC/OI on the Web, Personalization, Service Customization|

Glubal logoWhether that be as a regular student, starting to dive into a chosen field of knowledge, or as a professional, taking the next career step by gaining additional skills, creating a matching a student`s very own situation of life  is very important.

However, there always have been a dis-connect: too many offers, and too much confusion. Since more than ten years, I am talking about the idea of an "education configurator".

Now this configurator finally came true.

Glubal wants to make flexible, individual university-level learning happen . The venture is just about to go live with their online configuration system and represents an educational network, connected to an online configurator.

Very simply put, learning interests (to-be students, professionals seeking promotion etc) will be enabled to configure a list of academic programs by the means of the configurator frontend. The programs offered are provided by the universities and other education facilities connected to the glubal network. The opportunity to filter avilible offers to match one`s own life situation best sounds like a compelling idea in theory.


Global configurator

Glubal Configurator: Beta version. Click to enlarge

Glubal results


Marc DrünerProfessor Marc Drüner, glubal CEO and partner at trommsdorff & drüner consultants, kindly agreed to engage in an online interview and explain the concept in more detail.

FTP: Professor Drüner, first. Congratulations to this great idea and realization! You have created glubal as an
intermediary to support a new kind of individual studying. Can you tell our
readers a bit more about the concept behind glubal and what makes it unique?

MD: Our brand glubal stands for global university network. We provide an online
platform (www.glubal.com )
making accredited study and training opportunities available online to students
and business in collaboration with international universities.

The idea of
derives from the background of the Bologna Reform ten years ago. The
establishment of the common credit point system (ECTS) and the
three-cycle-degree (Bachelor, Master & Doctor) in Europe makes a more
flexible and more international study possible.

As professor at the Steinbeis Hochschule Berlin for ten
years and director of an international management consultancy, I have gained
insights into economic as well as academic life. There is a problem on both
sides: Even though the employment market demands increasing flexibility from
employees and employers in terms of education and training, the current
mainstream educational system is just too rigid for many people and does not
support life-long learning. With glubal, we want to tailor study programs to
people’s individual, unique lifestyles. This is the way to ensure a smooth
entry into the jobs market and to guarantee chances of promotion by combining
working with studying for a qualification.

glubal’s USPs are individuality, flexibility and
. The unique feature of our concept is the glubal study
configurator (https://www.glubal.com/en/glubal-configurator ) . Dependent on a student’s personal requirements,
fields of interest, personal budget and chosen method of study, every course
component of our global university network can be combined flexibly and
individually with other components from elsewhere to create a study program
lasting as long as personal circumstances dictate. We ensure that the module
combination selected by a student will lead to a recognized degree.

FTP: Do you consider glubal’s target group to be more the
regular student, trying to go a more flexible way of studying or the “lifelong
learner”, the professional aiming to get additional qualifications?

MD: There is no conflict between students and
professionals for glubal in terms of the target group. Our service is aimed,
above all, at graduates and employees interested in promotion. We also offer an
attractive alternative for current students who need more flexibility and
individuality in their study.

Besides potential students, companies and colleges can
also benefit from our service. For companies, glubal offers not only a whole
new way to access the talents of tomorrow, but also the connection to the
university sector. For colleges and universities, we make it possible to take
on a growing number of students, to fill more places on existing modules, to increase
international brand recognition and improve access to business.

FTP: Establishing a network that allows to (more or less)
freely combine courses from different universities and nations with each other
sounds like a really challenging task, especially given the fact that the
awarding of academic degrees is regulated by national law. How do you ensure compatibility
between all these different modules?

MD: The given background
of Bologna Reform I mentioned before is the corner stone of mutual recognition
of credit points and academic degrees between colleges and universities in
different countries. People have been working on a more transparent and
compatible education system in the international context since more than ten

I think we have reasons to believe that this trend will carry on and
evolve further in the future and that glubal will be able to promote this
process. However, glubal will not interfere with the given administrative and
approval processes for academic modules at our glubal partner universities. The
degree-granting universities stay in the driver-seat and stay completely free
to define, which modules of other universities they do accept under their given
examination regulation.

FTP: The Bologna Process intended to do what could become a
reality with glubal: Allow to study internationally, not just in your country,
and in a way that works best for your interests. Yet, many politicians,
academics and students say that the ideas of Bologna have not been implemented
well enough to really work. What makes the glubal approach more promissing to
achieve better results in comparison?

MD: Of course there are still
dozens of problems to solve even after ten years reform, especially in terms of
the compatibility between the qualities of modules in different universities.
But you cannot deny that the mobility of students inside Europe has greatly
increased at the Erasmus program for instance. We believe in the vision of a
more tolerant education system in the future in the scope of Bologna Reform.
With glubal as an educational initiative we would like to contribute to the
process of harmonization between universities and help shaping a more flexible
education system in the future.

FTP: The idea of highly customized academic learning is not
new. Until today one of the great bottlenecks has been the lack of a
well-designed configurator, allowing (future) students to select the right
modules for their individual life situation and learning goal. Can you tell a
bit about the process in which your clients will select their individual
courses? Are they being guided or just presented with a configurator?

MD: We have been working the whole time on the more simplified and clearer
configuration process. Basically, a student only needs
to visit our online platform, choose his preferred subjects and other options
in our configurator and he will get the suggested study combination from the
system. Of course we also offer personal study consultancy through free hotline
with our professional study advisor, who will accompany the applicants along
the whole way of application.

Our first course begins this
autumn and the application has already started. Our glubal team will do the
best to cover the individual needs of our applicants. With the further
expansion of our global university network, we will be able to offer even more
flexible configurations in the future.

FTP: Developing a system that, if it works, could do a lot
to make flexible life long learning a reality is certainly no easy process. Can
you tell a bit about how you worked on designing the system? Did you work
closely with students and lecturers to get an idea of what they really desire
in a sort of customer co-creation?

MD: I am director of an international
management consultancy and professor at the Steinbeis Hochschule Berlin for ten
years. This kind of career combination enables the possibility to exchange
opinions with students, lecturers and companies for me. I have realized that
there are huge demands from both economy and academy in increasing flexibility
of the education system. The idea of glubal derives exactly from these demands.

FTP: Studying for a master's degree takes about five years,
often more. glubal is a private profit venture and as such is subject to the
laws of the market. How can you guarantee that students will be able to
complete their studies as planned in case of, say, glubal (or HighEd Solutions)
becoming insolvent?

MD: glubal is an aggregator of
studies and does not grand degrees. glubal students will enroll in and enter
study contracts with the chosen universities, and earning real credit points as
every other normal student. In this sense, they don’t carry any market risks in
terms of the possible fluctuation of glubal’s profitability.

FTP: Can you tell about your network of educational
institutions (universities, online course academies,…)? Which and how many
partners does glubal have so far and where are they from, geographically?

MD: glubal stands for global
university network. We have been in contact with universities from the USA, Great
Britain, Australia, Turkey, France, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Chile and of course
the so-called DACH countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland). Many of them
are already official members and many other have given very positive feedback. We
are optimistic that our network will successfully expand to these regions. We
have also planned the market entry in BRIC countries in the future, starting
with Asia in 2013.

FTP: glubal offers scholarships as well. Can you tell a bit
more about these?

MD: We have already announced
the first three scholarship students for a bachelor’s, a master’s and a
doctoral degree at one of our first partner universities, the Steinbeis School
of Management in Berlin. With the growing membership of our university network,
applicants can expect more attractive scholarships at glubal in the future.

FTP: What are your plans for the future? Where do you see glubal
heading in the next 10 years and what do you think can (and should) still be
improved about the system/process as it is right now? Can we expect more
integrated services in glubal in the future?

MD: Like I mentioned before, we
are now already active in many countries. The intention of internationalization
will increase in the future. We have already planned the market entry in the
BRIC countries (Brasil, Russia, India and China) in 2013. Of course there are
still a lot to improve in every aspect, for example a bigger university
network, more personalized configuration, more optimized platform usability and
so on. The driving force in our team is to provide high quality education with
unprecedented flexibility to all students of the world.

FTP: Professor Drüner, thank you very much for the insights into the concept on glubal. Much success!!

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.

16 08, 2012

The MC Graveyard: Ideas that did not make it: YouTailor & Shirts Onthefly

By | 2018-06-14T06:54:26+00:00 August 16th, 2012|Clothing, Customization Trends, Failures and Flaws, General, MC Graveyard, MC/OI on the Web|

Graveyard_by_flicr_CC_open_LicenseAlthough mass customization has proved to offer great opportunities to companies of all sizes, there also have been quite some failures. We will try to look into some of the companies that did not make it in a new series of posts.

And there are many of these failures! When conducting the research for the MC500 study, we learned that over the period of just one year, 17% of our original sample population went out of business. Analyzing the failure reasons showed that these startups on the one hand face "common" challenges of startups like not progressing out of the bootstrapping phase into a scalable business due to undercapitalization, wrong investment policy, overconfidence, and an insufficient business model as well as problems within the team, such as the loss of key employees.

But on the other, there are two more specific reasons for failures of MC companies, according to our research:

First, difficulties encountered by the studied MC companies may be ascertained to possible inadequacies of their toolkits. Many of the toolkits that we studied do not follow the design principles suggested as success factors by previous research: Only 55% instantly visualize consumer input, less than 20% of vendors make use of peer input in the design process, 61% do not provide information on progress of purchasing process. Only 22% allow customers to share their creations with others, just to mention a few shortcomings. The reality of toolkits clearly falls behind the academic research on design parameters of successful toolkits, suggesting a large shortcoming in transferring research into practice.
Secondly, problems in making mass customization work may also lay elsewhere. In an exploratory survey of 68 entrepreneurs and consultants active in the MC business (conducted in Oct. 2009), for instance, we discovered that detecting customer idiosyncratic needs and creating flexible fulfillment processes are considered as more serious concerns (average score=4.0/5 and 3.9/5) than creating toolkits that support the sales process (average score=3.5/5). This  research, the preliminary results of the Customization500 study, and many interactions with managers during case-study based research show that profiting from mass customization is not an easy task!

Two current examples have been the market for custom tailored men's shirts. The German MC blog egoo.de recently reported on two consecutive insolvencies of companies believed to be promising ventures.

First company to be hit by bankruptcy was German start-up YouTailor, one of the leading entrepreneurs in the field of online custom tailors. Despite a number of potent backers like Holtzbrinck Ventures, Tengelmann Ventures and myphotobook, YouTailor CEO Michael Urban had to file insolvency mid-June caused by financial irregularities, as eggo.de reports.

Just two weeks later, another mass-custom shirt company, SHIRTS ONTHEFLY, had to strike colors or, as egoo.de quotes the company's announcement, to declare "the mission to make high-quality bespoke shirts available for everybody" a failure. Very sad indeed, seeing how they had announced to team up with Berlin-based venture Upcload, enabling customers to measure themselves via webcam capture technology.

May there be a trend indicating that custom tailored shirts are not very high in demand? Or may it be more likely that these two did not do one of the most important things when establishing a new MC company: Seek qualified expert advise and connect with other founders and MC entrepreneurs to share experiences.

Egooo.de is speculating that the heavy use of Groupon may have facilitated the bankruptcy of YouTailor. No other company in the mass customization domain has used Groupon so often, sometimes with discounts of 50% (which makes no sense at all for me if I consider the economics of mass customization manufacturing — there you wanted stable sales, no sudden peaks!)

For the full stories about YouTailor and SHIRTS ONTHEFLY, head over to egoo.com by blogging colleague Heiko Vogelgesang!