Monday, June 25, 2007

The revolution will be delivered to your door

Hmmm...this is interesting.

The July issue of Wired magazine is now on its way to subscribers. And for about 5,000 of them, they'll receive an issue with a photo of themselves on the cover.

Here's an excerpt from a New York Times story about it:

25wired.190.ds.jpgIn the old days — say, maybe a month ago — a “customized” magazine meant that it had ads tailored to your age group or articles about your region. Now, it seems, it has your picture on the cover, too.

In its April issue, Wired magazine, in partnership with Xerox, invited subscribers to upload their photographs to The first 5,000 who did so are now receiving their July issue with themselves as the cover art.

Not coincidentally, the editorial theme of the issue is the growing personalization of all things in cyberspace, and the headline over the photo is “You are here.”
Here's the link.

There are some interesting opportunities here for both publishers and readers. Of course there's the ego factor -- it's kind of nice to have something arrive on your doorstep with such a personal touch.

Sure, we kind of expect that level of personalization when we're going to a web page. We can accept that we're interacting with the site, so it makes sense that they know something about us. But for a previously "generic" item, like a magazine, to start showing up with content matched to my own interests - now that's food for thought.

How much personalization is too much? I suspect that most of us will accept this as a good thing. We like it when companies know us. People like to do business with people they know. So when a company seems to know us (as long as they don't get creepy about it) we feel OK about dealing with them. That makes sense.

What will become more and more critical in this equation is the trust established between the company and the customer. Trust has always been important, but I suspect it is going to become the number one determining factor in how we make our choices as consumers. Companies must ensure that their business practices nurture and support the trust relationship they have with customers. Anything - accidental or intentional - that harms that relationship needs to be dealt with in a superhuman fashion or the company won't recover.

We're about to enter a phase not unlike what's happened with telemarketing. There was a time when companies did it because it worked -- even though people didn't like it. Heck, a lot of companies still do it. But increasingly, people are pushing back against the idea that a company can take information that was given to someone for one purpose and use it for their own advantage - like selling the contact information to another company. If I know a company is doing that, I'll blackball both companies. And I suspect I'm not alone in that reaction.

On the other hand, if I have a "trust" relationship with a company I do business with, and I've told them it's OK to contact me if they've got something that I might be interested in, then I don't mind them calling. But they need to make sure that I remember I like them.

Companies that understand the importance of earning and maintaining trust will thrive in the personalized universe we're creating. Someone needs to come up with a new slogan for the trust economy.

Any suggestions? How about:

"Treat every customer like your mother."

"Sell globally; deliver locally."

"It's all about you...and you...and you."

UPDATE - Check out this story from Techdirt about companies putting targetted commercials into their "on-hold" customers, instead of music.

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