Mass-produced uniqueness: not yet

This video from WildFire neatly encapsulates today’s Internetified information environment, and how businesses go about navigating it in an attempt to make money. The key phrase is “personalized messages at scale.”

There are other phrases for it: mass-produced uniqueness, “mass-produced individuality,” “mass-produced customization” or “going Cabbage Patch on it.”

Yeah, not so new. But “mass-produced uniqueness” is the simplest way I’ve discovered to describe how entities attempt to monetize their output in today’s Web environment.

Everyone wants to make money being the business that can get you something unique to you.

Let’s skip over the assumption that unique is what people desire. Next step: You can guess how institutional behemoths of all industries who came to being in a time of simpler “mass-produced standardization” will struggle to practice business in such a way.

While providing somewhat distinct — unique still seems far off –information experiences around brands is within reach, the idea of actually (and profitably) manufacturing unique products for a customer of one seems a distant goal.

I once “customized” a pair of Nike sneakers, but it was more akin to browsing a limited menu than truly making a unique pair of shoes. To do that, I would need a Nike-endorsed foot scientist doing deep research on my foot, gait and exercise goals to provide me the Amedeo Shoe. When will that happen? Could the Internet make it happen right now? Wait, maybe Converse did it.

Regardless, companies’ struggles to create “mass-produced uniqueness” represents an opportunity that other companies, such as WildFire, are happy to pursue. Right now the offerings attempt to offer a single destination to manage messages across multiple platforms on which people operate (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more).

All right, great. You find people where they hang out, then invade that space. If it works right, people there use some kind of rudimentary tool to indicate they’re happy with the invasion. Perhaps they even welcome it.

Well, who really knows what they think of it a brand showing up on the social network they use to keep up with family and friends. How could a “like” or a “comment” or a “follow” truly indicate anything? Do you actually know why people push these buttons? Do you know why they say what they say? Does someone making a viral video out of your super-cool tool mean something of benefit to your brand? No. Yes? Awareness is increased? What the hell is awareness? Does it buy things?

It doesn’t matter. A “like” button is pretty valuable when it’s all you have to make the measurement. Some data will win vs. no data. And if it’s followed by purchases, is that not a victory? I’m rehashing old arguments here, too. Others have called for better ways to measure engagement and interaction. If you’ve got a killer way to do just that, go for it fast. Someone else will do it if you don’t. I’m pretty sure, however, that whatever tool is used to measure engagement will have to be unique — just like the thing it is measuring — for it to be of lasting value.

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