Bruce Kasanoff is founder and editor of NowPossible.com, which "covers the leading edge of personalization". Bruce wrote the one of the first business books in our domain of mass customization & personalization, "Making It Personal" (2002). He was head of training, research and development for Peppers and Rogers Group, a leading personalization consultancy. The Chartered Institute of Marketing cited Bruce among their inaugural listing of the 50 most influential thinkers in marketing and business today. He works with innovative vendors and enterprises, helping them leverage personalization strategies to build lasting competitive advantage.
"Personal=Smarter," says Bruce, explaining that the more a company customizes, the smarter it becomes. The smarter it gets, the more formidable a competitor it becomes. He has delivered training programs, workshops and keynote speeches to a wide variety of organizations in 21 states and eight countries. His audiences have included technology executives, physicians, managers, customer service representatives and entrepreneurs.
And as he shares in the following interview, Bruce is writing a second book on the topic! So stay tuned for much more brilliant ideas from this great mind in personalization!
FTP: Bruce, there has been a long discussion about terms and concepts in our field. So, what is personalization in your understanding?
BK: Personalization is using technology to accommodate the differences between people. Done right, it's a win/win strategy for providing a better outcome for both the service provider and the individuals involved. For example, if a doctor gives you a test to determine which treatment will work best for you before she starts your treatment, that's personalization. Likewise, if a company gives you the option to tell them when and how to contact you, that's also personalization.
FTP: How is this different to mass customization, where are differences and complements between personalization and mass customization?
BK: Mass customization is a process for implementing personalization. In some respects, personalization is a goal and mass customization is one way to accomplish that goal. But we need to be careful about defining or debating semantics. Both personalization and mass customization push a company towards being more responsive to the marketplace and thus being more nimble. Both result in a firm that can react faster and more effectively to volatility. Both enable a company to build defendable competitive advantages, because both require a firm to track, understand and accommodate the needs of its customers.
FTP: You are one of the earliest voices and thinkers in the field. What originally drew your interest to the concept of personalization?
BK: I was very lucky. One day I read "The One to One Future" by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, and thought it was brilliant. At the time, I was working for Ogilvy & Mather, and I wrote a strategy brief for a client that used some of the personalization ideas from that book. Shortly thereafter, I saw a little story in our local paper announcing that Don and Martha were starting their company in my town! I sent them an email asking if they wanted a partner, and included a version of my brief. One week later, I was their partner. That was 1996, and it gave me the luxury of spending all my time thinking about personalization and working with many of the pioneers in the field.
FTP: What are recent trends you see with regard to personalization? Are there any industries or individual companies driving these trends?
BK: Personalization is everywhere, although it's not necessarily called that. I dare anyone to name an industry in which personalization is not playing an increasingly important role. It impacts how you search for information, share opinions, make decisions, place orders, use products, get service, and live your life. Google is a leading practitioner, and both IBM and HP are key enablers. For example, IBM's "smarter planet" approach is a wonderful embodiment of the "Personal=Smarter" logic I've been talking about for some time. I was thrilled to see one of the world's largest companies adopt this theme as a selling point for its clients.
The most important trend, just now emerging, is the opportunity to personalize the development and care of our bodies and minds. It sounds dramatic to say it, but personalized medicine and education will literally impact the future of the human race. At present, "personalized" approaches are being used to restore health and function to people who have a physical challenge, such as the loss of a limb or of control over their body (such as ALS.) But as these technologies get cheaper and more powerful, they will be made available to everyone. For example, a brain-computer interface that a "locked-in" individual uses to communicate (because he can't speak) will someday help students learn faster and more in tune with their personal learning styles.
FTP: What is the largest challenge still to be overcome in personalization?
BK: The way we think. Personalization is not a difficult concept to understand, but it is a difficult concept to apply. It's easier for managers to look at customers, projects and investments in isolation, but personalization requires a process – and a mindset - that pervades an organization. It requires a different culture, and near-constant care and feeding of that culture. Not many managers understand this, yet.
FTP: What would be your main advice for a manager who wants to lead a personalization or mass customization implementation?
BK: Spend 25% of your time and budget on training, and on changing your culture. When it comes to personalization, training is not a one-time thing. Your staff and your systems are used to a non-personalized approach; they will constantly try to shift back in that direction. Unless you anticipate this and work consistently to prevent such backsliding, it will prevent you from enjoying measurable success.
FTP: You recently started your new blog, nowpossible.com. The depth and width of content you have provided there just within the last two months is really astonishing! What was your motivation to start this effort, and who is your target audience?
BK: Thanks. I'm writing a second book on personalization called "You! and Improved!", and as you know, writing is a solitary process. The website gives me an opportunity to test ideas, get feedback, and enlist innovative people in my work. I have two target audiences. The first includes innovators in organizations who are making personalization work better and better. The second comprises thoughtful individuals who would like to understand and benefit from this trend that can change their lives for the better.
FTP: To conclude: What is, in general and beyond your industry, the greatest personalization (and/or mass customization) offering ever – either one that is already existing or that you would like to get in the future?
BK: That's simple. I want to gain control over my fate, to anticipate and thus prevent the afflictions that would otherwise shorten my life or reduce my quality of life; to stay strong and mentally sharp longer than previous generations; and to be able to find and connect with the people and ideas that personally interest me.
Contact Bruce Kasanoff at (203) 341-9448 or bruce (at) nowpossible.com