It’s called by a lot of different names, but everyone continues to talk about the societal, consumer and cultural trend toward individuality and how to capitalize from it. One size no longer fits all, and even something as large as a national economic and housing crisis is not going to derail this undeniable trend which continues to shape our daily lives, the products we buy, how we perceive and define ourselves and others, and how we communicate our own personal brand.

I recently got a new cell phone and it took me the whole weekend (and the help of my 14-year-old daughter) to figure out how to set all my personal settings (ringtones, one touch buttons, front and inside views, preferences, etc.). In a world where we can customize the look of our credit cards and cell phones, create our own personalized pair of jeans or nike shoes, and choose from multiple attributes on our morning orange juice or toothpaste, you can bet this trend is going to affect the purchase of our brand new home, or what really is the physical embodiment of our own personal brand.

But don’t just take it from me, take it from these experts who have been identifying this concept on trends lists for years:

• Return on Behavior Magazines’ “Key Consumer Trends for an Uncertain 2009” calls it “consumers in control” and lists it as the number one trend.

• Futurist Richard Watson, author the best selling book Future Files , who has worked on scenario planning, research and innovation for companies like McDonald’s, IBM, Toyota and others, releases a list of each year’s top 10 trends called “Now and Next . Trend #2 for 2007 was called “ MY Way”
• CEO of Hart Research Peter Hart, the famous consumer research pollster whose work has shaped more than 400 political campaigns, numerous fortune 500 companies, and whose company has interviewed over 3 million people, identified “Personalization” as one of a handful of key trends.

• Andrew Zolli, founder of internationally-recognized Z + Partners, a foresight think-tank which helps global companies and institutions invent breakthrough ideas, and position for new opportunities. Mr. Zolli discussed the topic of “Personalization” when he identified Four Big Ideas to Shape the Future.
• Guess what was #1 on’s “Half Dozen Trends for 2009?” Something they call “Nichetributes” (the power of making products and services relevant by incorporating attributes and features catering to distinct lifestyles and situations)
• Last but not least,, the self-proclaimed world’s largest most popular trend community, identified “Physical Customization” as trend #12 on it’s top 20 trends for 2009. They note that you can now design your own shoes at Steve Madden or create your own clothes at (which, by the way, are available in just 10 working days).

Then I walk into your sales center carrying my $4.50 Starbucks grande iced sugar free vanilla half decaf soy latte, and I’m told that this house is a great bargain at today’s prices, the builder builds a quality home, and that I have a choice of two cabinets, three granite counters, and four carpet colors for my “I’ve-waited-a-lifetime-to-buy-$200,000, -$400,000 or -$600,000-dream-home.” Sure there are some buyers out there who are willing to settle for the “it’s all included but you can’t choose any of it” approach. But I’m not willing to bet my latte or a company’s survival on the depth of that submarket.

Today’s buyers are firmly implanted in the driver’s seat, moving in the direction of what they want, when they want it, and how and where they want it. I suggest we all get the map they’re using, and arrive at the destination before they do so we can welcome them with open arms, fully prepared to be aligned with their individual needs.


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