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Customisation is fast becoming the word of the moment.

At the end of last week on-trend band the Kaiser Chiefs launched their innovative DIY album, whereby fans can create their own 10-track download album from a choice of 20 tracks available through the band’s website, designing their own cover. Not only that, but fans can benefit by creating their own website-within-a-website and sell their version of the £7.50 album to others, earning £1 each their choice and running order of tracks is downloaded. Each album page shows how many copies of that design have already been sold.

Now print-on-demand clothing retailer Spreadshirt is encouraging groups as diverse as retailers, bands, and organisations to make the most of what it is terming c-commerce (the ‘c’ stands for clothing). That involves designing t-shirts and other items of clothing for order and sale through their own websites, blogs and other outlets, as well as through Spreadshirt. Spreadshirt partners can choose how much to charge for their t-shirts and other clothing, and thus how much of a royalty they take from each sale.

Philip Rooke, chief executive of Spreadshirt (pictured), said: “We want to encourage organisations, brands, designers, bloggers and bands to bring their message to life on clothing and benefit from increased interaction with their consumers, turning them into brand advocates through the use of clothing-commerce and the available levels of customisation.”

Making products personal to the customer has long led to profits online. Last year, online gift retailer Getting Personal, which started in 2005 with a personalised calendar available to order online, won £4m in investment in order to expand.

And research company Forrester recently heralded the phenomenon in its Mass Customization Is (Finally) The Future Of Products, study of April 2011. It found that buyers gain value from the certainty that what they are buying is exactly what they want. That is likely to lead, in turn, to more loyal customers.

Our view: This development is as much about a way of social marketing as it is about what is being sold. In both of these examples, what piques our interest is not the product itself – the Kaiser Chiefs are simply selling a collection of songs, and Spreadshirt is selling t-shirts. Even at the point of crossover, bands have long sold their own t-shirts as an essential staple of the promotional tour.

Instead, what’s new is the way it’s being sold, both in terms of marketing and in terms of finance. Both are offering buyers the chance to design their own product and to benefit financially from the sales of that product. Around that, there’s the opportunity for a great deal of social buzz and talk. Each will also benefit not only from the popularity of their own brand, but the brands of those who are selling through their site. The Kaiser Chiefs’ site, for example, is currently linking to the album that’s been put together by Radio One DJ Chris Moyles – and pointing out it’s not the one that’s been created by someone else who’s pretending to be the DJ.

Will it work? Certainly for these early forays into the model, it seems a sure bet, thanks to novelty of the approach and the headlines being generated on the subject at the moment. But is the future one in which bands will regularly offer fans twice the number of tracks they can fit onto one album so that they can make their own? (And what die-hard Kaiser Chiefs fan will pass up the need to buy the album at least twice, to make sure they have all the tracks?) That remains less clear – but we’ll be watching with interest.

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