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Have it in Any Color You Want, as Long as it’s Black

When I think of this quote of Henry Ford, it reminds me of how not much has changed since the Industrial Revolution. This joke of Ford’s had more than a bit of truth to it.

The truth is that Model Ts were originally available in several different colors – blue, red, green and gray. From 1914 on, however, black was the only option, as Ford understood that this level of customization on the assembly line was inefficient and costly. Instead of giving all customers exactly what they want, he chose instead to provide a universal product to as many people as possible.

In doing so, he was able to provide 15 million cars to consumers from 1908 to 1927 — a staggering number for that time.

Technology Makes Personalization More Affordable


Today, the automobile industry has advanced enough that it is able to provide a high-level of customization for each customer. It’s not only possible to buy a car in almost any shade of color imaginable, but also with infinite combinations of models, sizes, technology, equipment and design.

How is this level of customization possible? The answer is technology.

The mixed-model assembly line, with its “make-to-order” production policy, allowed for greater flexibility in the automobile market. In the same manner, recent innovations in information technology enable cost-effective personalized marketing messages and offers for every customer.

Even so, most businesses still struggle with providing all customers with exactly what they want. The challenge lies in the need for two different types of technology:

  • Predictive segmentation technology to automatically identify different customer personas and to predict what each individual customer wants/needs
  • Content personalization technology to automatically serve infinite permutations of content, enabling a personalized experience to each different persona

Predictive segmentation technology is now available, and products such as Optimove take this a step further by both identifying micro-segments and understanding the next best marketing action to take with each segment.

Content personalization technology is also available. Dynamic templates, for example, enable the creation of multiple versions of the same master template for different customer segments.

Once you’ve decided to tackle personalization, you’ll want to begin by implementing both of these technologies into your marketing. Think of it as a virtual mixed-model assembly line.

The combination of these technologies allows marketers to fine-tune the messaging for dozens, even hundreds, of customer segments with a minimal amount of effort.

How’s that for efficiency?

Unfortunately, even with the best of the technologies out there, the more personalized you want your marketing messaging to be, the more content you need to produce. That can become extremely expensive, even with the two cost-cutting technologies mentioned above.

The Key is in Content Repurposing

What will further reduce your production costs, in terms of both time and money, is the proper repurposing of creative content and design in order to reach all the different personas lurking in your database.

One of our customers, for example, has a lot of existing website content showcasing their various available services. This customer successfully utilized dynamic templates for their email campaigns by automatically referencing dynamic image URLs relevant only to personas with the affinity for that service.

The bank of assets created on the website, repurposed for email campaigns, allows them to personalize their messages and offers on an ongoing basis for the most relevant persona.

After integrating both of the technologies above, they dedicated resources to build up a content “pool.” This gave them the ability to continuously tap into that pool in order to personalize the right marketing message or offer at the right time for the right customer.

It’s up to you to do the same. You can start by taking advantage of both technologies. Remember, though, that to be superior at personalization you have to be smart about your content repurposing.

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  • Francois

    Apparently Henry Ford never said that at any time. It was something coined by either his customers or the media.

    • Pini Yakuel

      Hi Francois,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Apparently, some believe that Mr. Ford never said this becuase, in fact, Model Ts came only in black for 12 out of 19 model years, whereas for the other seven years of its production it was available in other colors, such as green, bright red, dark blue, brown, maroon and gray. The reason the car was only available in black for most of its production years is that the black paint dried fastest, and the company was under pressure to quickly produce a large volume of cars to meet demand (source: Automotive News).

      According to Wikipedia’s article on Henry Ford, Ford wrote on page 72 of his autobiography (My Life and Work, Henry Ford & Samuel CrowtherFord, Doubleday, 1922), “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”. While I (like many others) have paraphrased the exact quote, I do believe that it was Ford himself who said this.


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