Object customisation has historically been a regular practice as a form of self, or group-identification. A product we can identify ourselves with, is one that we keep for longer, tend to repair when it breaks and dispose of later as a result of an emotional bond with it. Such bond is strengthened when we invest time and effort customising. Consumer involvement when customising is facilitated by new technologies in design and manufacturing. For example, computer algorithms can automate customisation, meaning products are customised for consumers rather than by consumers, (namely individualisation). However, the adequate ‘amount’ of consumer interaction is still debated amongst researchers. This paper questions the consumer benefit and extent of an emotional bond with individualised products. Using a mixed-method approach, 63 participants responded to in-depth interviews while engaging with individualisation exercises. Respondents were profiled as either of two types of consumers depending on their interest in art, design and critical engagement with what they consume, namely Active Consumers (AC) and Passive Consumers (PC). Results suggest individualisation attracts PCs, showing signs of greater engagement in the process and attachment to the product than ACs. PCs welcomed the automated decisions taken by an individualisation toolkit, whilst ACs found it detrimental to the experience. It is claimed that individualisation can strengthen emotional bonds between PCs and the resulting products. The paper concludes that individualisation could offer PCs new experiences, enriching their lives, generating an emotional attachment leading to longer product lifetimes, and potentially changing consuming behaviours otherwise unlikely to be nurtured.
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