Robot or king?

Running. For you relaxation and freedom, for someone else a nightmare. For fanatics, running the marathon is often a lifegoal. 42km of sweating, but you can be proud when finished. In April, almost 30.000 participants ran the annually marathon of Boston (Boston Athletic Association [B.A.A.], 2018) and Adidas decided to reward them.

The company made 30.000 personal videos, miscellaneous for each runner. The pace the runners ran was tracked by generated data via chips in the starting numbers and specialized radio signal mats. This way, Adidas, for example, knew at which time someone reached 12km. Digital Bureau Grow, who collaborated with Adidas, had put cameras at seven course places. Everyone was captured at 15km and after the finish. On each video you can see the runners’ start group, running times, support and their moment of finishing. The attendees received their video in a personal e-mail. Here each runner can watch their own video as well. If you fill in a random number (like 3424), you can see an example yourself (Tervoort, 2018) (Sweeney, 2018).


This initiative is an example of personalizing, which is getting more and more important within the marketing world. Personalization simply means every customer receives personal and unique content. Businesses with personalized content have 20% more sales than non-personalizing companies on average (Monetate, n.d.). Personalization itself isn’t new, but it’s growing and an increasing amount of corporations utilize it. On Netflix you see recommendations based on films you’ve watched, ads on internet are based on your previous queries and it’s possible to make personal videos on Facebook. I was wondering: where does this desire for personalization come from?

The University of Texas investigated personalization and discovered it has two causes: desire for control and an overload of information. Okay, first one. Being in control is a need many people feel. Life is uncertain and hard to grasp, but we try it as much as we can.

“Our interest in personal control is motivated as much by a survival instinct as by narcissism. It is key to our sense of self-esteem and confidence” (Shapiro, 1999)

With a personal experience, you don’t get something everyone receives, you get something customized for you. As a result, you feel more in control. When you go through information on a website, you don’t really make a choice in what you see. But if you know something is tailored to your interests, you feel some control in what attracts you. This feeling is powerful and can effect on your psyche (Bright, et al., 2008). Concisely: personalization leads to a feeling of being in control and that’s what people yearn for nowadays.

Okay, now that’s clear I want another step back, because why does everyone desire control? I think it’s because the other factor that leads to personalization, according to the Texas’ University: an overload of information. This means that the internet contains – duh – an overload of information. With the rise of the internet, billions of sources have been available. Two years ago, 20% of the Americans felt literally overloaded by all this information (Horringan, et al., 2016). Due to personalising, you won’t be charged, because you receive exactly the information you were looking for (Bright, et al., 2008). The study doesn’t mention a correlation between desire for control and an overload of information, but I see a link: now, you feel the control over all the information that is available.

I don’t believe this desire for control and an overload of information are the only reasons of the need for personalization. I mainly think people want to be seen. Due to technology, we sometimes don’t feel like a human, but more like a robot or we feel as a ‘number’ in the giant masse. And in this consumer focused and information society, we want to be unique and this is called YOUNIVERSE (Trendwatching, 2016). We want to be noticed in that crowd of running people at the marathon.


I also wanted to mention Big Data. I can go on about this, so I’ll keep it short. Big chance you use Facebook or used to. Facebook keeps track of everything. Not just who your friends are and what you like, but many more of personal data. Facebook can monitor your call history, which websites you visit and what you do on these websites. If you’ve ever activated location permission, Facebook can actually always see where you are. And maybe you gave them access to your camera and microphone which makes Facebook able to eavesdrop and spy you now, even when you don’t use the app. In addition, for many apps you have to log in to your Facebook account, so Facebook can exactly see in what way you use other apps. And if you might think: oh, then I just delete Facebook?, the problem isn’t solved yet. Google, Facebook, Whatsapp and other channels are all connected with each other. Besides, everything they have ever collected, will stay in their database for more than 20 years. So everything you do on the internet (but beyond as well!) will be preserved (Lubach, 2018) (Huda, et al., 2018) (Monnappa, 2017).

Back to YOUNIVERSE. According to, we are in a new level of personalization. Due to Big Data, applying more specific personalization is possible. This refers to intuitive interactions like biometric research, face- and voice recognition, which can lead to services such as chat-bots (robots that chat with you) or speech-based interfaces like Cortana and Siri. With all the information companies own of you personally, the offered experiences are custom-made for the user (Trendwatching, 2016). So personalization is possible due to the technology and Big Data nowadays.

A recent study says 75% of the consumers think most forms of personalization are creepy (InMoment, 2018). And I understand that, now we know which information Big Data has on us. To conclude, people want to be seen as an individual, but they also think the means to do so is a little creepy.


In a nutshell: the overload of available information leads to the desire for control and YOUNIVERSE. Big Data leads to YOUNIVERSE. Both desire for control and YOUNIVERSE are causes for the desire for personalization. Finally, amongst other things, Big Data makes specific personalization possible.

When you think about it, you realize the human is almost seen as a robot. Technology controls us and therefore we lose our power. That’s quite frightening and it’s something you should not think too much about. But, actually, you should, because this is the future. In the future we will be treated like robots, in restaurants and stores you will be served by robots and you won’t experience much human contact. As a result, the desire for personalization will only increase, thus automatically the personalized experiences and products. These are two extreme opposite situations: humans as robots and humans as king of the world. With the second one, I mean people will be treated like VIPS/special guests/kings with many (too) personalized experiences. Which scenario do you prefer?


Boston Athletic Association [B.A.A.]. (2018, April 16). 2018 BOSTON MARATHON STATISTICS. Retrieved May 17, 2018, from Boston Athletic Association [B.A.A.]:

Bright, et al. (2008). In T. D. Laura Frances Bright, Consumer Control and Customization in Online Environments: An Investigation into the Psychology of Consumer Choice and its Impact on Media . The University of Texas at Austin . Retrieved May 17, 2018, from

Horringan, et al. (2016). In L. R. John B. Horrigan, Information Overload (p. 2). Pew Research Center.

Huda, et al. (2018). Big Data Emerging Technology: Insights into Innovative Environment for Online Learning Resources. In M. M. Huda. Kassel, Germany: International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET). Retrieved from

InMoment. (2018). What Brands Should Know About Creating Memorable Experiences. Retrieved May 18, 2018, from InMoment:

Lubach, A. (2018, April 8). Bye bye Facebook – Zondag met Lubach (S08). (Zondag met Lubach) Retrieved May 17, 2018, from Youtube:

Monetate. (n.d.). The Realities of Online. Retrieved May 17, 2018, from Monetate:

Monnappa, A. (2017, November 3). How Facebook is Using Big Data – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Retrieved May 18, 2018, from SimpliLearn:

Sweeney, E. (2018, April 9). Adidas will create 30K videos at the Boston Marathon — 1 for each runner . Retrieved May 17, 2018, from MarketingDive:

Tervoort, R. (2018, April 18). adidas maakt 30.000 persoonlijke video’s voor alle deelnemers aan Boston Marathon. Retrieved May 17, 2018, from SportNext:

Trendwatching. (2016, October). Trends Go Social part 2: A new dawn of personalization, and the importance of place. Retrieved May 17, 2018, from Trendwatching:


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