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Taking It Personally

Consumers want to make their mark—in more ways than one.

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This story appears in the June 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Look around, and you'll see things getting really personal. Products and services, that is. These days, everything from restaurant menus and baby gear to dog toys and adult is being customized according to the wishes and whims of the consumer.

Consider the iPod, the hugely successful Apple digital music player that lets users customize their own music selections. Then there are restaurants like Chipotle that let people customize their own dishes and stores like Build-a-Bear Workshop, where customers can create their own teddy bears. The possibilities of personalization, as they say, are endless. "It's everywhere, and the need for differentiation is driving it," says Ted Leonhardt, global president of the Anthem Group, a strategic and packaging consulting firm with eight offices around the world. "We're going to see more and more specialization and playing to individual market needs," says Leonhardt, who works at the company's San Francisco office.

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