Lost My Name harness digital for “hyper personalisation”

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 10.21.30I came across the fascinating example of a brand harnessing digital technology to create a fantastic physical product in a Times article here. Lost My Name published 2015's highest-grossing picture book in both the UK and US,The Little Girl Who Lost Her Name (or The Little Boy Who Lost His Name), just three years after starting up. The London-based company hopes to sell 1.5 million books in 2016, generating £30 million of revenue.

The magic of the proposition is that every picture book is personalised based on the name of your child. The story actually differs depending on the letters in the name, with the young hero/heroine in the book meeting a host of characters that help collecting the letters of his/her name. The company reckons it has created a mind-boggling 200,000 unique variations of book!

Below I look at the treasure trove of insights in this lovely story.


1. Tap into a truth

Like most examples of brand growth, Lost My Name taps into a powerful insight. In this case, the insight is about parents wanting to encourage their child to learn in a way that is personalised to them. The personalisation here is powerful, what you could call "hyper personalisation". It's not just about having the kids' name on the cover, its about customising the whole story, to keep the child interested.

The insight has been translated into a brand idea of "Impossibly Personal Books", with the benefit "to inspire children every day". This proposition is strong enough to support a hefty price premium, with each book costing £20.

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2. BE the consumer

Lost My Name is a brand created based on personal experience, similar to other stories I've posted on like the Mr and Mrs Smith travel company. Asi Sharabi set up the business with three friends in 2012 after one of his young daughters was given a personalised children’s book as a gift. “It was cheap and gimmicky. I was completely underwhelmed by it," commented Asi. "I called my friends and said, surely we can do something better." He didn't try to understand the consumer. He WAS the consumer. 

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3. Blend the physical AND digital

Lost My Name debunks the myth that digital technology will replace physical products. Asi has this to say about book publishing: “All these doomsayers saying, ‘It’s dead’, that is bull***t. The pie will be split differently, but books will be here for a long time yet.” He points out the enduring appeal of physical products in a digital world, especially for parents who worry about kids spending too much time on screens: “There’s that nostalgic feeling of the physical book,” he says.

We believe there are many opportunities to follow this example and blend the digital and physical worlds. For example, Fifty Three's beautifully designed note-making app Paper allows you to transform 15 of your favourite Paper pages into a real-life Moleskine notebook, as I posted on here.

4. JFLI and learn as you go

Lost My Name provides inspiration for any reader who harbours dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. Rather than spending months, or even years, perfecting a business plan and searching for investors, JFLI (Just f***ing launch it). You will learn a lot by starting small and going to market. As Asi observes, “It has exploded in ways that we never imagined. Accidentally, we created something that people really love.”

Initial sales, however small, will help prove your brand's potential, and help attract funding. Lost My Name started slowly, with sales during Christmas 2013 picking up on the back of features in newspapers and blogs, with sales of 23,000 books and revenue of £450,000. “We realised, that’s good enough to think about going full time and might be attractive to investors.” A first round of financing came in 2014 from a single investor, and $9 million of venture capital was secured a year later, from investors including Google Ventures.

5. Own the customer journey 

A key feature of Lost My Name's business model is owning the customer journey, a feature shared other brands we admire, such as Nespresso. The company designs and creates the books and then sells via its own website.“We have 100% ownership of the whole customer journey," Mr Sharabi says in the article. "This is the total opposite of conventional publishing, which is totally fragmented between writers, agents, editors, publishers, booksellers, printers.” 

6. Extend then stretch the core

In terms of innovation, Lost My Name is smart to start by growing the core, launching a second "Impossibly Personal" book, The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home. Each book takes the reader on a journey from Outer Space back to their doorstep, featuring a local landmark and a satellite image of their own home. In this way, the brand is extending the core to refresh it and make it stronger.

A strong core will then create the foundation for future stretch, which could include personalised family card games and posters. “Anything we can print on with a personal twist that is genuine and not gimmicky,” as Mr Sharabi puts it

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In conclusion, Lost My Name is a great example of a start-up that has used visceral, personal insight to create a distinctive brand that uses digital technology to create a fantastic physical product. 

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