Personalization: 5 Architecture Marketing Tactics From Nike and IKEA

October 29, 2023

Tyler Suomala

Founder of Growthitect

Nike has certainly figured out how to attract their customers in the best way possible. If you’re in their market, it’s like they know how to speak right to your soul. They know how to make you proud to wear the swoosh. But what can architects learn from Nike?

There’s an age-old dilemma for architects: balancing between a signature style and catering to the client’s distinct preferences.

And it’s only becoming more difficult with an increasing demand for individuality all around us. Nearly anything can be customized. In fact, you’re probably noticing a growing desire for clients to be more involved in the design process (thanks, HGTV and Pinterest…).

How does this relate to attracting high-quality clients? Two ways:

  1. Client satisfaction: You want your work to deeply resonate with your clients while simultaneously solving their unique challenges. If that happens, they are more likely to (1) return as a repeat customer and (2) refer more clients to you. These are the easiest projects to win because they require much less cost and effort from the firm relative to other methods.

  2. Client experience: As you communicate with prospects and move them through your conversion engine, you want your client experience to sound attractive to them. Prospects want to understand and be involved in the process of your work. If you can make these clear to them in your negotiation, you’re more likely to win their business.

Nike gets personal

So what’s the solution? How do you maintain your autonomy while speaking to every client’s personal taste (and keep them coming back for more)? Let’s take another look at Nike.

Nike understands the demand for personalization. That’s why they introduced NIKEiD, which allows customers to design their sneakers by choosing colors, materials, and even personal messages. (Side note: It’s pretty fun and addicting to try out.)

NIKEiD has not only increased sales but it has also fostered a deeper connection between the brand and the customer.

IKEA effect

But it’s important to understand the mechanism. Why does it work so well?

It’s called the IKEA effect. When individuals invest time and creativity into customizing a product, they inherently value it more. So if you’ve ever wondered why IKEA makes you build everything after you buy it, now you know. It’s because you feel more invested in the outcome and more likely to love it (you built it, after all).

The same principal can be applied to architecture. Your work is a personal statement, a manifestation of your expertise and the client’s vision.

That is, as long as long as the client feels involved…

It’s time for architects to get personal

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that we hand the reins over to our clients. I think we all know that wouldn’t end well.

But it is absolutely crucial for them to feel involved in the process if you want to create a compelling customer experience suited for today’s clients.

Here are 5 ways architects can borrow from the success of Nike and IKEA:

01 // Interactive design workshops:

These are particularly effective if you’re designing public spaces like parks and other communal spaces. Host sessions where the community can play an active role in brainstorming and conceptualizing. Use digital tools to let them visualize their ideas.

02 // Customizable design elements:

Great for both residential and commercial architects. Offer a range of materials, finishes, and modular elements that clients can mix and match according to their preferences.

Note: If you’re worried about opening Pandora’s Box to unlimited choices, then limit their choices to 3 of your recommendations.

03 // Feedback tools and sessions:

Give clients an opportunity to “mark up” concepts. Platforms like Morpholio allow clients to interact directly with designs, providing immediate feedback. Then be sure to show them how you incorporated their comments into the final design.

04 // Explore pre-fab and modular options:

There’s a reason why you may have noticed more competition from “non-architect” businesses that offer pre-fab and modular options. Aside from being affordable and fast, they also tend to involve the client much more than a traditional architect-led process.

Are there ways you can incorporate the same flexibility into your business? Maybe it’s an ADU upsell for residential clients or a pop-up shop design for commercial clients.

05 // Client-centered portfolios:

Instead of just showcasing your past work, create case studies that highlight the collaborative process with each client, demonstrating your adaptability. Remember, you want to be the sidekick of the story.


We are in an era where personalization is not just preferred but expected. As an industry, we have to adapt and roll with the punches. And thankfully we have billion-dollar companies like Nike that have already shown us the way.

Embracing a collaborative, customizable approach to architectural design is more than just a trend—it's a path to deeper client satisfaction with a new swath of potential clients.

Consider adding these to your business plan and client experience:

  1. Interactive design workshops

  2. Customizable design elements

  3. Feedback tools and sessions

  4. Pre-fab and modular options

  5. Client-centered portfolios

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