Put My Name on It: the Personalization Obsession
Written by: Corin Camenisch
May 08, 2018
Who remembers the nameplate necklaces that went mainstream in the 1990s thanks to Patricia Field’s brilliantly styled Carrie Bradshaw? I keep seeing them everywhere again, and while I first thought it’s just another 90’s comeback, I discovered a bigger trend. Just a few weeks ago, luxury leather goods brand Mansur Gavriel announced their new offering: handcrafted monograms. And they are by far not the first to offer this in the luxury sector, Louis Vuitton has similar offerings and Chloé just joined the personalization game as well.
Personalization can now be found in almost every industry, from personal care & beauty to fashion, CPG to health & wellness. In fact, start-up Care/Of built their whole brand around it. You get vitamins are chosen just for you, so much so that they put your name on each little package (very instagramable too). Or think of the “share-a-coke” campaign, the simple idea of putting names on coke bottles led to a huge, global success and the first increase in sales in over a decade according to The Wall Street Journal. And if they are not putting your name on their products yet, they are using celebrity collaborations to make it more personal, Adidas x Pharrell, Selena Gomez x Coach, Louis Vuitton x Jeff Koons and so on.
Everyone who grew up with siblings knows of the importance of putting his/her name on things to maintain ownership. Our pets wore name tags in case they get lost. And my grandfather owned handkerchiefs with his initials on them. Crappy souvenir shops come to mind, where one can buy keychains, mugs or so on with your name on it — at least if you were blessed with a generic name. It’s also a common sales technique to use someone’s name in order to acknowledge their identity and massage their ego.
The question is, why? Why is this mostly kitchy and dated concept so trendy? Why is the perceived value so much higher when it carries our name? And why is it resonating now?
Let’s first take a look at the driving forces behind the name craze; Millennials. Time Magazine called them the ‘Me Me Me Generation’, an article that shed light on the generation after the baby boomers; a bunch of fame-obsessed narcissists. While the article is quite pessimistic about the now largest generation, what overlaps with many other reports is the idea that Millennials have been raised by parents who told them they can be and achieve whatever they want. Is it the sense of feeling special and the permission they have to celebrate their individuality that makes them celebrate themselves with their names on all possible things?
Growing up with social media, Millennials are the first generation used to a more intimate relationship with the brands. The fact that you can talk to them directly on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc., breaks down the walls of faceless corporations and invites customers to take part. Receiving a personalized product with your name on it feels like an invitation to become part of it, or, to put it in fashion terms, it almost feels like a micro-collaboration; Chloé x _____ (imagine your name here). Especially in the luxury industry, where each purchase brings you closer to an aspirational self, and seems like putting your own name next to the brand elevates that experience.
A third reason might be that Millennials are broke due to student loan debt. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still being able to buy personalized bags and vitamins, but the big ticket items are currently out of reach. And milestones like buying a house or getting married are definitely on hold. This could be another reason why millennials make small purchases to feel more special. In a trend report for the year 2017, Sparks & Honey speaks about the trend of celebrating the mundane to make up for the lack of major life events. And if a really good burrito can be worthy of an engagement-level announcement on social media, imagine what a shampoo with your very own name on its pretty packaging can do.