The rise and appeal of personalised gifts
‘A person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.’
Dale Carnegie, author of ‘How to win friends and influence people.’
It’s easy to understand the enduring and ever-increasing popularity of personalised gifts. Receiving an item that’s been embossed or embroidered with our name allows us to experience a unique feeling of ownership and recognition that an off-the-shelf present just can’t recreate.
Personalised gifts also make us feel valued and special. As the buying process is two-fold (first choosing the gift itself then adding the personalised element) we appreciate the giver has gone above and beyond the norm to truly delight us with something unique.
Personalised gifts are usually reserved for the most special people or are given to mark the most important life events (a new baby, wedding or milestone birthday, for example.) Customization is a highly involved, intimate process, reserved for those we love the most and hold in the highest regard (and for whom a hastily grabbed bunch of garage flowers just won’t do!)
The practice of gift personalisation in the UK can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages, when artisans and craftsmen begin to add their initials or a unique symbol to skilled work to identify it as their own. This evolved into a practice known as monogramming, when an individual’s initials are added to portable or precious belongings in order to prove their ownership. This practice is still alive and well today, particularly amongst the UK upper classes (the Louis Vuitton monogram, for example, is instantly recognisable as a symbol of luxury, quality and exclusivity.)
It wasn’t until the Renaissance period that people regularly began to personalise gifts
with touching words, in order to add sentimental value. This began with inscriptions on engagement, wedding and memorial rings and progressed to marking items like pocket watches, clocks and lockets. As the inscription is usually hidden away, it’s experienced as a secret, shared message – both a permanent and private way of expressing treasured thoughts.
In recent years, personalised gifts have become big business, with the range of choice ever increasing. As the demand for customized items increases, ideas and techniques become both more creative and more sophisticated. Conversely, personalised gifts are also becoming more affordable and accessible to the average person, due to the booming online market.
In the 1980s and 1990s, personalised items were usually mass produced and unsophisticated, with items like keyrings, flasks and wallets emblazoned with popular names and sold in gift and seaside nick-nack shops. Unless your name was common, you stood little chance of taking one home.
Today, bespoke personalisation is the norm. Countless websites offer a range of personalisation options for beautiful gifts from chocolate to wall art, clothing to keyrings. Embossing or embroidering items with a name is still popular, but personalisation has also branched out into a range of more imaginative and creative choices.
Personalisation with an image is popular; whether a school photo on a keyring or a candid hen-do shot on a mug. Personalised calendars can also be created, allowing families to use their own home photo for each month. Images are also used to customize clothing or accessories – the possibilities are endless.
Personalised art is also a growing industry, with customized portraits available that turn family members into anything from Star Wars villains to Simpson’s characters. Caricatures are still common along with more unusual portraiture and sculpture, including Christmas decorations in the likeness of treasured pets or salt and pepper shakers that mirror a bridge and groom.
Personalised gifts can also bring back memories of shared experiences, with personalised keepsakes and trinkets serving as a reminder of amazing events or given as wedding favours. Customized gifts are also a fantastic way of sharing insider jokes. Meaningless to everyone else, their relevance is a great secret between those in the know.
Of course, personalisation doesn’t always mean adding something to an item. You can also put together a personalised package like a hamper that includes favourite foods and drinks, or a day trip packed with much-loved activities.) Hand-picking a range of items or experiences is an opportunity for the giver to show how well they know their recipient as well as showering them with amazing gifts!
Personalised gifts for children have always been popular. Who remembers being given a book that featured them as storybook character, for example? Today, the giving of personalised items for adults is just as popular, if not more so. Perhaps we’re all still a bunch of big kids!
From necklaces with letters that spell out a name to framed illustrations of families, there’s a personalised gift to delight anyone of any age. Personalisation is even becoming more personal, with some websites now offering services like the production of a one-of-a-kind soft toy made in an exact replica of a child’s drawing or custom-made paper dolls illustrated to be dead ringers for your mum and dad. You can even customize a rubber ink stamp of a family member’s face!
As we give gifts more regularly than ever before (graduations, engagements, baby showers, housewarmings…) it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find an original present. Personalisation has opened up a whole new world of imagination and creativity, allowing us to truly delight our friends and family with something that’s ‘just for them.’
Even traditional gifts like flowers and chocolates can now be personalised. For years, customized cakes have dominated the market. Today, a range of personalised chocolate is available with a unique message or picture added to product or packaging.
Upmarket chocolatiers now produce a vast range of personalised delights, including the opportunity to hand-select each individual chocolate purchased and place these within a personalised box – even details like the ribbon and tissue paper can be customized! These little extras are what takes a gift from mundane to marvellous, adding a touch of magic to a standard present.
A quick online search within the chocolate industry reveals items as diverse and creative as personalised chocolate scrabble tiles spelling out a loved one’s name, a personalised chocolate stencil for dusting cappuccinos with chocolate powder and even a company that will create a flavoured chocolate bar of your choice. Other amazing customized chocolate gifts include personalised crème egg spoons, a chocolate bride and groom that can be hand-painted in the image of the happy couple and a hamper stuffed with hand-picked retro chocolate treats from the year a person was born.
The corporate market for personalisation is also booming, with companies exploring options ranging from hand-written notecards offering a unique promotional discount to monogrammed diaries and bottles of champagne. Many businesses reserve personalised gifts for their top-tier customers, as personalisation is regarded as a superior form of giving, saved for only the most deserving recipients.
Whereas personalised items were once only hand-embroidered or hand-etched, modern technology has allowed boundaries to be pushed, with highly sophisticated machine stitching and engraving techniques now available.
Gift personalisation as an industry is a hive of creativity and imagination, with numerous websites competing with each other to come up with the most unique and surprising ideas.
We’ll leave you with our top ten most unusual personalised gifts, available on the web today. What would you most like to receive?
- First dance lyrics from a wedding, made into a canvas wall hanging.
- A personalized print which turns our friends into caricatures of cocktails
- Customized love tokens to give to your partner or spouse – these can be redeemed for things you choose (including massages, lie ins etc.)
- A personalized tea blend in a flavour of your invention
- Left handed notebooks and stationery with a personalised message.
- Engraved personal sweet stash jar with mallet to smash in emergency
- Your photograph turned into a Japanese anime
- Wooden wedding countdown calendar
- Pet portrait felt Christmas tree decoration
- Personalized jar of date night ideas for couples