What’s in a name? As it turns out, a whole lot.
I don’t know about you, but to me, monograms conjure up images of iconic brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, whose initials make-up their famous logos. I also associate it with classic Montblanc pens and wallets, which feature the owners’ engraved or embossed initials. After all, having these items monogrammed adds a certain gravitas to the pieces.
Technically put, monograms are a design consisting of two or more alphabetic letters combined or interlaced, commonly using one's initials. Monograms present a huge opportunity for retailers to offer a type of customization to customers, a broader trend that’s making its mark on retail.
According to The State of Fashion 2018 report, developed by Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company, personalization is expected to be one of the major themes in the fashion industry in 2018. “Fashion companies will deliver personalization in many forms — from more customized products, to curated recommendations, to communications and storytelling that connects to individuals.”
The truth is that monograms are just part of the personalization pie.
We spoke with Wes Ng, CEO of Casetify, about the appeal of customization. With celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian and Gigi Hadid showing off their personalized Casetify iPhone cases (Gigi’s was emblazoned with boyfriend Zayn’s name, which is basically a modern declaration of love), the tech accessory brand and Shopify retailer knows a lot about the connection between tech and individuality.
“People are creative and want to express themselves any way they can. They want to make their pieces theirs. It becomes another layer to defining their style and stating their mission, which is extremely empowering,” Ng explains.
In this era of bloggers, influencers, and self-branding for all, monogramming becomes a way to add your signature to your accessories, which is likely why an increasing number of modern retailers are getting into the mix.
Away, the Instagram-perfect luggage of choice for many fashion bloggers, offers the opportunity to add a three-initial monogram (or favorite three-letter word) to customers’ travel gear, hand-painted by a New York artist. Away’s tagline is perfectly on-point: “You’ll have your suitcase for life — make it unambiguously yours.”
And shoutout to L.A.-based apparel brand Rails, which offers a customized branded patch sewn onto the back of denim jackets, and minimalist fashion brand Cuyana, which, according to its website, “Takes an eponymous approach” to essentials with selective new options for customization. Cuyana trench coats and bomber jackets even boast an interior monogrammed patch, customized for customers.
We connected with four retailers that offer monogramming and customization, for their thoughts on why on-demand is more in-demand and how they offer it to their customers.
Getting Personal: 4 Retailers Talk Shop
So, why the surge in monogramming and customization? My personal theory is that social media has led to the uptick in personalization. Whether flaunting a monogrammed agenda or phone case (selfie style), more and more people are “doing it for the ‘gram.” (At the time of writing, #monogram pulls up a whopping 1.8 million Instagram posts, while #monogrammed pulls up almost 230,000 posts — proof that there’s interest in these terms.)
Founder of customized scarf brand and Shopify retailer Rosa Gold Kirsten La Greca offers up her thoughts: “Monogrammed pieces are instantly more Instagrammable, for sure! They make a statement, and through the mixture of font and the item, you're able to tell the world something about yourself. Also, our letters are part of our identity, and I think we develop an affection for our initials. At its very basic level, a monogram communicates a sense of ownership as well.”
The founder of White House Monogramming (also a Shopify merchant) Janet White confirms the theory as well: “About the time that fashion blogging became popular, we saw an increase in monogramming. Bloggers routinely market their recent post with an announcement on social media to spread the word. I was one of the lucky businesses to be established about the same time as the newfound popularity began.”
Danielle Rothman, founder of Rothbyrns Creative, a customized online gift shop specializing in calligraphy, makes another solid point: “I don't know if it's more popular or we're just seeing it more often. There's nothing people love more than seeing their name written beautifully — and that's true for everyone — kids and adults alike. It makes a great gift, which in turn makes great content for social media.”
Ng of Casetify agrees that whether or not social media had something to do with the rise in personalization’s popularity, millennials likely had a hand in it.
“Millennials especially have fueled the monogram movement. This gives customers the ability to add a personal touch to a product that once was mass produced. They feel it is their own, their voice, their own product. And while it appears trendy and ‘with the moment’, this actually aligns with everything we believe in at Casetify, and we feel it’s something that will last much longer than a fast fad.”
This is why Casetify goes beyond monogramming.
“We do have monogramming on our new Leather iPhone cases and even have a full monogram collection with a range of design options. But we don’t stop there. Our Glitter Name Cases have been a hit with celebs. They allow customers to select their phone size, glitter color, text options, and literally put their name on a case. So, complete personalization.”
Katherine Sprung, owner of Squish Marshmallows, sells customizable marshmallows at her NYC location and for order on her online shop. Because yes, even food can be personalized!
Sprung explains why people have an appetite for custom: “I think people really enjoy things that are customized and somewhat exclusive. It's a simple way to make something more special, thoughtful, and unique to the recipient.”
Make Monogramming Magic
Thinking about adding personalization as a service for your retail biz? Here are some strategic ways to get started.
1. Market as a Gift or Even a Treat for Yourself
Thanks to the personalized nature of monogramming, it makes for a thoughtful gift, especially for milestone birthdays, weddings (and wedding-related events), graduation, and new babies.
White of White House Monogramming confirms that on her end, more monogrammed items are purchased as a gift.
“Personalized gifts add that thoughtful touch that makes the receiver feel like the giver cares enough to take that extra step.”
In White House Monogramming’s case, bridal is the most popular category.
“For me, it would be wedding for sure! This is partly why the Monogrammed Clutch Purse is popular, it’s great for bridesmaid gifts,” White explains.
In the category of self-gifting, it can be marketed as a way to “treat yourself,” especially when it comes to items like wallets, handbags, and agendas.
2. Time Your personalization Offer With Holidays (and Promote Accordingly)
On the topic of gifting, make sure to leverage popular gifting seasons such as the lead up to winter holidays, Valentine’s Day, and summer (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, teachers’ gifts, graduation, and wedding season): All of these are prime opportunities for personalization.
For holidays like Valentine’s Day, Sprung of Squish Marshmallows offers a package of “Convo Hearts,” featuring affectionate sayings like “My Boo” and “Squish Me.” These can be customized with sayings to suit your flavor and can also feature some monogrammed marshmallows to take the treat to the next level of personalization.
3. Offer On-the-Spot Monogramming and Customization as a Pop-Up Service
A low-risk way to introduce monogramming is by offering it for a limited time, on location. Simply hire a specialist who can take care of this. (Of course, the simpler the personalization, the less time it will take to offer this in real time; don’t guarantee immediate monogramming if you expect longer wait times.)
And if you do this in conjunction with key gifting seasons (see point #2), you’ll likely experience more in-store traffic and an easier sales hook.
Madewell offers customization all-year long, but also has a monogrammer onsite at several locations, especially during peak gift-giving season. This can also be a great way to drive more foot traffic to your shop.
PRO TIP: If you’re a retailer that sells several brands in-store, consider inviting one of your vendors to offer this as a “pop-up personalization” event for the day or weekend. The key is making it fun, showcasing the trend and thoughtfulness of customization, and creating a sense of urgency.
4, Add Astrology or Custom Statements as an Option
If people aren’t as into monogramming, then astrological signs or even personalized statements can make for fun on-demand options.
Purveyor of monogrammed blanket scarves Rosa Gold also offers zodiac signs on T-shirts. Founder La Greca explains: “When I saw the big zodiac/constellation trend coming, I knew that it was just another way to personalize and tell the world something about yourself. And yes, there has been an uptick in zodiac purchases... I think just like monograms, we will always want to adorn ourselves in our sign as well!”
Rothbyrns Creative also customizes motivational statements onto notebooks and agendas, perfect for bridesmaids gifts, birthdays, and “Girl Bosses.” Founder and artist Rothman designs prints like “Boss Lady” and “You Got This” onto journals, making for perfectly Instagrammable pieces.
I finally added my new embossed journal styles to my Etsy shop! I made this design the second day of Chelsea Market. I bought a bunch of these beautiful red journals and couldn't figure out what to write on them, until I started to think about what I would want my own notebook to say. At that moment, what I needed was a reminder to be self-confident, because I can do just about anything! I was happy to see that this message resonated with the people I met at the markets. This journal was a very popular pick for people buying for bosses, mentees, sisters, and daughters. Check it out using the link in my profile! #moleskine #embosslikeaboss #embossing #yougotthis #moderncalligraphy #Christmas #gift #giftideas #Hanukkahgift #calligraphy #etsy #etsyshop
Signing Off With a Reminder
The great news is that monogramming is an easy way to introduce personalization to your product offering, and even test the waters by making it available for a limited time.
So, first assess if customization makes sense for your target audience, products, and resources, and if it does, then enjoy making a name for your brand.