Home Mind & Brain The Psychology Behind Customisation: Why We Love Personalising Everything

The Psychology Behind Customisation: Why We Love Personalising Everything

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It’s a golden age for customisation, and if you want to make something your own, you’ve got myriad options for putting your personal stamp on it. From laptop skins that cover up the uninteresting exteriors of modern devices with a more eye-catching design that stands out from the crowd to water bottles emblazoned with labels unique to you, the opportunities for turning products from bland to bespoke are almost endless.

From a psychological perspective, there are some interesting technical talking points at play, driving the personalisation trend forward, so let’s talk about them and try to understand why there’s so much demand for making products more individualistic.

Psychological drivers behind the allure of individuality

So why is it that we’re willing to spend extra to see our initials on a tote bag or choose a phone case that mirrors our favourite artwork? The psychology behind personalisation taps into core aspects of human behaviour in a few ways:

Identity and self-expression

Personalisation serves as an extension of one’s identity. It’s about showcasing who you are in a way that’s both unique and conspicuous. Indeed, a study by researchers at the University of Baltimore picked this out as a particular catalyst for this trend, noting that one respondent said that customisation should apply not only to the aesthetics, but also to aspects like texture, colour and even the sound that a product makes.

Control and autonomy

Customising allows individuals to exert control over their environment, which psychologists link to increased happiness and well-being. Choosing specific features on a product makes consumers feel like they are creating something meaningful that aligns with their desires and choices, including their personal style.

Belonging through differentiation

While it might seem counterintuitive, personalising an item can also connect us to others. Sporting a custom-made scarf or a phone cover often serves as a conversation starter among peers, which subtly fosters social bonds while still highlighting one’s individuality.

These psychological principles explain why customisation is not just a fleeting trend but rather ingrained in human nature.

As we continue to seek ways in which our purchases can reflect our persona, businesses have caught on, offering ever more tailored options that promise customers not just a product but an experience uniquely theirs. 

And in turn, there are services which put consumers in the driving seat, such as being able to design printable custom labels that can be applied to any product, so that they don’t have to rely solely on specific brands to offer customisation innately.

Brand strategies that exemplify the customisation trend

Several brands have adeptly implemented personalised products to develop deeper connections with their consumers. 

Here are examples of a few campaigns that have helped perpetuate demand further:

  • Nike by You. Formerly known as NIKEiD, Nike allows customers to design their own footwear. This initiative not only empowers users by involving them in the creation process but also reinforces Nike’s commitment to diversity and individual expression in sports. It’s no wonder it’s a brand that generated over $51 billion in revenue last year.
  • Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke.  In perhaps one of the most recognisable personalisation campaigns, Coca-Cola replaced its iconic logo on bottles with people’s names. The campaign boosted sales by 7% and shifted 1.5 billion bespoke bottles, leveraging the simple yet potent idea of making each consumer feel personally acknowledged.
  • Starbucks’ customisable drinks. Starbucks offers customers the chance to tailor their drinks according to their taste preferences, which not only enhances satisfaction but also increases consumer interaction with the brand since every customised order inherently feels more personal and engaging.
  • LEGO’s personalised sets. LEGO gives the option to customise brick sets through their online platform, allowing enthusiasts to conjure up models that resonate with personal interests or reflect memorable occasions from their own lives, thus upping the user’s creative engagement with the product. This is doubtless one of the reasons that its revenues rose last year, outdoing those of its rivals, who saw a slide in sales.
  • M&M’s custom sweets. M&M’s allows customers to print personalised messages and choose colours for their candies, transforming a simple snack into a customisable gift option for special events or corporate promotions. This clever twist on an everyday item adds a delightfully personal touch to any celebration.

These strategies highlight how effective personalised marketing can be when it aligns with consumers’ inherent desires for uniqueness and self-expression. Allowing customers to leave their mark on products lets brands establish a stronger emotional connection, and enhance customer loyalty.

Final thoughts

There’s a clear incentive for brands to make customisation an option for customers, whether through direct product campaigns, or the secondary market of stickers, skins, and cases. And our psychological attachment to personalising the things we interact with is well established, so it’s just a case of companies finally catching up to what we’ve been looking for all along.

Samantha Green, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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