Lessons From The Met Gala: How Fashion’s Biggest Event Can Inform Your Brand’s Personalization

Kacey Musgraves at the 2019 Costume Institute Benefit Gala, Met Gala, celebrating the opening of "Camp: Notes on Fashion". (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)

Kacey Musgraves at the 2019 Costume Institute Benefit Gala, Met Gala, celebrating the opening of “Camp: Notes on Fashion”. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)


Lessons From The Met Gala: How Fashion’s Biggest Event Can Inform Your Brand’s Personalization

When it comes to expression of individuality, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more visual example of that than the annual Met Gala.

This is true of any year, but the 2019 gala, which was held on May 6 and hosted with the theme of “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” was truly remarkable in the array of dresses, suits, and ensembles that the high-fashion and Hollywood attendees wore.

There was Billy Porter wearing actual golden wings. Katy Perry in a chandelier. Kacey Musgraves as Barbie, driving up to the event in a real pink convertible. Lady Gaga in not one, but four different looks, each revealed by removing a layer of clothing.

There wasn’t a thing that was mass-produced or generic about any of it.

Now, to a degree, this has always been the case for celebrities and the very wealthy. Status and money have always granted people access to custom, rare, or highly individualized items, from fashion to furniture.

That’s no longer true, however, as we’ve seen with the overwhelming trend toward personalization and customization that brands across all industries are following.

Even Coca-Cola, a drink that would certainly be classified as “accessible,” employed personalization with its “Share a Coke” campaign, which printed customer names on drink cans. The campaign resulted in a 2.5 percent increase in total sales.

In other words, this intense love of individuality—and not only that, but the need to express it—that is on such sharp display at events like the Met Gala is a perfect example of today’s consumer landscape. Connected consumers don’t just want personalization. They expect it. And they expect it from everything from their Amazon home page to their high fashion.

So how can your brand address this need? How can you make personalization work for you?

Recognize that connected consumers are independent, yet interconnected

One of the most important things that brands must realize is that connected consumers are both deeply independent and deeply interconnected. This is one of the four paradoxes of the connected consumer that we at Zen Media explored in our research report, Marketing to Gods: The Definitive Guide to Reaching, Engaging, and Retaining the Modern, Empowered Consumer.

This means that although consumers will spend significant amounts of time searching for the product that matches their needs exactly, and are less likely to be swayed by advertising, they’re also highly dependent on others for input (in the form of, for example, online reviews) and validation of their purchase choices.

Our research found that consumers typically sifted through 50-100 products when making a major purchase. Finding the exact right product—one that, as our research participant Nicole put it, checks every box—is so important that consumers will instinctively fill whatever personalization gaps the brand has left open. Creating spreadsheets of products organized by category, for example, is one way we found consumers personalizing their brand experience.

Brands that can close this gap will see real positive results. Take the fashion brand Asos, which has invested heavily in personalization and customization tools like chatbots, AI, and voice technology. In 2018, after rolling out many of these improvements, sales grew by a startling 26 percent.

Asos also debuted a feature designed to help customers organize the products they had in their “saved” lists. After finding that 43 percent of customers had more than 50 products on the list at any one time, the brand created Boards to help users sort their items into categories. The feature also includes an AI component that will suggest board categories for customers’ saved items.

In our own work at Zen, we created the Chase BizMobile for the express purpose of offering personalized, and personal, advice to Chase’s small business customers in different cities around the country. Small business owners can sign up for a free session with one of our digital marketing experts, who will recommend strategies to help them meet their specific business goals.

It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of customization and personalization to today’s consumers. None of us wants to be thought of as a demographic—as a suburban woman between the ages of 29 and 34. We want to be known as Nicole. As James. As Shama.

It may not be golden wings, but it’s an expression of individuality just the same.