Are your customers ever faced with the dilemma of selecting a gift for someone who’s grown beyond toys but isn’t quite ready for adult gifts? Are they shopping for tweens?
It’s not nearly as difficult a task as it may seem. Just focus on these three critical factors: memorable, funny and cool. For example, consider promoting a pair of personalized Superman socks or look-alike bobbleheads or LEGO-style figures. You can even suggest a Classy Potato Pal to help feed the hungry.
The personalized gift market spawns new as well as unique items every year. Some are added to established gift sites; others make their entrance on Etsy and grow as independent online companies. These are just a few of the unusual ideas we found that are perfect for a younger audience and certain to be treasured for years.
A Sampling of Photo Gifts for Tweens
Photo T-shirts have been around for decades, but today’s custom clothing includes everything from underwear to hoodie sweatshirts. In addition, photo socks are all the rage in personalized wearables. They also make the perfect accessory to go with summer camp wear.
FaceSocks, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, offers designs to reflect dozens of themes. Some are CustomEmoji, FaceMash and Custom Foods (tacos, hamburgers and donuts). The sock material is a blend of polyester, acrylic, nylon and also spandex, providing a long-lasting, colorful canvas that doesn’t crack or split. Moreover, designers outline the subject’s face and incorporate it into the sock design. Visit facesocks.com to explore their broad selection of personalized socks.
MyPhotoSocks is a London-based company that offers socks, adult and kids’ underwear and also blankets. Personalized products are available in a variety of occasions as well as styles, from sports- and animal-themed designs to superhero bodies with the subject’s face, Best Sister and Best Brother socks and many more.
In addition, clients can order everything from matching pet socks, underwear and blankets to custom Surfer, Chef, and Baby socks. Furthermore, myphotosocks.com is a member of the Qandies Ltd. marketing and research group.
No personalized undies for their tweens; how about a look-alike bobblehead figure? The Internet offers dozens of bobblehead suppliers, located all over the world. In addition, the order process is simple. Submit clear, well-lit photos of the subject’s face and select a themed body that represents the tween’s favorite hobby or sport.
Manufacturers use one of two processes to create the caricatured head: hand-carving or 3D printing. The first is most common; an artist carves the subject’s features out of polyresin or polymer clay. The polyresin produces a more durable product; however, it’s more expensive than polymer clay.
Bobbleheads.com, in Alpharetta, Georgia, offers three types of handmade bobblehead products. Retail Bobbleheads are based on popular historical, political as well as entertainment persona. Fully Customized Bobbleheads feature handmade bodies and heads made from scratch. In addition, Custom Bobbleheads are made by adding a sculpted head to a stock body.
Clients can choose from 300+ themed bodies to create custom bobbleheads, including male and female superheroes, sports figures, musicians as well as video game players. Fully customized figures are recreated from full-frame photographs showing the subject’s complete figure and surroundings. These scenes can include more than one person, pets, specialized props and background objects. It’s perfect for families, best friends or small sports teams.
Headbobble.com, in Redwood City, California, employs 3D printers to create the figurine’s head and body sections. Digital artists employ 3D mapping software to create a three-dimensional model from photographs of the subject.
It replicates the subject’s facial features down to the head shape, skin color and eyebrow shape. The only feature not determined by the photographs is eye color, which customers choose when ordering. The 3D model and printer create a digitally mastered statue that more closely resembles the subject than hand-carved products.
Etsy has a variety of small businesses that specialize in creating customized products for their LEGO-obsessed customers. Most provide a selection of official heads, bodies and props they will mix and match to create personalized LEGO characters.
Funky3DFaces, located in Hertfordshire, England, offers a more high-tech service. It uses a 3D printer to create custom heads from customers’ photographs. Each plaster of paris head is 16mm high (plus the hair) and has a 5mm hole in the neck for attaching to LEGO or block-based mini figures.
Funky3DFaces requests well-lit photographs, with a minimum of shadows, to achieve the best results. The company also notes that the heads are not waterproof.
Moreover, many of the custom manufacturers listed above offer volume discounts for copies of a single figure. This makes them ideal party favors for bar and bat mitzvahs, confirmations, quinceañeras and sweet 16 parties.
Skateboarding has a long history of daredevil competition and trendsetting fashion. It’s one of the most popular sports for young people eager to exert their independence in a “no adults allowed” world. Part of the appeal is owning a name-brand skateboard, with the coolest graphic design, combined with matching skate shoes, T-shirts and hoodies.
Even Kodak promotes its own skateboards, T-shirts and hats based on its iconic Kodak films. Several years ago, Girl Skateboard Company teamed up with Kodak to create Kodak x Girl Skateboards, releasing a video of skateboarders riding Kodak-themed boards and wearing Kodak garb. The video was shot on (what else?) Super 8 film by skateboarders with a love for photography.
A similar effort to promote art and individuality in skateboarding was launched by Portland-based CCS one of the most popular skateboard equipment and clothing distributors. CCS offers a customizable skateboard deck that allows clients to have a board printed with their photograph or artwork. Priced in line with preprinted skateboards, CCS custom skateboards are a standard popsicle shape, made of seven-ply Canadian maple, and drilled to accommodate the appropriate hardware.
Custom skateboards are a great gift for new skaters, as well as serious collectors who like to display their favorite decks.
Photo Guitar Picks
For budding rock and rollers, Personalization Mall offers custom-printed photo guitar picks. They’re the perfect gift or memorabilia for birthday parties, musical celebrations or also a band’s first concert. Customers choose from a library of existing designs or upload their own photograph or logo.
The picks are made from premium-grade celluloid material, in classic 351 shape. Furthermore, an image is printed on the front, and three lines of text are on the back. Each pick measures 1×1.3 inches and is sold in sets of 20–100. Headquartered in Burr Ridge, Illinois, Personalization Mall offers other personalized photo gifts.
Make Them Laugh
If you’re still at a loss to offer the perfect “unexpected” gift for a hard-to-please tween, consider a Potato Parcel. This quirky photo gift turns the humble russet potato into a completely natural frame for someone’s face (a Potato Pal); a 130-character message; or a full-size Potato Postcard. Moreover, Potato Parcels are real, garden-variety vegetables that ship in their own Surprise Gift Box, Burlap Sack, Potato Birthday Bundle (with pop-up card) or Classy Potato Gift Bundle.
Potato Parcel’s goal is to put a smile on the face of every person who receives one of its outrageous personalized spuds. In addition, the company partners with local food banks to donate one potato for every one they sell. So far, it has distributed tens of thousands of potatoes to those in need. Finally, when personalized potatoes reach the end of their lives, potatoparcel.com encourages its customers to plant their potatoes and grow more little ones.