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Without even saying a word, how much money would you drop to make a first impression? What about $1,500? Oddly enough, the answer for some millennials is yes. Believe it or not, the millennial generation is willing to spend this amount of money on a new status symbol, which has become seemingly ubiquitous: the water bottle. Through the rise of the luxury S’well, Hydroflasks, and Nalgenes, water bottles have become synonymous with prestige. Water bottles have also evolved to be a representation of individuality carried into almost every facet of life — from the office, schools, gyms, and airports. In late 2017, S’well released a limited-edition, luxury water bottle coated with up to 6,000 Swarovski crystals at a cost of $1,500. The fact that a collaboration between Swarovski and a water bottle company like S’well even exists, illustrates that water bottles have become an embodiment of status and individuality.
Simultaneous with the rise of reusable water bottles, the act of styling bottles with stickers has become its own way to promote a sense of individuality through attachment with consumer brands. The stickers on our water bottles and laptops serve as a reminder of where we would rather be when we’re spending time at the workplace, school, or our cousin’s daughter’s second birthday party. Stickers highlight our urge to silently communicate our internal identity and personal lifestyle in places that traditionally cater to conformity and banality. In rebelling with individuality, we’re telling the world who we are in environments that foster uniformity. Stickers allow us to float seamlessly between our work lives and personal lives without sacrificing who we are and who we strive to be. This fluidity is critical to the work and social lives of millennials and Gen Z’ers, who simultaneously intertwine work and leisure more so than previous generations, where division of these spaces was commonplace.
The portrayal of individual identity in professional environments has grown more important in the “WeWork” Era. Expression of individuality through fashion has become standard in younger workspaces who are open to the collision of work and lifestyle. From Virgin Atlantic to Goldman Sachs, influential companies are evolving away from stringent dress codes to allow workers to express their individuality. The use of stickers on items brought into the workplace, such as water bottles and laptops, is an extension of this urge for expression. Stickers have become another way for people to relate to brands and use their imagery to signal their own identities.
Stickers displaying brands like Patagonia, Supreme, and Yeti are a medium to express what an individual cares about. In the sticker era, brand power is largely determined by what the brand itself represents and stands for, rather than simply its product. In addition to communicating a lifestyle, brands and their logos also represent the social and political causes that they affiliate themselves with. Through the use of stickers and the messages they propagate, brands are able to design their product to enhance their consumer’s existing vision of their life and self, as opposed to inserting an extrinsic ideal or product into consumer’s lifestyles. This trend has altered brands accessibility and relationship to the consumer. This ethos illuminates that instead of simply supporting our physical products, we as consumers are able to conscientiously communicate our values for social and political movements through brands whose purpose deeply resonates with our own.
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