Suddenly, everyone is a wanna-be influencer. In a way, who can blame them? Instagram's influencer market alone is said to be worth $1 billion and may double by 2019. Chances are, you have a wanna-be influencer in your social circle and would like to buy a nice gift for him or her. I can tell you from my personal experience last year that it's a near-impossible mission to please them, but it's worth a try. This year I've asked a few of them well in advance what it takes to pull off the perfect gift. After getting over the initial varied reactions, they generally suggested making sure the gift has an accompanying "built-in story" or conversation around it, like eco-friendliness, productivity, or something world-changing. I'm told if you find a gift another influencer has recently mentioned the product, you get bonus points (Spoiler alert - I have one of those below for you).
"Quirky's ok," one said, "but that shouldn't be the end of the story."
With that in mind, here's my top six I'm going with this year. Hit me up on Twitter for other ideas. I'm all ears.
1. Solowheel (starts at $999)
With a top speed of 18.8 MPH with a 31-mile range (Solowheel Glide 3), the Solowheel is the smallest, greenest, most convenient "People Mover" available today. This gyro-stabilized electric unicycle is compact, easy to learn, and, from what I'm told, a blast to ride. The Solowheel is lightweight and portable, with a built-in handle and fold-up pedals, making it easy to carry and store. The Solowheel is great for gliding around town or commuting.
Why It's Perfect
Not many people have them yet. I've spotted these head-turners in Portland, San Francisco, New York and I've heard they are already catching on in Denmark. Let's just say the buzz is building.
Solowheel is doing a new marketing push and a "relaunch" including some "incremental improvements" to the product, according to the makers. Solowheel tells me they have huge ambitions to be the global leader of these types of quality rideables, but the time to catch an early adopter cruising down the sidewalk is this holiday season. At this price point, they're clearly not toys, and these devices are moving away from being a fad or over-hyped gadget. Solowheel is a trend toward the future, given how city density is increasing. New York has never seen this kind of population growth in a half-century (can you say 27,000 people per square mile?) and everyone is connected to everything, including their transportation devices. Perhaps the biggest selling point is it's nice for the last mile of your commute. You can conveniently tuck one between your legs on the bus rather than trying to deal with your bike on an overcrowded mass transit system.
2. Time Slippers ($150)
Impossibly comfortable slippers. This slipper-only company calls it High Performance Relaxation "by incorporating comfort and flexibility into every aspect of our product including yoga mat insoles, elastic slip-on laces, flexible outsoles, and soft wool lining." The company spokesperson told me that Mike Rothman, CEO of the popular parenting resource for dads Fatherly, was quoted in Entrepreneur Magazine as saying, "Time Slippers are the goddamn bomb dot com."
Why It's Perfect
Like many wanna-be influencers, your friend is trying to do way too many side projects at once and can't focus on anything. It's time to find something he or she can slip on his or her feet to get the influencer juices flowing. Available in for men and women.
3. Flashback Photobomber Jacket (Betabrand) ($228)
Part of Betabrand's Flashback collection, this jacket is made from a highly reflective material -- "perfect for anyone who doesn't want his or her picture taken, or for photobombers who really want to make a lasting impression."
Why It's Perfect
Your wanna-be influencer friend may be familiar with the ironic and innovative brand already, so why not poke a little fun at them? Tell them that influencers turn into celebrities overnight, and they need the right incognito gear when fame hits. Plus, let them know it goes well with his/her new Solowheel and Time slippers for a well-put-together look. The fashionable techie jacket is fabric coated with "glass nanospheres" for reflectivity, turning "ordinary iPhone images into thermonuclear photobombs." On that same safety tip, also check out the Kickstarter project See.Sense Ace with artificial intelligence, since influencers can't go wrong name-dropping AI this holiday season. (Note - the Kickstarter project is not shipping till Summer 2018, so you'll need to package that one as a gift card).
4. Stitch Fix Gift Card ($20-$1000)
Stitch Fix is an online styling service that delivers a personalized shopping experience, just for you. Fill out your Style Profile and a personal stylist will hand pick pieces to fit your tastes, needs and budget--and mail them directly to your door.
Why It's Perfect
Wanna-be influencers dream of huge success but want to do it their way. If you're in a panic, you can't go wrong by giving them a generous gift card by a hot brand they'll relate to. Stitch Fix is actually profitable valued at $1 billion and recently filed for an IPO. Plus, the company blend artificial intelligence with human expertise. What's not to love!
As a side note, we asked a few Stitch Fix stylists for how an influencer should dress for success. "Stand out from the crowd by substituting on-trend pieces for classic workplace staples," Tiffany Reese, a Stitch Fix Styling marketing lead, told me when I asked for fashion tips for influencer women. "Instead of adding another blazer to your work wardrobe, invest in a quality moto jacket in a versatile color."
Brittany Mann tells me, "If you're shopping for a sharp-dressed man this year, add a little personality to his ensemble with a pair of printed socks. Go bold with a pair of mismatched striped socks or keep it classic by gifting him with a subtle plaid pair. Don't skimp out on quality, explore high-end brands with a cotton, silk, or wool blend.
5. Levitating Fern ($129.99)
This plant needs no soil or water -- it draws enough moisture from the air to keep it looking lush and beautiful throughout the year. Plus, it has an electromagnetic base that makes the pot "float" in mid-air.
Why It's Perfect
One of the other definitions of smart gift giving is giving what you'd never buy for yourself. The levitating fern is clearly one of those, and I really want one. I don't know who shops at Sharper Image these days, but it's worth checking out. Who doesn't love the idea of levitation? It will certainly get people talking.
6. MonBaby ($99.99 to $169)
MonBaby is an award-winning baby monitor that snaps onto any article of a child's clothing, just like a button. MonBaby allows parents to take control of the monitoring alerts they care about. From breathing movements, body position (on the back or on the stomach), fall detection, proximity removal - choose only the alerts you want to receive.
Why It's Perfect
As many of today's influencers are new moms and dads, MonBaby provides much more than a traditional baby monitor. Parents are able to utilize new technology, such as a smart sleep and breathing monitor, to work from home efficiently while still watching over their baby. "We've designed the MonBaby to provide a layer of monitoring not available through traditional video and audio monitors to allow the parents to work comfortably from another room in their home knowing that they'll be notified when their attention is needed," says Eugene Dotsenko, COO of MonDevices.
Have more gift ideas for the wanna-be influencer in your life? Feel free to share them with me on Twitter.
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