Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
The series of posts on Crafthaus are an abridged version of ASK Harriete for the convenience of the Crafthaus audience. You are welcome to comment here or on ASK Harriete.
AT this point the series about the craft market place has been evolving for over a month. The issues are complex, I am trying to untangle the economic dynamics methodically.
There were many heartfelt comments responding to the previous posts about the brand of craft. Some questioned the brand of craft. The over whelming evidence however, is that craft must adapt to the dynamics of the evolving market place. How is the question?
Holding on to values that makers care about while navigating the realities of the current economy seemed daunting to me also. Then I saw John Gerzema on a TED Talk that inspired some new insights and helped me focus on actions that the craft community can support.
The consumer has moved "from mindless consumption to mindful consumption." "By restricting their demand, consumers can actually align their values with their spending, and drive capitalism and business to not just be about more, but be about better."
Gerzema states that we are "going to go through four value-shifts that we see driving new consumer behaviors...."
So what can artists and makers specifically do?
A specific set a actions by makers that sell at craft fairs could reinvent the brand of craft.
Despite the complexities of rebranding craft and the craft community, there's still room for applying the lessons of successful marketing. Differentiating subsets of craft consumers and then target marketing to each audience provides the most likely improvements.
For individual makers, developing your own brand and cultivating an audience for your work is essential to achieving better sales. Branding the work allows the maker to establish prices beyond covering expenses.
If people walk up to your booth and say,
"Why does this cost so much?",
you have not established the value of your brand.
Think about how you can establish a clear brand for your work and define your market.
A list of possibilities on ASK Harriete might help you. Can you add your ideas?
We need to reinvent the brand of craft.
Very few people go to a craft festival with the conscious intent to buy the craft, let alone pay a premium for something. (Brand isn't the only reason for this, but we can't tackle all the problems in one post.) Previous posts examined the consequences of excess supply and dwindling demand. Any commodity responds to the laws of economics.
So sad to say that the over supply of average has contributed to the "dismal brand of craft". This handicap in the marketplace causes makers to compete in a downward spiral for the consumer dollars.
But if mustard can be reinvented from ordinary to extraordinary, it might be possible to reinvent the dismal brand of craft to remarkable.
Better branding can raise a product out of the ordinary. It has happened over and over. The opportunity to create a better brand for craft exists, but we need to admit to current facts, find better practices, and devote ourselves to elevating our craft. A better brand for craft is possible, but only if we make it happen.
Ideas anyone? Seriously.....brainstorm. Your future, my future, our futures depend on making a better brand for craft.
In the consumer marketplace, companies develop a clear identity for their products with "branding."
The reason a consumer buys one toothpaste over another, or pays $3 for a cup of coffee is, in part, because of branding. Companies consciously develop and market a brand identity to appeal to specific audiences. As a consequence, brand enables more profitable premium pricing for a specific product.
Candace Corlett, president of market consulting firm, WSL Strategic Retail, says, "One way to look at Apple's retail success is in sales per square foot, but a
second is brand identity."
D.I.Y. fairs provide another example of creating a brand.
With names like "Renegade" and "Bazaar Bizarre" these craft marketplaces have differentiated themselves and created an alternative craft identity associated with a lifestyle.
They created a "brand" for the D.I.Y. marketplace with images and effective marketing through social media. They segmented and reached specific sets of emerging customers. The merchandise has not been significantly better than the white tent craft, but the marketing and advance promotion definitely was.
So where is the potential for the white tent?
In a competitive marketplace, craft needs to be able to convince the consumers why they should buy at
a craft fair and pay a premium price over the mass produced inventory at Target, Forever 21, or Pier One .
This is what branding is all about.
Craft shows and art festivals could capitalize on the public desire to support "made in America", local makers, and local small business owners. I don't see any of these values being clearly associated with craft.
I am sure there must be other themes that would work as well. Think purple cow and pet fairs with dog tags, cat bowls, beds, & leashes.
My advice to craft festivals: Create a brand for your craft festival outside of the hackneyed harvest festival and holiday sale.
My advice to makers: Stop supporting the mediocrity of boring craft fairs. Decline to participate and save your booth fees for more productive efforts. Time to stop investing in average. We can't keep doing the same thing and expect different results.