An Appreciation: Honoring Craft

As the economy picks up and consumers can afford to spend more, they are starting to realize the lack of “value” in items that are inexpensive and perhaps a bit cheap -- reflecting the old adage “You get what you pay for.” At the same time, they are becoming disenchanted with mass-produced goods cranked out by machines at a rate of thousands per minute. Instead, consumers are seeking something more personalized or a sense of connection to an item. They are recognizing the value of goods made with care -- often by hand and with skill and attention to detail. Consumers are also appreciating the sheer time that it takes to create something of quality, especially given the breakneck tempo of their own lives.

We see these factors coalescing into consumers’ renewed interest in handcrafted goods -- items not only embedded with quality and artistry, but that also remain accessible and affordable. Let's look at four examples that highlight this resurgence and focus on craft.



Consider the case of craft beer. While craft beer has been around for decades and has maintained a level of niche popularity, recently, the products are garnering more widespread attention and gaining market share, as evidenced by a 30 percent share of beer category sales at Costco. Beer enthusiasts are turning away from mass-market beers and turning to craft beers because of their high-quality ingredients, smaller batch productions, innovative techniques, and varieties that match their personal tastes.

The appreciation of crafted goods goes beyond the U.S. and can be seen internationally. In Devon, England, two men frustrated with the quality of mainstream furniture started their own company. Although Ross Norgate and Dave Young of Young & Norgate make modern furniture, they conduct their business with principles from a bygone era; each piece is made by hand in limited quantities in one location. Items are crafted with care over a three-week period. They also employ apprentices to learn and pass on the skill. The furniture is selling well not only in England, but also in Tokyo. “We want to reconnect people with furniture, how it’s made and who made it,” says Young.

Shifting to China -- the world's hub for mass manufacturing -- here, too, there is a revival and emphasis on craft. In Jingdezhen, the porcelain capital of the country for over two millennia, pottery kilns are blazing in response to demand for high-quality tableware. One of the many studio shops clamoring for the kilns is Spin Ceramics. Here, designers obsess over the fine details to craft beautiful, contemporary pieces that echo a connection to China's rich past.

Helping to further showcase craft and validating its revitalization is the recent launch of a new magazine, Hole & Corner. The publication features articles on the craftspeople, commitment, and time-honored methods used in various trades. The magazine's creative director, Sam Walton, expounds that consumers are pushing back against their nonstop lifestyles and embracing activities that give them an opportunity to decelerate. At the same time, people want to go behind the scenes and peek behind the curtain to establish real connections. “They want to know the stories behind the creative and manufacturing processes and are happy to invest in those stories as much as the product itself,” says Walton.

For marketers, there are numerous opportunities to highlight craft in their products and brands. Be explicit about quality from raw materials and ingredients to the processes used to make finished goods. Where possible, call out hand touches and demonstrate care and attention to detail. Take pride in the time it takes to create a product. Consider offering a special line or limited-edition products that play up craft. For example, Levi’s Made & Crafted line speaks to using the best fabrics, hand-sewn details, and advanced construction techniques. Also, communicate the skill and expertise of the designers and craftspeople responsible for the product.

Finally, develop stories around the products, people, place, and process to create connection points for consumers. In the end, consumers aren't just about lowest price; in this case they are seeking quality goods they can appreciate. Give them a reason to.

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