With the rapid rise in the Craft Movement today comes a blurring of what Craft really is and, worse, a bastardization of the entire craft concept, as brands jump on the bandwagon with what could accurately be considered craftwashing.
Is there a relevant craft story for your brand? Are you missing an opportunity to align with this powerful movement to create differentiation and customer loyalty? Before answering, let’s get some vernacular clarity, since the word “craft” has been lacquered onto product categories today like so much 1970s decoupage.
We’re not talking about soccer moms at the local scrapbooking franchise or the pottery class at your local YMCA. We’re talking about commercially viable brands that embrace the “art of the well-made” in their delivery of products or services. Perhaps the term Craftsmanship is clearer for our purposes.
Craft is not an aesthetic, made real with recycled paper packaging or vintage hand-lettered logotype. Craft is a culture. It is embodied in the Shaker movement as much as the boutique spirits distiller. It is less about what you do and far more about why and how. If those are your compass bearings, then you believe in, and most likely practice, craft. And that craft perspective you have lurking within you could be the most valuable commodity you have to sell.
There are four distinct tenets that delineate a craft brand from simple artistic expression on the one hand, or pure manufacturing on the other.
Craft is Skillful. Craft takes expertise, born of practice, patience, and discipline. You don’t wake up a craftsman. Maybe you wake up with the passion to become one, but you need to learn, test, fail, and refine, over and over again until something of beauty emerges.
Craft is Creative. Analogous to the maker, the hacker or the inventor, craft is about imagining “what if?” and exploring “why not?” and then doing something about it. Creativity is perhaps the most beautiful aspect of craft, because it is where new ideas are born.
Craft is Purposeful. Craft is born of functional rather than purely creative expression. The Clovis point, perhaps one of the first real-world embodiments of craft, didn’t happen because a caveman was looking for something to do after a dinner of mastodon. He did it because the damned mastodon was hard to take down with a stick.
Craft is Iterative. While craft involves a process, it is the nuances of the moment that make it craft. The ability to adapt based on knowledge and skill keeps craft from being a process that can be machine-replicated. Try, fail, refine. Try, fail, refine. Try, fail, refine, succeed. It is not the process that assures success. It is the skill, and the patient persistence of the craftsperson.
When these tenets come into play, craft happens. It’s time consuming. And failure is a constant companion, one who guides the effort with a gentle, but unyielding, hand.
Not everyone has what it takes to practice craft, which is why we see a growing appreciation for it and the authenticity it represents. Consumers are vicariously embracing the philosophy of craft. The passion for the well-made. The celebration of the process. The pure simple pleasure of hard work and the results you show for it. Because if many, or even most, of us don’t have the time or means to look at the end of the day at something we have created, we can instead take pleasure in aligning with brands that do.
Crafts will prove to be one of the most powerful influences of the next great consumer era, with everyone from Boomers to the all-too-coveted Millennials taking note. And the brands—both the little guys and the mega-companies—that find ways to discover their unique craft perspective and bring it to life in their brand story will have a natural advantage over those that do not.