How the Care & Craft Movement Became Part of the Mainstream Fabric (And Why Brands Should Care)
Have you noticed how many of your friends like handmade and homemade stuff?
I’m quite keen on it myself. Baking cupcakes or making your own jewellery is a ton of fun compared to spending the evening pairing up your socks and scrubbing out the bath. And it’s a lot cheaper than a night on the town, plus you get to keep (or eat) what you’ve made, and share it with your friends.
Not that I do a lot of crafting at home – I don’t usually get enough spare time – but I do like to buy handmade things.
That’s the part that should make brands sit up and pay attention. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
First, back to this whole arty-crafty trend. What’s it all about?
Well, one of my favourite things about handmade stuff is that because it’s made by a real human being, it’s often easy to get it made exactly how you want it.
Doesn’t matter whether it’s cupcakes, crochet or a whole suite of furniture, the craft movement makes customisation the key to your dreams.
Plus, craft is just plain impressive. It’s fascinating! Ever seen a woodturner working a lathe, turning a spinning hunk of wood into an elegant table leg? Or maybe you got caught up in watching craft videos on YouTube, amazed by the huge range of awesome products people make by hand. You have to admire the skill and creativity it takes to create something from scratch.
But neither of those is the true reason for craft’s popularity – or the reason for the popularity of craft brands.
The heart of the care & craft movement
I’ll give you a clue: consumers aren’t quite as selfish as many brands and marketers seem to think. Or at least, if we’re selfish, it includes the “I want to feel good about my legacy” kind of selfishness.
We actually want to buy things that make the world a better place – not just a better place for ourselves, but a better world for everyone and for the future. And as brand tourists, we know we always have a choice about what we buy.
One powerful force behind the craft movement is the growing backlash against mass production and irresponsible global corporations. So when you see people choosing craft ale at a pub, or buying their clothes from a local seamstress, it isn’t just because they like the flavour or admire the skill it took to make those products. Those consumers are using their money to demonstrate what matters to them.
Just like the shoppers who boycotted South African fruit during apartheid, or those who are boycotting Russian vodka now to protest Russia’s homophobic laws, consumers who choose craft are taking a stand not only for something, but against something too.
- Unethically sourced ingredients? No thanks, we’ll take Fair Trade.
- Unsustainable materials? No thanks, we prefer upcycling.
- Long-distance imports? No thanks, we like to buy local produce from local stores.
- In fact, you know what? We’d rather cut out the middle man and buy straight from the maker.
Last time we had an Arts and Crafts Movement (in the late 19th and early 20th century, fact fans), it started the same way: a backlash against over-elaborate design and the artificial convenience of mass production. And, like the modern craft movement, it involved women as self-employed makers and designers as well as consumers – leading to a new appreciation of domestic creativity and resourcefulness.
The 19th century Arts and Crafts Movement spread out from Britain across Europe and America, eventually influencing artists and consumers as far away as Japan. If the concept of craft consumption could travel around the world long before the internet was ever invented, how far do you think the new care and craft movement will travel?
Crafting the mainstream
This isn’t only a food and drink trend, and isn’t only for people with plenty of disposable income. When sole traders are selling their handmade crafts on Etsy and Ebay, it’s easy for consumers to access a vast range of choices at a range of price points. And this degree of choice makes us more selective about what we buy. We’re brand tourists, remember – we always want to know what else is available.
Big brands grow from tiny startups, bringing the principles of the care and craft movement further into the mainstream. Innocent smoothies? Graze snack boxes? They all started small, growing because customers loved their brand values.
Now Tesco has replaced its in-store bakeries with Euphorium bakery outlets in an attempt to appeal to the craft-conscious shopper. But instead of glowing reviews, the new Euphorium offering has been criticised for not including some standard breads the Tesco customer relied on – and for pricing products higher than the nearest Tesco branded equivalent used to cost.
Is craft coming to the end of its cycle already? I don’t think so. Tesco made a basic error by removing popular existing choices when they introduced the Euphorium bakery outlets. But the craft movement still has plenty of drive.
How brands can get crafty
To appeal to consumers who appreciate the care and craft movement, brands will need to embrace artisanal values and customisation – not all products are homemade, but they can all be made with skill and care.
Adopt the authentic, minimal branding approach favoured by small craft brands. Logos don’t need to be prominent, because beautiful products spark interest in the brand and make people purposely look for a logo.
Tell compelling stories about brands to make them more interesting to customers, and remember why people buy craft: they want to go beyond the bland experience of mass produced products to something more meaningful. So give them that level of meaning.
As everyday life gets more and more complex and distracting, consumers want the simple pleasure of enjoying products made with love and attention to detail. To stay relevant in this craft-oriented landscape, brands have to rekindle the love and offer a new kind of relevance.
One word of caution, though: we consumers know when you’re faking it. We don’t want to buy ‘faux craft’ with all the looks but none of the values; we want the real thing.
So don’t just muscle in on the craft movement for profit’s sake – do it because it means as much to you as it does to your customers.
If you’re a brand owner who wants to get closer to your audience, talk to Brand Tourist for expert guidance on audience insight and how to get that customer love going.