What is craft?
When we think of Craft, we think of a small-scale production run by a team of dedicated individuals. We picture hearty, knowledgeable artisans who are as masterful at distilling spirits as they are maintaining their lusciously oiled beards. There are no production managers, just matrons who coddle and nurture the product until it’s ripe and ready. It’s easy to fall in love with the concept of Craft when we romanticise it like this, but all is not as it seems.
We live in an age where consumers crave authenticity and are rapidly moving away from the mass produced and ‘faceless’ in favour of smaller-scale productions with ‘heart and soul’. You would be right to assume that craft brands would thrive with the emergence of these new consumer ideals; however, it seems that craft brands may be a victim of their own success.
What are the problems for Craft brands?
The idealistic interpretation in the paragraph above is just one way in which Craft has been described, and you couldn’t say it was wrong because there is no real definition. No government regulation, no clear guidelines to comply with and no guild of Craft…craftsmen.
When there is no definition of what it means to be a Craft brand, it leads to an environment where the concept of Craft becomes convoluted as more and more brands define the ‘sub-genre’ with their own interpretations of what it means to be Craft.
It is the success of micro-breweries that has brought a lot of attention to Craft products. Larger brands have seen the success of these small-scale productions and attempted to emulate the heart and soul of these smaller brands.
Here is an example of Guinness trying to tap into the emerging Craft market. ‘Hop House 13’ is its newest innovation. Its barley is sourced from four locations across Australia and the USA, which shows its production line to be globalised and cannot be considered Craft even in the loosest definition of the term. Furthermore, it accentuates the idea that Hop House 13 is an old brand with heritage, as it is associated with the 256 years of experience Guinness has creating draft when in actual fact its product line is no more than two years old.
It is easy to say this is a classic example of big corporations taking food off the plate of the ‘little man’, but with no real definition for Craft products, can you blame them for diversifying into a market that doesn’t even know itself?
Defining yourself in an undefined market
Competing with the bigger brands may not end in the same way as David vs Goliath. Craft brands shouldn’t be aiming to beat these brewing behemoths at their own game – the answer lies in being themselves. To gain trust and thrive in a crowded market, Craft brands need a clear and differentiating story. Here are four main ingredients for a great story:
1. Be niche
Craft consumers like to belong. They look for communities of people that share similar interests and actively contribute to those communities. Indeed, the Craft consumer is likely to invest both money and time in a hobby.
2. Be local
Locality helps a Craft brand look tangible. Knowing where products are made, by who and how, enables Craft aficionados to picture a real story.
3. Have an opinion
Craft brands operate in an industry that is based on values and principles. Therefore, it is essential for a company to be confident in what it stands for.
4. Be personal
Craft consumers expect strong connections with brands they like. It’s about engaging with consumers before they even try the product.
The beautiful truth underlying a product or a company that is truly Craft is the potential to create a strong, long-lasting brand story that stands out from the numerous players in the market.