Artisanal Marketing

My favorite type of marketing, by far, is artisanal marketing.  Hand crafted, thoughtful, intelligent marketing.  Not slick. Not aimed at the masses. Not average marketing for average consumers.  But just the opposite.  Thoughtful, insightful, honest, embracing complexity and celebrating the craft of the product or products themselves.  This type of marketing eschews hype in favor of information yet still has a very strong opinion and point of view that it shares with those that choose to listen.  It’s not easy. It takes thought to get and isn’t for everyone.  And it is all of these attributes that makes artisanal marketing special, unique and, wildly successful.

In a world full of over-promise, under deliver, sell to the lowest common denominator marketing, the artisanal approach celebrates the simplicity (and complexity) of delivering a message about the value and use of a product or service.  And in its own anti-establishment way remarkable and worth talking about.  Artisanal marketing used to be the realm of small companies.  Companies that didn’t have the Madison Avenue Madmen telling them how to package and process their message to hit the widest, most generic target possible.  It was the realm of the companies who clearly “didn’t get it.”  But their charm and earnest nature earned them raving fans who loved the product and felt a connection as part of a tribe that “got” what the company and the product was all about.  The company didn’t settle and neither did their fans, who became passionate consumers and advocates for the brand.

That is the power of artisanal marketing.

But it’s no longer just the purview of those small companies.  Big corporations are embracing artisanal marketing and cultivating that same down-home, honest image and approach that makes artisanal marketing so refreshing, appealing and successful.  Not conicidentally the ones that do it the best are the ones that have done it all along – from the time they were tiny to now.  The ones that haven’t succeed are the ones where the only thing artisanal about the product is the marketing.  Without real, honest product the way you package it up becomes irrelevant.

One artisanal marketer that immediately comes to mind is Trader Joe‘s with their sales flyer that is unlike no other.  The Fearless Flyer reads like a local newspaper, full of kitch and detail and opinion and bad puns and play-on-words and everything that you’d expect from a local publisher.  Except its the sales circular for a large grocery chain.  And it works, brilliantly.  While most sales circulars, loaded down with high-gloss photos of studio shot food and triple coupon specials, end up in the recycling bin without a second thought, Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer gets read, like a magazine and enjoyed.

And it’s completely counter-intuitive to what you’d expect from a grocery flyer.  Printed on newsprint without any photos of the products it is often 4 or 5 times as long as a traditional circular. Product descriptions aren’t two sentences, they’re two paragraphs.  The copy is breezy, funny, and engaging.  It takes time and energy to get the most out of the Fearless Flyer.  It’s the time and energy the other chains are betting its shoppers don’t have.  But Trader Joe’s makes the Fearless Flyer an experience.  A hand crafted experience that insists that you slow down and enjoy it.  It doesn’t hope to reach the thoughtless masses with cheap promotional calls.  The Fearless Flyer says, I’m not mass produced. I’m not aiming for the lowest common denominator.  I will not make it easy to consume and discard me.

The Fearless Flyer is artisanal. It embraces an honest, authentic point of view that celebrates the complexity and diversity and joys of food. It doesn’t try to win in the rat race – it connects with its shoppers who appreciate a more honest and artisanal approach to food.

It’s the perfect expression of artisanal marketing and the power the authentic, less-polished approach to marketing can have.  It’s refreshing and wonderfully done.  I’ll look at more artisanal examples going forward; but my question to you in the meantime is what can you do to bring a more honest and artisanal approach to your marketing?

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