In the consumer marketplace, companies develop a clear identity for their products with "branding." There are tons of books about this fascinating topic. Branding is how companies attract and keep a loyal following among consumers. Branding sustains or even increases demand in the marketplace and supports a premium price.
The reason a consumer buys one toothpaste over another, or pays $3 for a cup of coffee is, in part, because of branding. Companies consciously develop and market a brand identity to appeal to specific audiences. As a consequence, brand enables more profitable premium pricing for a specific product.
Candace Corlett, president of market consulting firm, WSL Strategic Retail, says, "One way to look at Apple's retail success is in sales per square foot, but a second is brand identity."
"Apple creates an identity of
openness and transparency with its open spaces and windows. It fosters a
sense of a creative, transparent, and welcoming community that
So Apple emphasizes its brand even with the exterior of its stores. Even before you walk in the door, Apple has captured your attention with its "branding."
D.I.Y. fairs provide another example of creating a brand. With names like "Renegade" and "Bazaar Bizarre" these craft marketplaces have differentiated themselves and created an alternative craft identity associated with a lifestyle. They have transcended the stale craft fair genre of conventional white tents.
They created a "brand" for the D.I.Y. marketplace with images and effective marketing through social media. They segmented and reached specific sets of emerging customers. The merchandise has not been significantly better than the white tent craft, but the marketing and advance promotion definitely was.
So where is the potential for the white tent?
In a competitive marketplace, craft needs to be able to convince the consumers why they should buy at a craft fair and pay a premium price over the mass produced inventory at Target, Forever 21, or Pier One . This is what branding is all about.
Craft shows and art festivals could capitalize on the public desire to support "made in America", local makers, and local small business owners. I don't see any of these values being clearly associated with craft.
A craft fair by it's very nature implies a small business owner making their work in the U.S. Promotion should consider the "buy local" and feature local makers limiting the craft fair sellers to just this demographic. Thus the advertising could manifest a clear preference of the consumer and create a strong "brand identity." I am sure there must be other themes that would work. Think purple cow and pet fairs with dog tags, cat bowls, beds, & leashes.
My advice to craft festivals: create a brand for your craft festival outside of the hackneyed harvest festival and holiday sale.
My advice to makers is to stop supporting the mediocrity of boring craft fairs. Decline to participate and save your booth fees for more productive efforts. Time to stop investing in average. We can't keep doing the same thing and expect different results.
P.S. For those who know a lot about brands, brand identity and marketing, I apologize for my simple, short explanation of a very complex issue. If you would like to add your seasoned understanding of marketing, please write in the comments.
If the concept of brand is new to you, please consider reading more about this online or get some books from your library. The topic is fascinating. Below is few quick branding tutorials from Slideshare to get you started.