Monthly Archives: April 2011
Yokoo lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and spends 15 hours a day knitting. She quit her job in 2008 to run a one-woman knitwear enterprise on Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods. In 2009, the New York Times pegged her income at more than US$140,000 a year – and since then the business she controls every aspect of, from banding to production and distribution, has grown apace. So what’s her secret?
Big companies and retailers can learn a lot about the art of the online sale from handcrafters like Yokoo.
1. Invest each item with a narrative.
Everyone knows that you don’t give a hoot about the massed contestants of Masterchef or X Factor until individuals are invested with significance with a “package” – the two minute reel that summarises their life story and what brought them to the competition. Then you choose sides, then you care. It’s equally important for objects for sale. Every successful handcrafter describes their goods with personality, encompassing their inspiration, ethos, and materials. (See: Significant objects; Objects with back stories; Guy Sebastian’s Idol Journey.)
2. Empathise with your purchasers: what do they need to know to purchase with peace of mind?
Etsy advises its sellers,
… the realities of buying online can further complicate your efforts to be a successful seller. Without being able to see and touch your creations, you have to make them come alive from a flat, lifeless computer screen. The buyer needs to be able to picture how their next purchase will appear in their home or on their body.
As well as imbuing them with a narrative, successful sellers of handmade and vintage goods take immense care in describing the detail of their goods.
- They take time to post photos of the item from every angle.
- They’re up front about every flaw in the item (such as scuff marks or discoloration in vintage or pattern variations in handmade) makes them a badge of pride (“see, you bought something individual!”) rather than a subject of complaint.
- They always provide measurements, helping you to visualize the item on your body or in your house – and never rely on generic sizing, which varies so much as to be impossible to rely on.
This means buyers can fully imagine the object as part of their lives – and avoids nasty surprises when the item arrives.
3. Styling with personality.
Styling can be summarized as the art of inspiring you to covet objects by presenting them in action.
It is key to any successful online retailer, in objects as well as fashion. Yokoo has created an inimitable style of presentation. She always uses herself as the model – as well as being striking, it’s cost-effective, since all she needs is a digital camera remote and self-timer. A generic photo of a hat or scarf would not be as vibrant and covetable.
Good styling makes customers feel they are buying something unique and valuable.
4. Encourage positive personal interactions.
Almost every item description on successful handmade sellers’ sites end with this line: “If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me.”
Handcraft retailers seem to know much better than major online shops that an inquiry is not an expensive or time-consuming chore; rather, it’s a pathway to a sale. If a potential customer emails a handcrafter asking if their bag fits a laptop, it’s the seller’s cue to offer to make them a bespoke one.
It also keeps their feedback ratings (built into major sites like Etsy) 100% positive.
5. Talk about yourself.
Dab hands at promoting their items, it is in self-promotion that the best handcrafters excel. But it’s not vulgar self-promotion, like a Twitter feed full of a hashtags. Instead, they are openly, genuinely themselves online and through that, develop a following for their goods.
Jenny Gordy lives in Brooklyn and sells beautiful handmade fashion that she designs, sews and distributes herself under the label Wikstenmade. Like Yokoo, she stars in all the photos of her products, and readers of her blog (which has had nearly 2 million hits) can get an almost-daily insight into her life.
Not only do you see a Wiksten product as the product of an individual (you can even picture the studio it was painstakingly hand-made in), in purchasing one you are buying into a lifestyle.
6. Open up your inspiration.
The best designers of handmade crafts justifiably view themselves as artists and what they produce as art. Jewellery and clothing designer Caitlin Mociun is open about her vision and shares some the sources of her inspiration on her blog, as does Jenny from Wiksten and Yokoo on her Tumblr.
There is no fear that giving their gold away could result in people taking their ideas. As Tomorrow Museum’s Joanne McNeil says of creatives on the blogging platform Tumblr,
Revealing influences is the confidence of a true creative person: you can see where the ideas come from, because even with the same ingredients I know you can’t bake what I’m about to with it.
Granting this insight builds a community of people watching and waiting for your next work – which leads to sales.
7. Help your customers appreciate you; appreciate your customers.
Wrist Worms are handmade fingerless gloves crocheted by Sandra Juto in Berlin, Germany. She asked her customers to send in pictures of themselves wearing their gloves – and you can see the delight and care they took in doing so.
Jenny from Wiksten does a similar thing with her Wiksten Patterns Flickr Group where people share the clothes they’ve made from her designs. Recognising and publicising your customers helps turn the relationship from buyer and seller into something nicer – and sends their friends and blog readers your way as customers.
8. The packaging is part of it.
Unless you buy from Net-a-Porter (whose stylish black wrapping is legendary), most parcels arrive from online retailers looking a) overwrapped, and b) all business. The best handcraft sellers know that their packaging is part of the experience, carefully choosing paper and ribbons, enclosing a handwritten note and a business card with their details in case you want to pass it on to friends.
9. Open with their expertise.
While they make a living selling their goods, handcrafters see the value in creating communities of fans who appreciate the handmade and the crafter’s expertise. They demonstrate this by sharing crafting tips. They don’t get a sale out of it, but they might get a customer as the link to their generous blogpost gets passed around.
10. Supporting each other.
So if you run a business selling goods online, what can you learn from these handcraft mavens?
1. Invest each item with a narrative. Update your copy to tell your goods’ story.
2. Empathise with your purchasers. What do they need to know to purchase with peace of mind? Put yourself in their place and make sure your copy answers potential questions.
3. Styling with personality. Dispense with dull or anonymous stock photos and let the personality of you or your brand infuse your styling.
4. Encourage positive personal interactions. View emails as opportunities and not chores. Ensure you have systems in place to have humans (rather than auto-responders) regularly read and reply helpfully to questions.
5. Talk about yourself. What kind of person are you, or in the case of larger companies, what kind of person loves your brand? Give customers an insight into real lives where the brand plays a happy and inspiring role.
6. Open up your inspiration. Show you care about the creative aspects of your business, not just dollars, by being open with your moodboard.
7. Help your customers appreciate you; appreciate your customers. Ask people to send in their feedback and photos – share it on your blog or Twitter.
8. The packaging is part of it. Don’t overwrap objects or use anonymous Post Office packing. Try to include a personal touch, not just an invoice.
9. Open with their expertise. What can you give your fans to both thank them and show your expertise?
10. Supporting each other. Lastly, take a leaf from the blogosphere’s book, and generously link to things you like that the rest of your industry are doing, and style your items with a judicious mix of other likeminded designers’ items.
Earned, owned and paid (or “bought”) media is a phrase that drives home the complexity of modern marketing campaigns. It’s also tossed around very frequently in meetings and powerpoints.
That’s why we’re devoting this post, the second of our Nextness 101 series, to trying to define it very simply. This is just a first try- if you have a contribution, add your comments below (or reply to us on Twitter (@STWnextness).
Earned media. It’s called earned because it’s hard work.
Examples of earned media.
- Coverage by journalists and bloggers achieved through public relations. (This used to be called “free media.” But if you refer to it as free you’ll get a glare from the PRs who work 14 hour days to make it happen.)
- Social network buzz encouraged by social media managers.
- Quiet opposition and active, loud supporters on the ground thanks to stakeholder relations and community management.
Why earned media is necessary.
- The public is bombarded with so many messages every day, it’s easy to filter them out unless its your friends or a trusted entity talking about them. Information about, and endorsement of, a product, brand or organisation is most trusted when it come from an unpaid, objective third party. It’s more trusted than information a brand provides about itself, or that has been bought. An earned media strategy can help generate and spread positive word of mouth.
Why earned media shouldn’t work alone.
- You can’t control what people say about you. This is what makes a good review from a journalist, blogger or member of the public so valuable – but also so frustrating if they get it (in your opinion) wrong!
Owned media. You build it and control it yourself.
Examples of owned media.
- A website, whether it’s a corporate site, specific to the product or brand, or a ministe just for the campaign
- Some content (such as YouTube videos you’ve paid to make, downloads like PDFs and brochures, beautiful hi-res images of your product)
- An app or game.
- An event you put on such as a stall, product demonstration, or train station giveaway.
Why owned media is necessary.
- Today, having a website is vital. With a presence fragmented across social networks, free media like newspapers and paid media advertising, a website is a natural place to gather it together, appropriately organised, leading an interested consumer to take the next step with your brand – whether it’s follow you on Twitter or purchase your goods. Similarly, apps, content and events are things you control.
Why owned media shouldn’t work alone.
- How would people find it? If a website, app or an event falls in an empty forest, does anyone hear it? You need word of mouth (earned) or advertising (paid) to drive people to it.
Paid: You control the message, and you can take an educated guess who and how many people will see it.
Examples of paid media.
- Traditional advertising like TV, print, radio and outdoor.
- Online advertising like banner ads.
- Search engine marketing (SEM).
Why paid media is necessary.
- Nothing makes a huge emotional impact or delivers a knock out punch of on-strategy information like traditional advertising – that’s because you’re paying for complete control over what people will see, hear and read.
Why paid media shouldn’t work alone.
- The punch it packs can dissipate if, as many consumers do, you go online to search for information about the product or brand and find nothing. Or worse, you find a negative review.
What does this mean for communications campaigns?
Of course, there are well-documented exceptions to every rule! But in general, this means:
- Every campaign must start with a tight strategy – where you are now, where you want to be, and how you’ll get there. Only then do you start talking about the mix of earned, owned or paid that you’ll use.
- If you’re a client, your brand or company should be strategically active in each category.
- If you’re an agency working in just one of the categories, you should make sure you are working hand in glove with the teams overseeing the others, ensuring it’s an integrated campaign.
- Before you make an ad, or tweet, or place a story in a paper, make sure you know the entire lifecycle of that action. Create an ad. Put it on YouTube and the website. Put the media release about the new ad on the website. Tweet the link to the story and the ad. Retweet the praise. Repeat. Any one of those actions is good. Together, it’s magic.
How’s that for a definition? What did we miss out? (For example, where should SEO fit?) Let us know.
Today’s quick burst of inspiration focuses on the art of juxtaposition. As everyone who studied highschool art knows, juxtaposition refers to placing things side by side with the aim of highlighting their similarities or differences. As these three examples demonstrate, it’s a powerful creative technique.
2. David Lynch’s hair and the art it channels by Jimmy Chen.
3. Juxtaposing the old and the new with the Looking into the past Flickr group.
In research that is bound to make Julia Gillard want to repeatedly apply her head to her desk, scientists have found that people who are a bit chilly are less likely to believe in climate change.
So what does this mean? Well, for the Prime Minister, it probably means the next election should be held in summer.
And for us professional communicators and persuaders, there are plenty more lessons too.
- Subjects who read a passage about an interaction between two people were more likely to characterize it as adversarial if they had first handled rough jigsaw puzzle pieces, compared to smooth ones.
- Subjects sitting in hard, cushionless chairs were less willing to compromise in price negotiations than people who sat in soft, comfortable chairs.
- People judge other people to be more generous and caring after they had briefly held a warm cup of coffee, rather than a cold drink.
- Participants holding a heavy clipboard while interviewing job applicants took their work more seriously than their interviewing counterparts holding light clipboards.
So what is this phenomenon?
It’s called embodied cognition.
Philosophers and cognitive scientists who buy into this theory believe that “the nature of the human mind is largely determined by the form of the human body.” According to Professor Wikipedia, they argue that
… all aspects of cognition, such as ideas, thoughts,concepts and categories are shaped by aspects of the body. These aspects include the perceptual system, the intuitions that underlie the ability to move, activities and interactions with our environment and the native understanding of the world that is built into the body and the brain.
So next time you have to persuade someone, make sure they’re elevated, with a full tummy, in a warm room filled with hot drinks and smooth objects.
The best resource on the wide-ranging implications of embodied cognition is this one, by Seth Snyder.
For your inspiration, this week’s top 10 pieces of art, craft, video and design that made an impact on us.
1. Analog homage to old Microsoft screensavers.
2. Baidu’s hand-drawn maps.
3. Paper crafts + fashion photography = Damien Blottiere.
Some literal cut and paste.
4. Light painting wifi.
“We want to explore and reveal what the immaterial terrain of WiFi looks like and how it relates to the city.”
5. “The way forward.”
6. Thank you.
When Porsche reached 1 million Facebook fans, they made a special 911 GT3 R Hybrid with all the fans’ names for their Porsche Museum.
Removing the Mona Lisa from the Mona Lisa.
8. Time lapse.
9. Cats… in… space.
A cat achieves its lifelong dream in this ad for the Russian lottery.
10. Dancing geometry.
By Takuya Hosogane.
Want more? Enjoy.
Countless CEOs encounter some of the same conundrums on a daily basis – how do I really know what’s going on in the depths of our organisation? How can I get more in touch with our people? How do I become more authentic? Although pitched as a mainstream TV show Channel 9’s Undercover Boss tackles just this, writes Tam Sandeman, Regional Director, Ogilvy Impact (APAC) and Managing Director Ogilvy Impact Australia.
The popular show follows CEOs from large companies as they head off ‘undercover’ into their own businesses. With a splash of hair dye, addition or subtraction of facial hair, and a fresh perspective, they arrive at the coalface under the guise of someone wanting to return to the workforce and being tested across a range of different frontline roles.
The show contains all the elements that today’s reality TV viewer loves. A dash of deception; the ‘Big Guy’ being made to look foolish by the ‘Little Guy’; warm and sometimes heart-breaking tales from unsung employee heros about life struggles; the suspense of the ‘reveal’ as the CEOs disclose their identities, and finally, reward – usually financial – recognising their efforts for the company. It’s dramatic, funny and heart-warming and unsurprisingly its format has been syndicated across the world.
It does however, from a leadership perspective, highlight a very important initiative that can help find answers to the questions raised at the start of this post.
Back in the UK, I worked for eight years with one of the UK’s largest pub, restaurant and hotel retailers. Across that time, saw a raft of people initiatives introduced across what was a 52,000 disparate workforce.
None however so powerful as their senior leaders having to spend a mandatory week a year working out in the field. Serving customers, checking deliveries, stock-checking, etc. The success factor? How the company then ensured they talked about their experiences through both formal and informal internal communication channels.
Fact. We have a reduced talent pool in Australia, so focusing on ways to retain employees is critical. A demonstration of leadership empathy and connection with the frontline must be a part of this.
Nothing is so powerful, in portraying authentic empathy with employees, than having real stories from the frontline. Truly understanding the tough stuff employees put up with everyday can clearly close the gap that currently exists between the frontline and senior leaders.
- Implement a simple ‘ride-along’ program for senior executives, or the top 10% of the business (across all roles). No matter your industry, you can make it work
- Just do it (as the good people at Nike say) – ensure appropriate processes are in place to ensure accountability
- Make changes – ensure improvements are made based on what leaders experience
- Talk it up! – share stories, recognise the great (people) and the not so great (systems and processes)
It’s an inexpensive and powerful way of driving true connection and understanding with the frontline.
And the better news? Unless your PR team advises you otherwise, you don’t have to do it on national TV.