The artisanal and handmade trend is hard to miss; it’s everywhere. Popular activities within this trend include canning, woodworking, gardening, brewing beer, knitting and thrifting – just to name a few. These pastimes and preferences strikingly resemble those of our grandparents, but are in fact hobbies dominated by a newer generation: the millennials.
At a glance, this movement seems ideated in saving money by creating “do-it-yourself” opportunities. However, the handmade movement is a $29 billion industry that has nearly doubled in the last decade. In fact, millennials make up more than half of those who are crafting their own products and are spending twice as much in order to do so.
So, why do millennials have a greater appreciation for artisanal and handmade goods?
It is argued this surge in demand for handmade goods is due to the rise of hipster culture. Others attribute it to the Maker Movement. The Maker Movement, as defined by AdWeek, is “the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers. Makers tap into an American admiration for self-reliance and combine that with open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful personal technology like 3-D printers.”
Some suggest that the Maker Movement is a reaction to global mass production, chain stores, and consumerism. In response, many maker communities produce products with a focus on craftsmanship, health, local culture, and sustainable living.
Consider Etsy, an e-commerce website focused on handmade and vintage items. Millennials desire authenticity in their purchases and are driving the growth of sites like Etsy. In fact, millennials are 57 percent more likely than the average US adult to visit the site. Sites like Etsy, and even Pinterest, create communities that allow millennials to inspire and be inspired by their fellow makers. Additionally, millennials crave the unique character of locally made goods because they believe that buying foreign-made products have the potential to lead to higher carbon footprints and less sustainability.
Exploratory interviews with millennials also revealed that the handmade movement allows them to feel that they are preserving the richness of ideas and inspiration that came from previous generations.
American Giant, a U.S. clothing manufacturer, has capitalized on this trend. American Giant prides itself on the heritage of manufacturing quality, American-made clothes, and preserving America’s industrial history. In addition, it places an emphasis on the “passion, personal initiative, and hard work that are building this country,” as seen in its brand video.
Carhartt is another brand, among many other blue-collar brands, that has aligned itself with the rising trend of vintage style and American-made pride. Beyond bibbed overalls and barn coats, Carhartt sells through the art of storytelling and pairing with artisanal start-ups. Its website includes mini-documentaries of makers across the country, including the owner of Grange Kitchen and Bar in Michigan. It also has a blog, Crafted in Carhartt, which highlights “women who do amazing things.” All of Carhartt’s marketing materials feature real, hard-working craftsmen and artisans.
Overall, the handmade trend has important implications for marketers. Brands that align with the Maker Movement and the handmade trend will see success by leveraging brand heritage, crafting authentic stories, and partnering with local and artisanal businesses and entrepreneurs.