Case Study: Branding a Craft

October 2018

I was sucked in to Anthony Bourdain's Raw Craft documentary series. The imagery, the storytelling, the person in focus. I loved every episode.

Anthony Bourdain was a compelling storyteller. Through his travels, books, and hit shows from Kitchen Confidential to Parts Unknown, Bourdain's honesty, thematic approach, and riveting perspective shed a light to places of the world that some would never come across. But it was through his Raw Craft series that the spotlight changed from places and food to focusing on a worldly craft done through the old skill methodology. In today's age where speed outweighs quality in some industries, the Raw Craft series successfully branded craftspeople, from hand crafted motorcycles to whisky cask drums. Through the Raw Craft series, Kramer Knives was featured in Episode Four.

As one of the 122 certified blacksmiths in the United States, Kramer Knives started out as a small business from the back of an old mail truck. Through creative marketing visiting restaurant to restaurant, Bob Kramer's story of passion and resilience is emphasized through the brand. Although the act of sharpening knives seemed to be a primitive skill, Kramer realized that he needed to learn how to make knives specially tailored to restaurant chefs. He had a niche and knew where his craft needed to be. A food writer from his network highlighted his profile in Saveur Magazine which catapulted into a 4 year back order for 10 years. Kramer Knives is now known across the world for his high-quality knives that are personalized and made based on each chef's specifications.

Challenge

Branding a craft has its challenges. Some craft products have longer timelines that potentially could lead to months on a wait list. They may have a higher price tag than the average factory produced comparable. So branding for these is a bit more challenging to a mass audience. The key for this type of branding is keeping a niche target audience in mind. Not every chef is looking for custom-made chef knife made to fit each of their specifications. Not every drummer is looking for whisky aged cask drums with a specific sound, look and feel. Because of the uniqueness, rarity and customization in care, the pricing model is reflected through the high quality material, the specialization in skill, along with the compelling story behind the craftsman.

Approach

Effective storytelling is rooted in a brand's value and mission statement. Branding and marketing initiatives have broken ground by taking the approach in humanizing the story behind the brand. This reigns true especially when branding a craft. A purposeful story combined with a strong visual identity resonates a brand with its audience. Take for example Plum Organics. Their "Do Your Part(ner)" campaign was sparked with excitement, edginess, and purpose as they challenged their consumers to prioritize love. Plum's founding team included real partners that faced every day parenting obstacles. Instead of telling them how to parent, Plum supported them each and every step of the way.

According to New Kind, an effective brand story meets the following milestones: 

  1. The long-awaited build up to a climax
  2. A pivot with purpose in point of view
  3. Reflective moments
  4. Exciting moments

Authenticity

Affixing values or a mission statement to your brand cannot be forced. Some of the world's most recognized brands were caught trying. Take PepsiCo's Naked Juice campaign. Marketed as "all natural" and "non-GMO," PepsiCo's misuse of descriptive phrasing led to a settlement of $9 million. Similarly, Volkswagen was caught back in 2015 when it marketed itself as an environmentally-friendly alternative. Through its software that recognized when the system was being tested for emission standards, Volkswagen tried to bring claim to fame through a compelling brand purpose. Through independent testing conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation, Volkswagen caught in a lie. When developing a purposeful mission and value statement to your brand, be authentic and transparent. This especially applies to those that are branding their company as a well-renowned craft.

Case Study

Photo Credit: Kramer Knives

Color Palette

Giving an old-world classic feel, the rebrand concept focused on shades of grey in lieu of the original site's color palette. All photos were edited through a filter to stay consistent with this theme.

Typography

Primary: Tangerine

Secondary: Josefin Sans

Graphics

Heavy on photography, the rebrand concept focused on evoking of mood of serenitiy, craftsmanship, and hard work. Through bold imagery and photos, the re-design created an environment to set the stage for storytelling.

Branding Baseline

Branding a time-honored craft requires complimentary graphics and visual design to highlight the story of the craftsman. Their products, and stories, are unique and rare to find. Branding for a craft must take a truly customized approach to show a heightened level of excellence and marksmanship. With decades of experience and products made with difficult to find materials, the story, level in precision, and personalized detail should be included in the branding of a craft. Every photo, font, and color serves a purpose to tell the story of a master craftsman. As unique as their products are, so too, should their branding be.

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