I had the misfortune of being home sick last week and watched daytime T.V. for the first time in years. Barely able to change the channel, I watched a lot of commercials. What I noticed was a trend in focusing on personal service and hand-crafted products.
The Personal Touch Is More Important Than Ever
Commercials for the Discover Card had the message that when you call, a human being will answer the phone. And that person will talk to you in a way that feels like you are being talked to by someone who is like you. Over several different Discover ads, the main character was a completely different demographic, and in each one, the customer service rep on the other end of the line at Discover spoke in his or her accent, looked like the caller and completely understood the caller’s needs.
In another commercial, for Stella Artois beer, the story focused on the making of a beer glass, showing the art and craftsmanship that goes into hand blown glass with the tag line “if this much care goes into the chalice, imagine what goes into the beer.”
At first glance these two messages—personal service and hand-crafted with care—are different stories. But they have something in common. It’s the human touch.
Being in an industry—the craft business—that is literally about the personal and hand-crafted, I have a unique insight into the meaning that these words have for people.
“Made By Hand” Is A Trend About Physical Interaction
My company, Lion Brand Yarn, sells a basic craft supply, which is hand-knitting yarn. You can take a ball of yarn and make it into virtually anything: a hat to donate to a homeless shelter, a work of street art, or a blanket for the family’s first grandchild. Everything made with our product has one thing in common: It is touched by a human being who takes time, and care and adds his or her unique creative mark on it.
I’ve watched the trend in hand-crafted and personal touch grow for about 8 or 9 years now. It has fueled the growth of our business and of companies like Etsy, that sell hand-made goods and Craftsy, an online education business that teaches people how to make hand crafts. As Chris Anderson points out in his book, Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, this trend is about to take a giant leap forward with the introduction of the 3D printer that allows anyone to manufacture one-of-a-kind products of all sorts from digital information.
The maker revolution is a trend that is effecting every industry. People want more high touch activities as a counterpoint to virtual, high tech activities.
Social Media Has Raised The Bar On Communication
As people crave less and less mass production and more and more personal, just-for-them service, products and communication, will social media as it stands today be enough? Five years ago, people accepted being stuck in voicemail hell for 20 minutes. That is no longer the case. They want immediate communication through Twitter or Facebook. Is it possible that as people become more accustomed to personal communications with brands, they will demand more and more from the relationship?
Might social media need to evolve to be even more human and personal? I wonder what that would look like? Is it possible that the human voice and the in-person connections with consumers will become more important aspects of our marketing in the future? Or will it change in ways we haven’t yet imagined?
One thing I do believe is that social media as we know it today will not be enough. We are just at the beginning of the consumer
Stella Artois ad featuring hand-blown chalice.