A small package lands on your doormat. For once, it’s not a bill. And your name and address on the envelope are handwritten. Don’t you immediately feel just the tiniest bit of excitement?
The handmade movement is far more than just a first world fad; some clichés, like “it’s the thought that counts,” ring true for a reason. “Although millennials are driving the growth, the handmade movement is a trend that touches all generations,” says Leen Nsouli, an analyst at NPD Group.
1. Physical tokens create an emotional connection
Perhaps buoyed by a collective social memory of times gone by (or maybe just a fondness for the likes of Jane Austen), a handwritten note instantly carries more emotional currency than a text or email. This emotional impact was at the heart of a SXSW 2016 session by creative team Ran Stallard and Max Maclean, who believe that there is still a place for handmade marketing in a digital world.
“A hundred birthday well-wishes on Facebook aren’t worth one handwritten card,” they reason. “The handmade movement provides consumers with a tangibility and — most crucially — a humanity, that digital doesn’t have.”
But why does a hand-crafted communiqué innately feel more special than an instant message? It all comes down to costly signalling theory, or the handicap principle; the more time and effort that goes into a communication, the more meaningful it becomes to the recipient.
Here’s Ogilvy chairman Rory Sutherland on the behavioural science behind the handmade movement:
“We love receiving handmade communications precisely because they are labour-intensive to create and time-consuming to send,” say Ran and Max. “The investment of effort which handmade marketing demands from the communicator speaks louder than the words of the communication itself, and it says ‘I appreciate you.’”
2. Handmade mindfulness
The popularity of the adult colouring book arose from an untapped need to take a step away from the stimuli and stresses of modern life, be they work pressures, endless emails, or a demanding social calendar.
For many, focusing all of their attention on creating something meticulous and beautiful with their bare hands is a welcome break from constantly fielding digital alerts. So much so, in fact, that AdWeek recently speculated on which art-and-craft products might become the next must-have mindful gift.
3. Imperfection = uniqueness
Indigene is an Indian clothing brand which recently debuted its summer collection, Transience, at Lakme Fashion Week. Designers Jaya Bhatt and Ruchi Tripathi wanted to turn their passion for hand-stitched garments into a statement against fast fashion and unethical consumption.
“Our target audience is the conscious buyer who values and understands handmade, and appreciates the little imperfections it comes with,” they say. “It is more about the mindset rather than the social stature.”
In a marketplace where consumers value one-of-a-kind experiences and go out of their way to find products with ethical provenance, brands which stand for craftsmanship and sustainability are the ones that will stand out.