(ARTESANIAS DE COLOMBIA)
How to raise the perceived value of our handcrafts?
In 2007, a wave of concern washed over Colombia as criticisms targeted the President, highlighting a disheartening disparity. The success of his sons, young entrepreneurs thriving in the artisanship business with their company Salvarte, stood in stark contrast to the crumbling state of Artesanías de Colombia (ADC), the institution responsible for promoting and preserving the work of the country's artisans.
Responding to the call for action, the President urged ADC's leadership to seek a solution to this pressing issue. Recognizing our extensive experience and triumphs in advising Salvarte, ADC invited us to lead an advisory project, a venture that would reshape the destiny of Colombian artisanship.
Our mission was ambitious yet clear: to craft a comprehensive brand strategy that would reverberate from the revitalized retail spaces to the communication tactics of ADC. The primary objective was to enhance ADC's positioning in the minds of both local and international buyers.
The crux of the problem lay in the client's perception of value. When purchasing intricate Werregue baskets handcrafted by the Wounaan indigenous community, clients were astounded by the $350 price tag. They would often compare, saying, "In China, I can buy ten like this for the same price."
Our challenge was significant. We needed to shift the value perception of these artistic marvels, and in doing so, uplift the perception of ADC itself.
Over three months, we meticulously applied our proprietary FocussIt™ methodology, delving deep into market research. We sought to understand consumer behavior, perceptions and the elements that enticed them to choose these artisans' crafts over alternatives.
The insights gleaned from these studies informed our preliminary concept, validated through successive focus groups involving elite clients. This iterative process allowed us to sculpt a clear and unified idea of what these clients wished to perceive.
We explored everything from visual merchandising to attraction techniques and sensory perception. We identified the customer personas ADC catered to and the message that needed to be conveyed.
Realizing that a significant portion of clients sought not only gifts but also a glimpse into the country's heritage and story, our design team focused on creating an authentic experience in line with the research findings.
Another essential concept that stood out in creating the space experience and the brand architecture was to always place and communicate the importance and value of our Indigenous artisans at the core of our communications and spaces, not just their products.
Inspiration came from "malocas", traditional dwellings of indigenous tribes in the Amazon. Merging this inspiration with the spirit of Hispanic colonial architecture in Bogotá's La Candelaria district, we envisioned a contemporary hybrid.
The "maloca" offered the spatial element and symbolic meanings, while the Hispanic architecture allowed a modern approach. Crucially, every interior design element had to be produced 100% by artisans, utilizing ancestral techniques and materials.
Another challenge was to ensure that both the spatial experience and the brand architecture showcased the social commitment, placing artisanal culture at the core.
Thus, our communication strategy not only highlighted the entity's social function but also emphasized the artisan as the primary customer of the brand, surpassing the buyer.
Apart from designing packaging, labels, product catalogs and more, we conceptualized and executed the "Marca Nuestra Identidad" (Our Identity Brand) strategy. The primary objective was to sell the artisan, their story and traditions above the craft itself.
We managed to infuse ADC products with the essence of traditions, legends, myths, and stories of the artisans. The spaces were transformed into immersive experiences, seamlessly blending artisanal tradition with technology. The finishes were meticulously designed to invite the buyer to engage, comprehend and hold Colombia's story and its crafts in their hands.
Thus, when a customer inquired about a Werregue basket, they not only learned about the price but also discovered that it was crafted by tireless, hardworking women who supported their husbands while they toiled in the jungle. They learned that each basket takes up to three months to craft and that the proceeds from its sale sustained families of up to seven members. They realized that this ancestral object and its technique were so unique and delicate that they were even used to transport water.
Through the artisan's story and experience, new customers at the venue no longer sought discounts; instead, they bought two. This transformation, powered by storytelling and the artisan's rich experiences, ushered in a new era for ADC, where the intrinsic value of artisanship was cherished and understood, transcending mere price tags.