A small business isn’t limited in its scope of who it can reach. With social media platforms, talented designers and business owners like you have access to practically the entire world. Isn’t this exciting?
In preparation for our new Textile Design Lab Marketing workshop, I have had the opportunity to explore WGSN Insight. This site features original and thought-provoking content on consumer, marketing, retail, and innovation trends—all areas that can impact a small business.
An article that particularly stood out to me on WGSN Insight was one entitled Emerging Microbrands, which was in the Marketing section for May 2019 . This article stated: “Globally, value and convenience-driven shoppers continue to purchase from consumer goods giants such as Amazon and Alibaba, but a surging backlash is underway. Instagram-first start-ups and small creators are challenging the status quo, attracting a new wave of local shoppers.” It’s exciting to know there are new opportunities that are proving to work for small businesses!
The article went on to offer examples of how larger brands such as Amazon and Marc Jacobs are adapting to these changes. My takeaway from this was how this trend could be applied to our industry and be a wonderful opportunity for smaller, independent designers to celebrate their small businesses.
We have become familiar with online studios and agencies emerging in our own industry over recent years. This makes me wonder: Could we also begin to see this microbrand trend emerge in the coming years? This would be a game changer. It would mean a smaller business with less clients might be something to celebrate, instead of causing this perception we are less professional than others. Because we know this isn’t true.
After I picked up on this theme of microbrands, I began seeing similar topics being explored in other places. A source of great information for me was the book Non-Obvious 2019: How to Predict Trends and Win The Future, which is authored by marketing expert and Georgetown University Professor Rohit Bhargava. In this book, he shares a list of 15 non-obvious trends for 2019 across 5 categories, including culture, marketing, technology, design, and entrepreneurship.
For 2019, one of his trend predictions was regarding RetroTrust. Here’s a quick summary: “In a time when trust has become harder to earn, people are looking toward the brands they grew up with for leadership and stability. As a result, this non-obvious trend of RetroTrust could offer a roadmap back to relevance for brands, if used strategically.”
He uses Kodak as his leading example. Kodak’s annual revenues have gone down nearly 90% since 1990 because people are no longer buying film. Despite this, the company is currently experiencing somewhat of a resurgence, having recently launched a magazine and by relaunching their Super 8 cameras and certain specialty films. People trust the Kodak name and their legacy brings comfort to many.
Bhargava also points out, “This same [RetroTrust] phenomenon is driving a desire for people to reconnect with the artisans and professionals who make the things we consume.” What does this mean for you? It means that even if you are a new brand, there is a way to tap into this trend of RetroTrust. Consumers are looking for “a return to a time when products were handmade by someone you knew.”
Here’s another insight on this Bhargava adds: “This isn’t the same as buying something off the shelf made in a faraway factory, assembled by robots, and inspected by humans. These are products you can trust, because often, you buy them directly from the person who made them. It is also a sign of a growing backlash against the increasingly faceless shopping we do online, and a yearning for a means of shopping with personal connection built in.”
Again, I see this as an opportunity for independent designers to be able to flourish by having a personal relationship with their clients and buyers.
As designers, we often feel like we need to give the impression of having a large studio in order to be taken seriously or to be a professional. You might feel forced into designing in lots of different styles, go to all the shows (or any shows), make all the products, or build a complex website with a large pattern library… When in fact, it’s more important that you do you! Celebrate your small business. Sell your uniqueness. Market yourself as the undiscovered designer everyone will want to work with by next year.
So, no matter what type of design business you are running, how can you celebrate your small business?
What advantages does your small business offer? I know it can be difficult to recognize our own advantages and strengths. Let me share some of the advantages I see in working with independent designers:
Dedication and loyalty to getting each job done right
Less overhead often means independent designers can charge lower rates
Comfort in knowing who is creating the work and knowing who you can reach out to with questions, concerns, and advice
Independent designers are often juggling less clients, which means they can respond faster to client requests
All these advantages are ones we should proudly embrace and use to show that although we are small in size, we are mighty in results!