Handicraft products are attractive to customers for two basic reasons. The first is the uniqueness, what makes it different. The second is utility to the customer in terms of meeting their needs or complimenting the life-style.
Most handicraft items have both characteristic, but in varying degrees. The more the product incorporates both characteristic the better the consumer appeal. A handicraft product that possesses neither characteristic might not have any export potential.
The following conceptualization should be helpful in developing your marketing strategy. The decision on marketing image should be based on an analysis of its strengths. This may reveal that the product falls into one of the following four categories.
Cell 1. For products that are weak on both counts, represent the worst position to be in. The product neither responds to any needs, nor offer a distinctive or novelty. Many so called souvenir items belong to this category. Enterprises seeking local or export markets will obtain hardly any return from such products. The only option open to them is to explore whether the product can be transformed into a functional or novelty product.
Cell 4. Represents the best situation to be in. The product is likely to make a strong impression because it has both novelty and utility. Some examples are printed silk scarves from India, hand knitted pillow cases from the Karen tribe of Northern Thailand, embroidered blouses from Philippines and hand woven Turkish carpets. This makes the marketing task relatively simple, especially if the customer is reminded of the special features. Further value can be added by highlighting the social, cultural or environmental benefits.
Cell 2. Products strong on novelty, but weak from the point of view of utility. Examples are hand carves wooden carvings or tribal masks and polished semi precious stones. Creativity is required to refashion the products into one that will fit into the prospective buyer’s like-style.
Cell 3. Is the reverse of Cell2. Strong utilitarian appeal is combined with weak novelty appeal. Many leather goods from developing countries place mats, coffee mugs and jute carpets belong to this category. Here the task is to enhance the unique features of the product and the identity and culture of the artisan/s, or the particular region or skills and life-style. While it’s functional aspect alone should sell the product, better returns can be expected if its novel features are brought to the fore.
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