John H. Johnson said: "There is no defence against an excellence that meets a pressing public need." This week's Q&A is with Martin Johnston whose new brand, Crafted Society has been built around the ethos of "keeping the crafts alive". Crafted Society is a luxury brand for the new generation of socially conscious consumers, exquisitely fusing craftsmanship with positive social impact, and they also donate 5% of their net revenue to Italian non-profit organisations.
1. What are the industry trends affecting your business?
There are several for example sustainability, transparency modus operandi, a shift towards luxury online selling, the Italian economy, Brexit, etc. We are an online-only brand, selling B2C to increase brand awareness that maintains fair prices by cutting out the retailer mark-up.
2. What are you doing now that you feel good about? Is there anything that you could be doing better?
Our business model was ambitious when we set it up, and we had no clue if it would work. But we are continually pleasantly surprised when not only new customers join our mission, but also when customers return a second, third and fourth time. This proves that our quality goods are value-for-money especially when comparing to the high street retail, and this is a real competitive advantage for us.
I honestly think "doing better" comes with time and organic growth! Every single penny we make has been reinvested into the business. Ideally, we would love to have multiple ambassadors/sales reps in every country putting on parties, going to football clubs, going to customers every single day to bring the physical/personal aspect of our brand which is more difficult to achieve when you are a digital-based business.
3. When you start a new project, how do you set yourself up to win?
Our first thought always is to find the best in class. This usually comes with a hefty price tag, but you cannot put a price on quality which is a major component of our DNA. Putting ourselves in the consumer's shoes so to speak, means that we must understand that there is a huge amount of choice, and our products need to be better in all aspects. We have 30 years of industry experience which helps a lot too.
4. We know that feelings and emotions drive human behaviour, but why do you think that storytelling is a powerful tool to build culture?
It's critical - but what is more critical than the art of storytelling, is telling TRUE stories and not fabrications as at one point it will catch up with you. In our luxury industry, the "Made in Italy" label has seen much better days. To the average person on the street, it still resonates and conjures up thoughts of best quality, artisans, exclusivity, craftsmanship, high price, sustainable, luxury……. but many of the leading luxury brands have been manipulating the consumer as to what exactly is MADE in Italy. For many luxury houses, "Made in Italy" today means only to attach a label, or add a component as the majority of the manufacturing process is done in a country with far cheaper labour costs. This is what is putting the pressure on the master artisans to survive, as those craftsmen and women who own the knowledge, skills and traditions are in real danger of becoming extinct. This is because the big luxury brands are publicly traded, meaning that every single quarter they are expected to grow top line sales and bottom line profits. Our brand purpose started because of the non-transparency of the leading brands in the industry, as they are the root cause of the threat to craftsmanship. We tell honest, compelling stories of REAL people who really exist and this endears us to our fans and customers, and even more so once they have one of our products in their hands.
5. Based on a prism of what's working and what's not from the customers' perspective, how can your organisation realign to meet your customers' needs?
Not applicable right now!
6. How does trust relate to the customer experience and customer relationships? And what about its impact on employee engagement?
Its massive - brands who don't see that will not last - but what constituted trust 10-20 years ago is not what will win the consumer over today. AS we have morphed into an age of EVERYONE's media (as opposed to social media) people like animals are quick to sniff out bullsh*t. Back in the days, you could create an advert which would portray your brand as everything you as the principal wanted to project. Today, as technology has provided access to more and more facts, advertising or monologue brand messaging is almost dead - the consumer is looking for brands to have a dialogue with. It's a complete paradigm shift. But the more trust in terms of giving and receiving as a brand is embraced, the more customer loyalty will prevail. The same goes for employees - the more an employee feels a real cog in the big wheel the more they will commit to driving - the skill is in enabling this.
7. How do you use customer experience in the battle to win the hearts and minds of your customers?
We take our customers on a virtual journey to the rolling hills of Marche in central Italy to meet our master craftsmen and women, choose the finest materials Italy has to offer, cut them, sew them, finish them. We have customers whom we custom make size 49 shoes with - you can only do that working with a small family run businesses who wish to help and support your customer's focused mission. We support the artisans by platforming them - so it's a true partnership and win-win. This is what we are driven to convey to the customers - this experience so that customers can truly appreciate WHY we have support not just craftsmanship but THE PEOPLE behind the crafts.
8. In your experience, are external consultants better suited to engage employees in dialogue when discussing risks and benefits of customer experience management?
Honestly - yes. They have no emotional ties to the employees, products or strategies and can look at things with a fresh perspective.
9. Engagement is a challenge, but in your opinion, when you bring the suggestion to hire an external consultant to your bosses, what questions do you expect them to ask?
Nothing! My wife and business partner, Lise Bonnet and I are the decision makers.
10. If your boss asks – "What extra value will this service bring?" How will you prepare for that from a business justification stand-point?
We would always approach it from a growth perspective - growth in sales, growth in loyalty, growth in repeat business, growth in opinions on new categories, etc. Brands which will survive will have to accept that the common norm moving forward will be to engage with their customers and continue developing trustworthy experiences to maintain engagement.
Many thanks, Martin and good luck on the journey.
For a full overview of the brand's offering, please visit:www.craftedsociety.com