The Process Is What Counts

Written by Randa Tawil

Do you know the story behind the bread you buy? Or who made your jeans, and what sort of process they used?

From our research at ReD we have found a new trend emerging among businesses whose market strategy focuses not only on the product, but also the “master craftsmen,” his/her process, and his/her own stories and philosophies that surround the product. These neocraftsmen are totally transparent about their process through blogs, youtube videos, and tumblrs, because their process is what differentiates the quality of their product. Documenting how the product is actually made, and even how much love goes into the process, is now becoming a major advertising technique for businesses. For the neocraftsman, the process behind their product is what makes it exclusive, meaningful, and ultimately of high value. This process is more narrative than textbook, and is wrapped in that craftsman’s philosophy.

Tartine Bakery located in San Francisco is one of the most renowned bakeries in the area.  Their bread is award-winning and high quality, but their selling point is the story about their products. Chad, the owner and founder, is obsessed with his bread; he says, “bread is a mixture of flour and water that is transformed into something through the course of fermentation that transcends the simplicity of those basic ingredients.” His meticulous process and his love of the craft are made obvious in the video he created to promote his cookbook.  (and according to his friend and “bread tester” Marié Abe, his cookbook reads “more like a narrative than a science textbook”). The video tells the story behind how he developed his “double rising” technique that gives his bread extra flavor. His unique process, and the story behind it, are what add to the value of his product.

At Mast Brothers Chocolate, their love of craft is part of their company’s platform.  As one of the brothers says, “everything kind of roots back to our love affair with the spirit of craft.”  By choosing to sail their cacao beans instead of fly them to their shop, they say they are tapping into “the fierce independence America was built on.”  Again, their unique process and their reasons behind it adds value to their chocolate.

In the Rising Suns & Co Tailor Made Indigo Goods “haberdashery,” customers can visit to see how the to see how Mike Hodis, the founder and owner, makes the jeans. As he also shows on his Vimeo, he uses only 80+ year-old sewing machines to make his jeans. He insists these machines make a better jean, adding value to his final product.  Chris Harth feels the same way about his knife-making process. Using materials found around Brooklyn, he creates knives that are not only hand-made, but also align with philosophies of sustainability. For these businesses, the process, the commitment to that process, and the higher value that process infuses into their product are the key selling points. They want to make sure their customers know, this isn’t just a job for them, but rather it is a life choice.

While this may not be a totally new concept, with the availability of new and better communication technologies, businesses may have to get on the band-wagon and show their process from start to finish if they want to play in the game these neo craftsmen are coming up with. Larger businesses that do have a commitment to sustainability or craft need to start emphasizing their process. One great example is the new ad by Chipotle, the American fastfood burrito chain. Chipotle has always made a sincere commitment to using free range local meat, and this commercial shows their commitment by emphasizing what kind of process they value:

For a more lighthearted, but equally resonant example of consumer’s growing obessions with process, and the transparency of the creation of their products, check out this great clip from Portlandia:

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