The Maker Movement Helps Craft Interesting Brands

Sure, the new Apple Watch is pretty cool. And all that new virtual reality stuff, wow.

But there’s something else that’s been going on — a trend that moves a little slower and tends to run analog — that millions of people are getting into and smart brands are capitalizing on.

The Maker Movement.

Really, this “movement” is more of a loose configuration of DIY enthusiasts. Canning your own pickles is, of course, nothing new. The difference is that now, a bushy-tailed pickle maker might show off his wares on numerous maker blogs, share them via maker-oriented social media like Pinterest, trumpet them at an international maker conference, and maybe get them featured in Make magazine.

Neat! And though it tends toward crafty things like making bags out of old yoga pants, Makerism definitely spans the digital divide, e.g., these Norwegians who turned a bus stop into a Pac Man game.

So, what does this whimsical grab bag of a movement mean for brands? Quite a bit, it might seem. A growing number of brands are attempting to tap into and associate themselves with the spirit of creativity, innovation and style that runs through the movement.

For a great example, see Toyota’s recent unveiling of its new “urban utility vehicle” concept car at the 2014 Maker Faire(!). The vehicle’s design was influenced by a group of makers who were interviewed for their input, which led to features like a foldable, removable front seat; a redesigned shifter; and a highly customizable storage system.

Levi’s is another interesting example. Last year, the brand ran #MakeOurMark, a social-media-heavy campaign that celebrated the joy of creation. The campaign sent a group of artists on a cross-country train ride, equipped with maker things like Instagram-equipped vintage cameras to document the journey.

So, what’s the hook? What are brands like Levi’s and Toyota trying to accomplish? I think you can sum it up in two words: co-creation and individuality.

Co-creation is one of the buzzy terms that marketers can get stuck on, but I think it’s a good one. It’s the idea that brands can and should invite consumers to play a role in the creation of new products, concepts, etc. Toyota literally invited a group of innovation-minded consumers to play a role in a new product, and that opened up exciting new possibilities (and a great PR pitch) that otherwise might not have been uncovered.

Levi’s has a long history of celebrating nonconformity, so it’s no surprise that the brand would be attracted to Makers’ spirit of individuality. These days, consumers have infinite choices. We are constantly customizing our lives, and great brands know that a patch of real estate in a consumer’s identity is pretty much Shangri-La. By embracing Maker ideals, Levi’s gave its core audience yet more reasons to think that Levi’s are what interesting, unique, creative people wear. Nicely done.

Got another example of brands and makers doing good things together? We’d love to hear it. Chat us up on LinkedIn.

By Jon Itkin, Senior Account Planner