By Dylan Thompson, Marketing & Consumer Insight Specialist

Millennials value authenticity and experience, leading them toward artisan and craft goods. Symrise NA engaged with Millennials to better understand the meaning of “craft.” We discovered that it was a multi-dimensional concept answering personal and social needs as well as societal impulses, specifically obsession that facilitated passion, learning, promotion and participation. We noticed a few factors in craft that breeds obsessive behavior … in the best way!

The Symrise team also participated in a “Craft Trek” in Brooklyn, NY to see how how each element of craft is being expressed in real life. We used “lateral thinking” to translate what was happening in each location on the trek into learnings. We combined our observations/learnings on the trek with our learnings from millennials to build actionable insights about how to create craft food and beverage products.

For the “Positively Obsessed” portion of Craft, we trekked to Soul Cycle Williamsburg and met with an instructor and general manager. We also went to MatchaBar, a matcha-obsessed café; The Heatonist, a purveyor of small batch hot sauces; Twenty Sided Store, a board game store with a space for players to meet and play games and Maison Premiere, a absinthe-focused cocktail bar. Check out our learnings below:

1. Exclusivity Breeds Pack Mentality and Moral Support

If you are “in” you will be treated like family. If you are “out” people will not beg you to join. People in the group rely on you and vice versa, which creates a meaningful bond. People joining in activities or getting behind a product want to feel like they are gathering with people like themselves, which in turn allows them to feel more comfortable and be themselves. It’s in niche interests that brands can find their community. The air of exclusivity makes something more desirable. We always want what we don’t have. We noticed a lot of the locations on our trek involved expenses that not everyone may be able to afford, so they catered to adults, or more specifically, older Millennials. However, brands who use exclusivity correctly will imbue a feeling of “I deserve this” rather than “I can’t afford this.” Despite the price, people will be entranced by exclusivity and will pay what they need to get in on the action, especially in restaurants where a small menu gives the feeling of exclusivity. Members of these tribes of obsession will pay a premium price in their demand for quality, but in return, their demands mean consistent quality delivery on the side of the brand.

CLICK HERE to learn how to position your brand in the Craft/Artisanal space

2. Growth and Evolution Together

After finding and getting comfortable within a community, consumers want to continue its evolution and grow together, finding new, related items to obsess over together. For the hot sauce community, for example, that means finding and trying hotter and bolder flavors. Craft hot sauce companies continually innovating help move the entire community forward and grow with this need to keep finding new hot sauce trends and flavors. Collecting is also part of growth and obsession, whether it’s with collecting tokens in a game or bottles of hot sauce. Those obsessed with hot sauce will gravitate to the company with the most new, interesting and odd products and want to soak up all of the information behind it – for Millennials, having an obsession means needing to be the first to know everything about something and also be the first to share it.

3. Completing Challenges Fuels Obsession

With obsession comes always striving to hit that “next level,” whether it’s testing yourself with the hottest of hot sauces or literally getting to the next level in a game or with fitness, like Soul Cycle. There, and in other team sports, those involved don’t want to let the team down, which drives people to attend events and stay involved so they will be rewarded with kindness and respect. Watching yourself improve or collect something is rewarding, so people will continue to set higher and higher goals; this keeps people willing to devote time/energy/money to support their passion while they work reaching the next level. The same goes for artisans obsessed with the quality of their products. They can constantly push themselves to find fresher ingredients, more sustainable practices or new avenues of flavor never considered before. Their obsession fuels their consumers’ obsession.

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4. Community Involvement is Key

Across all areas, a group or tribe of people exists around obsessions and creates a place that facilitates growth within individuals surrounded by specific obsessions/passions and encourages further immersion. It’s not all about winning; it’s about the journey together. For example, Soul Cycle said they will customize a class to support someone, which fosters a sense of caring for individuals and makes a close-knit community that serves as a “second home” in which people support each other. Obsession in craft is about spreading positivity. Heatonist brings visitors together while trying hot sauces by facilitating conversation, making everyone comfortable and laughing about people’s reactions to the sauce. The feeling of welcoming makes a big difference – most of the “positively obsessed” venues that we visited projected a welcoming atmosphere that feels like you’re comfortable in your own home or a friend’s home. Artisan establishments owning and amplifying their unique qualities is something people will travel for because they have passion for it.

5. Storytelling Brings it all to Life

Artisans are obsessed with the best and finding the next “IT” flavor for their consumers to obsess over to create the best product with an interesting story to tell. This means constantly hunting the best flavor, quality, strength and source of materials. This could also mean using the newest “IT” thing to take something already popular in a brand-new direction, like hot sauce, by coming up with unexpected twists – sweet with heat; mustard pepper sauce; habanero with cumin; lemongrass/ginger – and highlighting ingredients. For the artisan obsessed, it’s not just about the sauce, though; it starts with the peppers, each with its own story that is their job to bring out the best way they can: through their obsession.

6. Passion Creates Connection

Artisans are those who know what they love and are not afraid to be proud of their obsession. We saw people in these communities of people who love their work, are comfortable in their skin and own being a “nerd.” Passion is what creates the bond between the obsessed consumer and the obsessed creator. If a brand doesn’t display it, it won’t feel fully accepted. At Heatonist, it was obvious workers live the hot sauce life. The employees were extensively knowledgeable about the products they were providing and so enthusiastic to talk about products and tell every sauce’s story. They were dedicated to allowing people to truly enjoy their hot sauce and sample before committing to a purchase, which created a personalized, exclusive shopping experience. At Maison Premiere, the waiter was very knowledgeable about absinthe drinks and provided a hand-crafted experience from start to finish. This willingness to share and take customers through the process in a way they understand makes absinthe (a daunting experience if going in blind) approachable to a wider audience and allows new consumers to become obsessed thanks to it being so accessible to start. Inclusion in a passion breeds more passion and spreads like wildfire.

CLICK HERE to see some of Symrise's global Hot Sauce inspired seasonings

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