There's been a trend happening on Etsy the last few months that I really don't like. It typically surfaces in these marketing emails I get every day that advise me how to get someone's 'look' by buying particular items on Etsy. They link back to Etsy's blog and are part of the 'Etsy Finds' series. Here are a few:
12/14/08 Etsy Finds: Get Laurie of Two Trick Pony's Look - Home Decor Edition
11/30/08 Etsy Finds: Getting Susanna Carrillo's Look - Home Decor Edition
11/23/08 Etsy Finds: Getting Kat Heyes' Look - Home Decor Edition
11/16/08 Etsy Finds: Getting Christie Chase's Look - Home Decor Edition
11/9/08 Etsy Finds: Getting Drink and Dream's Look - Home Decor Edition
11/2/08 Etsy Finds: Getting Adelle Robinson's Look - Home Decor Edition
10/26/08 Etsy Finds: Getting Abigail Ahern's Look - Home Decor Edition
I skipped one that was about getting the 'Joni Mitchell' look because that's a little different, and there's no shame in being a fangirl. There are probably even more if you go further back into the series, but I think that's enough of them to get my drift.
I sigh every time I see one of these articles. I understand the idea behind them, I suppose, but isn't Etsy about individuality? Don't we want people to come to the marketplace because they can get unique, one-of-a-kind products? Why are we encouraging people to come to Etsy to replicate someone else's style? Granted, there are millions of people who want to do that and who do it everyday; that's why Target and Wal-Mart make millions selling budget home decor products. But is that really who the Etsy customer is?
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the answer is 'yes.' The Etsy customer isn't this uber-indie pot of a gold waiting for all of us at the end of the rainbow, but rather a 'regular' person who gets excited when she/he sees all of the amazing products on Etsy and decides on her/his own to forget about Target and come over to the Orange Side. Do we really think this customer needs to be told how to emulate someone else's style? If they were smart enough to get to Etsy, I think they can handle their own home decor obligations.
Come on, it's just marketing, you say. Lighten up! And we have the perfect Abigail Ahern look-a-like lamp to help you! Okay, wait just a minute. Let's back up the boat here...
Do you 'just-like-insert uber-cool designer-here' sellers want to be labeled as such? Do you make your pillows and lamps and drawer pulls to be re-branded as a alternative (cheaper or not) to someone else's idea? Um, I doubt it. (Feel free to tell me if I'm wrong.)
I've felt a tide rising on Etsy for the past five months or so, and I couldn't quite explain it, but I think the Orange (sugar-free, blech) Kool-aid is rising above many of our heads because the entire marketing focus is centered around defining the seller and the buyer. Don't smack me, but that's what Wal-Mart has done, right? Think about it. Wal-Mart, to its credit, has become the world's largest retailer by defining the seller...
If you can't sell your goods to Wal-Mart because you can't sell in bulk or at the price point they demand, then you automatically lose out on a huge customer base. If you do sell to Wal-Mart, they become your biggest customer and their demand typically swallows your inventory capacity, making it a challenge to even have product to sell to other vendors. The product you do have left to sell, you have to sell at a higher price to make up for the cut you gave Wal-Mart. Who wants to pay more for your product when they know that their customer can go buy it for less at Wal-Mart? Begin endless cycle...
and the buyer...
If you don't shop at Wal-Mart, you're paying more for almost everything now, considering Wal-Mart sells discount products, groceries, prescriptions, Big Macs, manicures, Starbucks, and eye glasses. As the recession continues, mid-range retailers are filing bankruptcy. For example, Linens-n-Things, Circuit City, etc. Wal-Mart sells electronics and sheets and towels and candles much cheaper, so see ya later mid-range retailer. When will Wal-Mart do my taxes?
Okay, so what does that have to do with Etsy? Well, aren't they defining the seller by narrowing the exposure of thousands of sellers through myopic marketing campaigns and practices? If Etsy consistently arranges the e-windows of it's shop to reflect products that look like they were hand-delivered by the editors of an indi-mag, then isn't that what Etsy is? Are we supposed to sip lattes at a locally owned coffee establishment, flip through the latest issue of a crafty magazine and think, I saw something just like this at Etsy? I thought we were supposed to think just the opposite.
And haven't they just defined the buyer? Why is a buyer going to come to Etsy for something other than what's in that magazine if that's all she knows? Because I left my business card on her laptop when she went to get a refill? Man, don't make me do that. I don't even drink coffee. And what about the live shopping events this month with big names in the crafting and indie-fashion world? You could attend these events and watch what someone else wants to buy.
I need help with a lot of things in life, but I can assure you that shopping is NOT one of them.
Time to start packing my non-trendy orders. Proudly.