Yesterday we attended the Licensing International convention in New York. Held at the cavernous Javits Convention Center, the event threw up flashy temporary displays by the world’s most popular brands—and perchance, tomorrow’s most famous brands. Basically, it was like being in the womb of pop culture — this is where all the stuff you find at the mall and see on tv incubates before it’s borne out into the world.
Like aliens from another dimension, the giant mascots of Lysol, Clifford the Big Red Dog and Dora the Explorer were chaperoned around by attendants. We entered enormous, elaborate entryways (to Disney’s area, for instance), only to find that when we came out the exit we hadn’t really interacted with anything. Business people in suits milled about, striking deals. Hello Kitty Sanrio had a special “by appointment only” room where you had to make prior arrangements just to talk to them. There was tons of free swag—our favorite was the laser pointer with the Batman logo projected from it.
Why were we there? We at Etsy wanted to find out what must be done to a “brand” in order to take it to the next level. We know some Etsy sellers have artwork and characters that have been informally licensed by friends and fellow sellers who wish to use their imagery on various products. However, the Licensing International event presented the business-as-usual way of going about it.
We had to wonder if there’s another model—one where products don’t have to be made in China and imagery doesn’t have to be watered down to the point of appealing to the masses. For Etsy artists who want to take it to the next level, what would you want out of this new model? What role would you want to play as the originator of the brand? What role would Etsy play, if any? Right now, networked marketplace allows people to find each other and hash out deals on their own terms.
At Etsy, we’ve mostly been doing grassroots marketing. We send out promos to street teams and we do advertising in publications and local press when Etsy sellers organize events. We work hard to get Etsy covered in newspapers, magazines, blogs and on tv, but on our own terms. Additionally, Etsy members play an integral role in grassroots marketing. Kreations sent us the prototype for an “Etsy awareness ribbon”—an orange beaded ribbon people could wear to show their membership and support. Truly, you guys are the best, most honest to goodness way to get the word out about Etsy!
So how do we bring the Etsy name and individual sellers to more shoppers? We are doing it in such a way as to uphold our mission of being socially and ecologically responsible. Most importantly, we want Etsy to become a household name while keeping the independent artists in control of their own work. Let us know what you think about this important issue!
Note: This was originally posted in the Etsy Garden.