When I'm wearing my other hat, over at Smithery, I've been quite clear over the last few years that my favourite piece of marketing in recent memory is "Small Business Saturday" by American Express.
It's an initiative that started in the US in 2010, a deliberate riposte to the mass-market gluttony of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It's about supporting and inspiring small and local businesses, and today it's happening in the UK for the second time...
Without going in to too much detail about it, I love it because:
1. It's a platform, not a broadcast. It invites customers and small businesses to participate in something together, but however they'd like. American Express provide a kit of parts that you can use however you'd like (hence the banner on the site today, and the image above).
2. It's simple. Not just as an idea to get (ah, one specific day, support small businesses... got it), but if you're a small business, to implement. The T&Cs are a page and a half long, in plain english, and so are more likely to be picked up by smaller, diverse business owners (who often won't have time to read oodles of stuff).
3. It has a vision. It talks about a network of small businesses, a more complex, fragmented economy, one built of people who have a dream to make something better, and do so with the help of each other. It feels like a significant part of every country's future, and a way to solve problems that society faces.
4. It happens again and again. It isn't a 'campaign', at least not in the way that advertisers think campaigns as transitory, one-off expressions through advertising. They've done it again, and again, and again.
It's a brilliant idea. Well done, American Express.
Why post that here, rather than just on the Smithery blog?
Well, because the Artefact Cards is a small business, all of it's very own now. It means that rather than just alluding to SBS as an example in a talk, or a piece of consultancy work for other clients, we can get our sleeves rolled up and be a part of it.
We make all the Artefact Cards in Axminster, of course, with Keith Rockett at the Axminster Printing Company - here's Keith with the raw materials which became the new Artefact Cards last month. This massive pile...
...became these, our new colours range:
(Tim Milne of Artomatic, who's the head of production for us, noted that this means we've now made our millionth Artefact Card. We haven't sold it yet, but hey, we've made it...)
It was really important to us that we were able to make the Artefact Cards in the UK, rather than ship them over from the far east (the enviromental costs alone of shipping dense, hefty paper around the world, only to ship it again when it arrived... nah, not for us).
But it's not just adherence to local manufacturing dogma; it also means we can can act quickly on custom orders for people who want different sleeves, make new colours, test things out. The advantages of making small, and making local, are many and myriad. If you are thinking about manufacturing something, don't just think about the costs, think about the benefits.
We're also delighted to have started working with Bernard Heathcote from Lichfield Leather in in the Midlands, another family-run business, on our new Artefact Field Kit leather wallets:
All in all, it's been just over two years since we sold the first Artefact Cards from the site (I'll never forget that first rush when people buy a thing you've made on the internet...), and I'd like to say a massive, massive thank you on behalf of myself, Tim, Keith and now Bernard too to all of you for supporting small UK businesses.
It's Small Business Saturday, and we are open for business...