A few weeks ago, I stayed up waaaayyyy too late and wrote down some of my (rather strong) thoughts on why the sewing community needs to attract millennials. But how?
In the flurry after publishing the editorial, several sewing-related companies reached out to tell me how impactful the information was, and that they enjoyed my fresh perspective.
What’s interesting – is that hardly anyone asked me for suggestions on how this can be accomplished.
And let me tell you – it’s a tall order.
This is far beyond one marketing campaign, or throwing up a couple YouTube videos. Attracting millennials will require a massive shift in how your organization currently operates. There’s no way around it.
Because most children are not learning to sew in their home growing up, a new model needs to be created as a replacement.
Ever since returning from QuiltCon, it’s an issue that’s weighing heavily on my heart. How can I make a difference? How can the community come together to entice a new generation to make things when it’s so much easier and cheaper to purchase them?
One of the most fascinating aspects about the sewing industry to me is that it’s at a crossroads, it could either explode or totally implode and I don’t know which will happen.
Recently, I took an informal poll with people in my professional and social circles. All are college-educated men and women in their 30s who occasionally sew and do own a sewing machine. None of them had EVER heard of Baby Lock, Bernina, or Juki. One was aware of Pfaff, and another did own an entry level Janome. But what I found was that even among casual sewists – they had absolutely zero awareness of the higher end sewing machine manufacturers. In their mind – Brother and Singer are all that exists.
When I talk to friends about fabric, no one knows names like Moda, Cotton+Steel, Riley Blake, Robert Kaufman, Michael Miller, Hoffman Fabrics, etc… They only know what they see at big-box fabric stores, and even then – they are unfamiliar about various brands.
According to Barron’s, millennials are defined around ages 18 to 37 – making up the largest population group in U.S. history. Their buying power is already HUGE – accounting for $1.3 trillion in consumer spending. Millennials are also highly educated, ethnically diverse, and team oriented.
In short, they don’t want to be marketed TO, they want to feel like a partner in your brand. Millennials crave a personalized, customized experience rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
You cannot use the traditional advertising and marketing tactics that you used on baby boomers.
Because of my media background, I have been asked about getting more coverage for the sewing industry. But that’s not where your target audience is at all – they are on their phones, online, and watching YouTube. Various research has shown that millennials prefer to get their news online and through social media. Even though it sounds promising, getting your brand onto local or national TV news is just not where your target customer is – online news organizations are going to be the new “mainstream media.”
So here are a few applicable ideas I think would give the sewing industry a boost:
SEWING MACHINE DESIGNS
Let’s be real here, none of the current model sewing machines motivate me to proudly display one in my living room as a sexy conversation piece. How about designing functional, yet aesthetically pleasing hardware that screams, “I’m gorgeous!!!” Look at Apple as an example – with such elegantly designed personal electronics. Young people will buy things they think are attractive, so looks matter. A LOT. In fact, I am definitely guilty of making purchasing decisions based solely on physical appearance.
So please, please, please – SOMEONE – design a sleek, modern sewing machine! (If it comes in various finishes like glossy ice white, stainless steel, rose gold, or jet black – even better!)
BUYING MUST BE CONVENIENT
Millennials are able to purchase just about anything by clicking on it. If you do not offer a convenient, easy way for those consumers to buy from you – they are going to buy it from someone else who can.
The traditional “standard” for purchasing a sewing machine is to physically go to a dealer, haggle over the price, and return to that store whenever the machine needs to be serviced. Um, I can see why this is a big turn off to young people. This way of conducting business is terribly outdated.
Yes – sewing machine makers – I’m looking at you again.
You need to partner with your local dealerships to come up with a system where customers can buy sewing machines online, they are delivered right to their door, and repair technicians all do house calls that don’t require owners to wait weeks while their machine is “in the shop.” Instead, their machine is serviced and repaired out in the field – with little to no downtime.
Prices also need to be transparent, younger people don’t want to be in the dark on what something costs. This also does not build up trust with your brand.
INVENT NEW TERMINOLOGY
As a whole, the entire sewing industry needs to create new words for “sewing” and “quilting.” No matter what you do, younger people are not going to be able to separate those words from the stereotype in their head – that it’s something old people do.
Take Etsy, the name is actually a made up word. In essence, it’s really an online craft show of sorts. But if the creator had called it “Online Craft Show” – do you honestly think it would have taken off?
In order to attract a new audience, the sewing world needs an image makeover and fresh buzzwords.
PUT THOUGHT AND EFFORT INTO YOUR SPOKESPEOPLE
As someone who has spent my entire career in television, this one drives me crazy. I do spend quite a bit of time on YouTube every week, looking for interesting channels and personalities.
What I’ve noticed about the sewing-related videos is this: the majority of them are awful.
Low-quality production, talent in desperate need of coaching, little to no storytelling ability, the list goes on and on…
Creating great television requires a tremendous amount of talent and hard work. TV writing is much different than print writing. If you’ve never worked in the business, you have no idea what it takes to make engaging, entertaining, and educational content. People on YouTube are looking for authentic people and stories – not canned messages.
It does not matter how much production value your video has if the content itself sucks. You might as well shoot it with an iPhone. (Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing…)
Also, let’s face it – very few people are cut out to be an on-camera personality. It is much more difficult than it looks and takes real skill and experience. You have to be extremely able to adapt to situations and think on your feet, captivate audiences with your voice in a way that’s natural and conversational, and be super aware of how you look on camera. Are you squinting? Is that a flyaway hair?
Industry leaders – it would be great if you hired more diverse, energetic people to be the faces of your brands. Mix it up a little! I’d love to see people from all walks of life, ages, genders, and backgrounds represented in your advertisements and videos. (Just be sure they’re actually a good fit for television)
I see this all the time where bloggers are chosen to do videos or attempt to make videos themselves – a handful are decent, but many are not. It’s one thing to be able to write for a blog, and incorporate good photography. But blogging may as well be a completely different hemisphere compared to television production.
Your biggest challenge will be finding personalities who are both great on camera AND knowledgeable about sewing.
This is the tip of the iceberg, as far as I’m concerned, but wanted to throw these concepts out into the universe. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See ya next time!