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Portland—The Mecca For Craft (Part 1)

Ryan Buchanan
CEO

There is a new trend toward the old-school where there are no short-cuts. No easy outs. It’s human-scale from human brains down to execution with human hands on keyboards, smartphones, video cameras, or other creative technology devices.  That trend is all about craft. It’s finding your unique ability and being true to it. It’s leveraging local resources (creative talent) and asking why you are putting so much energy into perfecting your skill—what’s the meaning behind it and making sure you are constantly improving.  Craft is about being intentional, focused, and deliberate.  It’s ultimately about excellence.

Where did this craft movement start?

The resurgence of craft across nearly all industries can best be seen, smelled, tasted, heard and felt in the city of Portland, Oregon.  Let’s focus on taste.  A friend of mine, Kim Malek, who was a marketing executive at lots of big brands including Tazo Tea and Starbucks decided to move back to Portland and start the ice cream company Salt and Straw. Kim’s and her cousin/co-founder Tyler’s craft is to “use ice cream as a platform to provide all the best things that Oregon has to offer.” Flavors like “Cream of Bone Marrow and Cherries”. What? Somehow it works. Check out the video to see how they collaborate with  local cheese-makers, chocolate-makers. Salt and Straw is at the center of an entire local culinary craft industry. Their ice cream is not cheap. It’s expensive to make, it takes time, and it takes a lot of failed attempts at new flavor combinations, but consumers are willing to pay for the best in the ice cream craft.

Other examples of craft in Portland:

    • Jacobsen Salt – Founder Ben Jacobsen took hundreds of trips carrying a 5-gallon bucket (40 lbs) of sea-water in each hand from the Oregon Coast Netarts Bay to his pick-up truck and would go home each day to harvest small amounts of salt to sell to Portland restaurants. No one else was crazy enough to form a business around this back-breaking work, but Ben is the best at his craft and is being sought out all over the world for his salt.
    • Voodoo Donut – Keep Portland weird. Founders Kenneth Pogson and Tres Shannon have no problem with weird. They innovated with donut flavors like maple bacon bars and created a brand that is so sought after, people fly to Portland just to experience that special Voodoo Donut sugar high.
    • Sweetpea Bicycles – Natalie Ramsland, a former architect and bike messenger, started a hand-crafted bike frame business that has a 4-year waiting list. She is a master of her craft and people pay top dollar for a truly custom bike made from pure love and a little bit of steel.

Portland isn’t the only place where craft thrives.  In Japan, Jiro Ono, 85-year-old sushi master is continually making minor improvements to perfect his craft every day. He has dedicated his whole life to sushi.

Part 2 of the blog post will discuss how Portland craft is influencing digital marketing—Here’s one quick example:

Employees at eROI have shown their manager (me) that they are serious about digital marketing craft by starting a social media program within the agency to drive thought leadership on eROI’s behalf across 5 social channels – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and our Think blog.  Each week, 1 employee is dedicated to 1 digital channel (5 employees for 5 marketing channels) and posts on eROI’s behalf every day all week, then a different crop of 5 employees takes over the next week.  That is human-powered, strategic, constant improvement, filled with personality and driving excellence in the company.  Check out our Slideshare presentation on how this works:

About the author:
Ryan Buchanan is CEO + founder of eROI, a digital marketing agency that mixes creativity and strategic thinking with an emphasis on insight and data-driven optimization – or what is also called creative performance.  Clients include Aramark, The Baltimore Sun, CBS, Columbia Sportswear, Conde Nast, Intel, Lightspeed Retail, Nike, and ScienceLogic. Ryan is on the Board of Directors of the Portland Advertising Federation, Friends of the Children, and Entrepreneurs Organization – Portland.

(Read Part Two Here!)

Ryan Buchanan
Ryan Buchanan, CEO at eROI.