Kaufmann Mercantile


Kaufmann Mercantile has been one of my favorite stores to keep up with since shortly after they launched in 2010.   They’ve grow their online presence from just a handful of products into an ecompassing lifestyle store- while masterfully keeping their brand image focused and product assortment sharp.  I consider this bottle opener to be one of my best purchases ever (it’s that fantastic), and have spent hours reading article after article on the reference section of their site.  Emails are addressed from Sebastian directly, and it works- when I open them, I feel like I’m having a personal dialogue, that the message inside was meant just for me.  The product copy is wonderfully crafted and full of interesting information, and their stance on discounting is somewhat revolutionary in a world of “sale-on-sale”.  (And, having worked with many of the same sources in my own career as a buyer, I have complete faith in their eye for quality and make).

There is a movement in retailing that Kaufmann Mercantile was on the early edge of, a market shift towards what Everlane is marketing as “radical transparency”, Zady as “conscious consumerism”, Cuyana as “fewer, better”.  Consumers are demanding to know more about the products they are buying- whether it be food, t-shirts, or pots and pans- and by purchasing a product, are also crafting their own social and ethical image.  As retailers respond, the market is begining to become heavy with brands that are pushing artisan story, open sourcing, objects with meaning, considered design- and now consumers have the responsibility of learning to thoughtfully navigate this new shopping landscape, where every purchase is filled with information and importance.

As an early leader of this movement, which is quickly changing why and how we buy (a topic I would love to research should I ever decide to go back to school- for now, this is a solid overview of new retailers), Kaufmann Mercantile has built their presence on offering quality items, supported by great story, and of always of high aesthetic.  Their assortment sits together beautifully as a collection, united by quality and make, and the brand relays a consistent, considered point-of-view at all points.  In a marketplace that is chasing authenticity, the brand stands out as having a true voice, developed through conversation with their customer and products that without exception tie into and celebrate their brand story.

So, enough flattery- I do see some opportunities for them, but clearly I am a big fan of what they are doing.  Recently, I landed on the KM website and saw this new campaign.  It immediately grabbed my interest.  Even more noteworthy is that despite the daily deluge of marketing and advertising noise that crosses my path, I found my self clicking back several times over the next few days to read it again.

 After giving it some thought, there are a few things here that I find myself respnding to.  It not only highlights process, story, and the human element of making, but it ties all of this rich story to product, and even further, directly compels the customer to buy.

  1. It tells a great story, involving the reader immediately by positioning an issue to be solved (not all products are created equal), and then thoughtfuly delivering a solution.
  2. It capitalizes on brand credibility and trust, proven to increase engagement and conversion rates.
  3. It features product- the larger brand message is channeled into one, single physical item for sale.
  4. It compels the reader to buy through psychological several levers: exclusiveness, guarantee of quality, social good, social inclusiveness, and shared ownership of the process.
  5. It is visually engaging, graphic, clear, and aesthetically pleasing.
  6. It respects the customer’s intelligence and engages the customer, brand, product, and makers in true, multi-dimensional conversation.
  7. It encapsulates the brand values in a concise, relatable tone.

Often in the online market, we see messaging that either celebrates story without product, or is so product-centric that it falls flat.  The balance in this piece is great, and as a long-time follower of Kaufmann Mercantile, it signals an interesting new direction for them- one that is aligned with the roots of their brand while still pushing forward and giving them new relevance.  Well done in my book.

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images via Kaufmann Mercantile and here. endnote- while putting together this post, I did some research on two of the men behind the brand- founder, Sebastian Kaufmann, and product researcher Nathan Needle.  For some further reading, check out articles here, here and here