With the continuing liberalization and deregulation of the world trading system freeing the flow of goods and services, the international business environment is becoming increasingly competitive for creators and providers of all kinds of craft and visual arts products. Consumers now have tremendous choice. Artisans, craft entrepreneurs, visual artists and all the intermediaries in the supply chain must constantly strive to improve the quality of their products and services, the production processes, their brand identity and the effectiveness of their marketing strategies, if they wish to improve their business performance, productivity and competitiveness and win the hearts and minds of customers. Understanding the market, particularly the behaviour of consumers and competitors, is the key to success for any business. Identifying a demand and then working backwards – before making a product – is a must. This is where marketing comes in.
Marketing implies a market-driven, customer-centred approach. This is the reality for most categories of goods and services. For the craft and visual arts sectors, the marketing challenges come from many directions. At first sight, it would seem that machine-made products could easily be substituted for these essentially hand-made ones, especially in our knowledge-driven high-tech times: modern industry is enabling an increasing degree of mass customization and personalization of product offerings. Another challenge may come from the fact that the products of craftspeople and visual artists are not generally basic needs for consumers. As a result, consumption of these products may decline if consumer spending is down, especially during economic downturns.
A key strength of artisans and visual artists lies in their creativity and craftsmanship in expressing it. This gives their output a distinct traditional, cultural or symbolic flavour, which arouses the interest and matches the emotional needs and aesthetic tastes of discerning customers in specialized niches of domestic and export markets. Even so, attracting and retaining consumers is a daunting task in an overcrowded marketplace, where consumers find ample choice and alternatives and where competitors are constantly searching for successful product trends.
Given today’s instant information and communication facilities, coupled with the ease and speed of copying and imitation, the market can simply get flooded with look-alike products or downright copies, which are also known as ‘counterfeits’ or ‘forgeries’. The real challenge for artisans and visual artists is thus not just to produce and market winning new products that cater to changing consumer tastes, but also to prevent – or if unable to prevent then to effectively deal with – unfair competition or theft of their creative ideas. The intellectual property (IP) system is the best available tool for creating and maintaining exclusivity over creative and innovative output in the marketplace, albeit for a specified maximum period of time. The effective use of IP can also help artisans and visual artists to develop networks and relationships not only with end consumers, but also with all the links in the supply and demand networks.
If artisans and visual artists are to get a fair return from their creativity in the marketplace, it is important for them to follow a planned and systematic marketing strategy which integrates the use of the tools provided by the system of IP rights. This must begin with a basic understanding of the principles of marketing and of the IP system, along with a broad recognition of the value of IP assets in marketing and practical guidance in making proper use of them.
The highly competitive nature of the marketing process compels each country to protect culture-based goods as a substantial part of its national cultural heritage. This is especially relevant for many developing countries and countries in transition, in which the role of the craft and visual arts sectors can prove to be pivotal for sustainable development and poverty reduction. For policy-makers in government, business and civil society in these countries, defending the interests of artisans, craft entrepreneurs and visual artists against unfair competition is becoming critical in order to underpin their commercial success and their contribution to individual and collective wealth creation, as well as to preserve cultural identity and diversity.
WIPO and ITC have joined hands to improve information dissemination, awareness creation and capacity building in their client countries, to explain the decisive links between successful marketing and the appropriate use of the tools of the IP system. In this spirit, this Guide attempts to demystify marketing and IP by underlining the practical relevance of both – and their interdependence – in responding to the economic or business needs of artisans, craft entrepreneurs and visual artists. This understanding should allow them to create and retain a competitive edge in the marketplace and to make meaningful profits based on their creativity, expertise, skills and enterprise – and by using fair means. [Preface, p. iv-v]