Of the innumerable alternative, artisanal, new-economy brands to emerge from Brooklyn in the past few years, few have achieved the global reach of Etsy, the online marketplace for (mostly) handcrafted items—a kind of crunchy-granola version of eBay—and the go-to platform when you're in the market for a bar of goat-milk soap or a crocheted pillow shaped like a cat. At any given moment, Etsy has 1.7 million sellers who've posted 40 million items for sale that are, in turn, browsed by 26.1 million would-be buyers in some 190 countries.
One thing Etsy does not have, though, is a global advertising campaign—at least, not until today. With a creative assist from Office of Baby, Etsy is unveiling a colorful assemblage of animated GIFs, stills and video ads that'll fan out across the web, appearing everywhere from YouTube to Facebook to Instagram, with the unifying slogan, "Difference Makes Us."
"For the past 11 years, this is something we've wanted to do," said senior director of global marketing Andre Rickerby. "It's the next step forward."
Perhaps more interesting than the fact of the new ads themselves is how Etsy has chosen to represent itself in them—with coffee mugs and nightstands.
And what's that stuff got to do with a message like "Difference Makes Us"? Office of Baby's creatives selected the two items because of their universality (everybody owns a coffee mug and a nightstand) as well as their sheer variety (everybody owns a different coffee cup and nightstand). As CCO Paul Caiozzo explained, these items stand for individuality—and it doesn't hurt that so many varieties of them also happen to be for sale on Etsy.
"An important part of this message is: Did you know that something as simple as a coffee cup can reflect what creativity means to you?" Caiozzo said. "And on Etsy, there are 200,000 different coffee cups—new, old, antique, used, vintage—that you can get."
"Mugs and tables are everyday expressions of individuality," Rickerby added. "We want people to be aware that Etsy allows you to be different, and we wanted to make the campaign as real as possible."
And real it certainly is. All of the night tables and coffee mugs that appear in the advertising were purchased directly off Etsy. What's more, the items shown in ads continuously change.
"The products are swapped out over and over again," Caiozzo said. "The bigger idea here is to manifest difference by making a commercial that would always be different."
In other words, even if a consumer sees an ad more than once, he'll effectively be seeing a new ad each time. (To keep the pipeline full, Etsy has asked its sellers to grab their iPhones and shoot and submit items they're selling so Office of Baby can cut new material into the ads.)
In a strategic sense, the "Difference Makes Us" campaign represents another kind difference—making a direct appeal to shoppers.
Since its 2005 founding, Etsy has focused largely on its community of vendors, who sold items they made themselves. (A 2013 policy change permitted sellers to start using outside manufacturers, stretching the definition of "handmade," in the view of some critics.) Yet as Etsy has continued to grow at a steady clip—most recently, through its IPO in April 2015—it's come to recognize the importance of speaking directly to consumers, not least because competition for their attention is keen from behemoth competitors like eBay and, of course, Amazon. Etsy's revenues have risen steadily (up 39 percent as of the second quarter of 2016), but the company has only recently moved into the black, posting its first profit of $1.2 million in Q1 2016. The company's opening-day stock price of $16 a share was, at press time, hovering at a dispiriting $13.68.
Which means, among other things, that Etsy needs to make more shoppers aware of its existence as well as its point of difference. "Ninety percent of people come to Etsy to find something they couldn't find somewhere else," Rickerby said. "This campaign is about making everyone aware that Etsy is relevant for them."