Wood carvings, family tradition and digital arrogance – Karl Kahl’s path to digital fame

Based on a supposed wood figurine desginer (Karl Kahl) from the east of Germany…

For centuries, the family-owned workshop of the Kahl family has produced the most marvellous wooden figurines in the region famous for their craftsmanship. Neither the socialist regime nor the sudden change to a capitalist system after 1989 could bring down tradition and passion for carved wood in the Kahl family. Having survived innumerous obstacles, it was high time to make the Kahl figurenes as renown as they ought to be.
And what better way was there to communicate the extraordinary skills of Karl Kahl and his sons and daughters to a global audience then a custom-made digital strategy?
This is how they did it…

A wood carver starting from scratch – you might think

When our agency first sent me to Mr. Kahl’s workshop I have to admit that I was absolutely reluctant. I really tried to evade this project as I could not imagine a less promising mandate. Some wood carver in the hills outside Dresden needed digital advice and a strategy. How could that lead to an interesting project?

I was taught better from the first moment I set foot on the company area.
From neat and modern buildings with a quite wealthy look and several trucks setting off os et big boxest o the view inside the workshop: this was a healthy company obviously exporting in large numbers.

Getting to know Karl Kahl that day was a revelation to me. This seventysomething years old gentleman not only knew how to fabricate the most delicate figurines the way his ancestors did for kings and queens 200 years ago. He was also as eager to know about ideas and posibilities in the digital area as I have not experienced before or after. Therefore it was a really rewarding job to set up the digital strategy for this company.

The very strong and clear brand identity and logo was so much identifying the family, their work, their way to make business that we just had to evolve this into the digital age and ist possibilities.

The goal fort he campaign was set by the company owner anyhow:
„We want to sell our art to connaisseurs from Australia to Iceland while anyone interested in decoration should crave for the possibility to own one of our figurines.“

The static website of the company was set up to be the centre of our digital focus and the centre of our digital strategy as the main purpose was to bring customers form around the globe to Karl Kahl and his very exclusive craftsmanship. Responsive, search engine friendly and packed with content about past and present of the company. Several regularly changing or renewing areas such as news, making of-videos and a customer club area were integrated. The last was the one part which we established to create a post purchase relationship between company and customer as many oft he customers become collectors.

The onlineshop included in the website was redesigned and now offered several opportunities to customize figurines, order special editions or even custom editions based on fotos sent tot he workshop.

Leading to the now relaunched Website, we setup different social media pages focussing on the artistical value and skill represented in the workshop.
By an instagram-account for the design team at Kahl’s combined with a pinterest-site and dribble, we achieved not only fame for the designers educated traditionally but also attracted new product designers, ideas and contributions from around the globe. This way, a fresh input lead to a new figurine series, even stars in Hollywood are proud to posess.
Through this, a goal was achieved, we were not believing to be realistic: create new customer groups for the somehow ancient art of wood carving.

The channels we were very cautious with were youtube, facebook and twitter. The issue here was and still is to keep the brand traditional and exclusive but also appear on these digitial stages and to occupy the niche of exclusive wood carvings from Saxonia.

We tried to solve this in the way that we ignored twitter and used facebook and youtube in a one directional way. This way we tried to establish the sensation of a brand unreachable for normal customers who are only allowed to witness the marvelousness of the figurines.

Some involved in the digital strategy both inside the company and in our agency were not at all happy with this approach. But the effect shows that the decision was right: Our numbers tell us, that Karl Kahl is now the most famous, credible and exclusive brand in its niche.

Still, there ought to be another way less aloof than ignoring the global audience to establish exclusiveness.

I would really like to hear about your opinion on exclusive brands and the digital accesibility. Did you experience a similar obstacle? How did you solve it? Please comment and discuss!

New perspectives and insights for my projects’ digital future

The first part of the mooc “digital and social media marketing” at iversity.org is over and it is time to reflect on the things I saw, read and learned and my conclusions.

As the topics treated and my work overlap in many ways I am already fascinated and have to try to keep my thoughts on everything together.

First of all, I keep on thinking about the digital maturity model. It is interesting both for several of my own projects as well as for some of my clients. The project touched to the highest degree by the question at what digital maturity level we are, would be an online shop for regional products and dialect fun stuff. This is where I pushed the development towards a digital and interactive structure to the farthest. Both considering the appearance in public and the infrastructure on the inside. Up to now, this was a trial and error mission which I hope to give structure and a strategic perspective with the aid of the mooc.
For several reasons I am also wondering what limit to digitalisation would make sense and want to make this part of my strategic thoughts. In my opinion, involvement of the customer and control by the producer have to be balanced differently in different areas.

The second very interesting thought/model is the Zero Moment of truth and its following stages. This was not all new to me as I had read some books and articles on advertising and its impacts and the thoughts of advertisers. For all German readers I can recommend two books by Guido Zurstiege: „Räume des Konsums“ and as nice overview „Werbeforschung“.
The thing I think is important, is to consciously focus on the stage before buying, when customers are building up an idea of the field your product is in. Of course, times have never been so easy to get your word as a provider at this stage. As long as you know what you are doing, when, where and how exactly.

The third thing which I found most interesting in the first chapter of the mooc is the idea of SMART objectivites.
I have worked and still do work on projects or jobs which lack direction, clearness and a defined horizon. Keeping in mind whether you did define specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely goals can save you from frustration, wasting time and passing important deadlines. I think that this is not only important for digital strategy but even more for uniting different players and collaborators on one project. My goal now is, to set SMART objectives for the development of our online shop and the different steps we have been trying to reach for some time now.

Fourthly, the aspect of online branding is both interesting and painful.
I have been aware of our blind spot and unused potential to build up a clear digital brand. I really hope to get some kind of structure to develop this aspect of our shop as we are also starting an all new label. By stepping into social media for example with a trial and error approach, we somehow got a strange garden, nobody will be able to identify as a brand. I think the kick off for our label would be a good point to somehow relaunch our digital brand and give it a style wich makes sense. Mister Charalambidis makes the most important point for me in this matter: Do not just use a social network because it is there. Develop your digital brand, prepare your content and choose the channels which work for your brand.

Last, not least, I want to state a more general point which for me underlies the whole idea of me participating in this mooc. For the first time, I am making the step from working my way through all aspects of digital appearance like an adventurer with his machete through the jungle to a conscious and strategic approach. This is a very relieving experience and I am happy to be part of this mooc to make my steps from here onward.

Now I cannot wait to dive into the next chapter and bring some more regime in my digital chaos…