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An Open Response About Design Teams

Craft Product Design Team Benefits and Failures

What is a Design Team?

Loosely defined, a design team is a group of people who help promote a company or product line for a given period of time. The lines of advertising have changed with the progress of social media. Brands understand the importance of a consumer’s voice and the potential reach blogs – websites – youtube – and social media can generate. Companies are adjusting their advertising budgets to include these connections.

Benefits

There are benefits to having a relationship with a brand. These relationships are highly sought after. With that said, the relationship needs to be mutually beneficial. Unfortunately for both sides, there are no standards to this relationship due to the newness of it in the industry.

The requirements from the brand are typically spelled out in the call-out to join. Wishful crafters apply providing the necessary information and wait to hear if they have made the team. This application information usually includes your links and the number of followers. Having a media kit (a kind of resume for your website) can assist in this application as well as show your professionalism. Links or photos of projects you have created are also usually requested.

Team Benefits
Team member benefits can vary greatly between brands. This is where most frustration is generated by bloggers. Those who blog for a living or are attempting to generate income often get frustrated at the lack of understanding that they don’t work for free. Viewing your site as a business means you should be treated like any other business relationship. With that said, here are the varieties seen:

1. Brands will offer discounts on their products in exchange for promotion on your site. In other words, you get to pay for their advertising by purchasing their products at a discounted rate. This is not a good business practice.
2. Brands will offer products for free in exchange for promotion on your site. This is a better practice but once again you are working essentially free. You may benefit from free products but if they are used up through the work created for the post, you aren’t really benefiting. If you need to use additional products you pay for, you are once again paying to advertise for the brand. However, this is a very common relationship and many bloggers will join due to the exposure it can generate. This is not a great business practice.
3. Brands will offer products for free and pay for monthly blog posts or submissions. This is the best relationship seen from a brand. One that is mutually beneficial and one that understands the value of the relationship. They have adjusted their advertising budget for this form of advertising. However, the fees paid vary greatly from team to team. This can be a good business practice.

Brand Benefits
Brands benefit from relationships with blogs. While advertising budgets should adjust, the playing field has broadened and needs to incorporate social media. Both the brand and a connection with the consumer voice in the form of vloggers and bloggers.

1. Brands benefit through a consumer view of their product. Showing their product in use. Working with a blogger can often be financially beneficial compared to hiring full-time product design specialists.
2. Brands benefit from a consumer reach they might otherwise not be able to produce.
3. Brands can request specific focus or theme-related projects to fulfill a need.
4. Brands benefit by getting their products into the consumer’s hands and seeing how they get used. A form of product testing they couldn’t duplicate any other way.
5. Brands may benefit by having digital content created for them.
6. The pandemic has limited companies in many ways but it has also opened up new avenues of promotion. If you aren’t working with a design team currently, consider this as a new avenue for advertising that you need to invest in.

Requirements

Team membership requirements are usually based on a monthly schedule. Designers can be required to produce anywhere from one project to too many within a month. The most beneficial teams are ones that require one project or two projects a month. Steer clear of those that require more, leaving you room for other forms of work. Extreme requirements often found in the scrapbooking and card-making design teams are where they request two projects per week!

The length of time spent on a design team can also vary. Some terms can be six months to a year. Once on a team, you might have automatic renewal for the next year while other teams replace all members each term. Term limits don’t have to be negative. They can be beneficial for both parties.

Bad Business

Some bad practices in the industry have been seen and broadly discussed through the digital community. Brands have been known to steal images from bloggers that have used their products. They have used these images in their own publications without any acknowledgment to the designers and without paying for the photography. In the worst cases, big brands have stollen images that weren’t even created for the brand and then used the image in their publication. Some brands write into their contracts that any design that uses their product is their sole property when actually the designer holds all rights to the finished project unless they have signed over rights. Any transfers of creative products should be compensated with a fee. That fee should be in the range of standardized fees.

Where do we go from here?

Obviously, the craft industry can benefit from conformity to standardized requirements for design team members. Where will this standardization be generated? Through articles like this, discussions among associations, and ultimately guidelines being suggested, documented and published by non-profit organizations that support the craft industry.

Resources:

Helpful Terminology

Design Team: a design team is a group of people who help promote a company or product line for a given period of time.

Design Team Manager: a person that can be in-house or not, that coordinates and manages the organization of the team.

Affiliate: a brand will pay a percentage for any business generated from a link, promotion, or comment. The link must contain a trackable code.

Brand Ambassador: a person who is vocal about your brand. They are hired by the brand. There is a contractual loyalty to the brand. Often referred to as SMBA – social media brand ambassador.

Weekly Challenges: run by a company or a themed website. No products are provided, no fees are paid. The challenge has specific requirements and designers post their creation that fits the requirements.

Guest Designer: hired for a limited time, could even be one project. They are provided materials to work with and usually but not always paid a fee for their creative project.

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