A lot has been said about how Project Life’s massive and rapid popularity the past few years has changed the consumer side of scrapbooking. But how has it changed the scrapbook industry from a business perspective? As we come upon another Craft & Hobby Association trade show in a few weeks, with all of the new product releases, it seems a good time to examine the fundamental shifts this seminal product line has brought to papercrafting as a business.
Everything Has Gotten Smaller
This trend started with the re-emergence of cards as a market force, but was accelerated and brought into non-card products by Project Life’s explosive popularity. Design elements such as embellishments are decreasing in size. It’s all about scale. The shrinking size of elements is to better accommodate the smaller canvas size of Project Life, where the largest basic area to work with is 4×6.
Not only are items getting smaller, but designs are too. Patterned paper designs are being scaled smaller, and more and more papercrafters are buying 6×6 paper pads instead of full-size paper to get both the smaller scale of the prints and also because that size is sufficient for doing cards and Project Life.
From a business perspective, this has meant a couple of things. Package sizes can be smaller when items are smaller – a 4×6 sized stamp set package is now sufficient to hold a selection of designs for a theme, whereas 8×10 or even larger used to be used routinely. It also means a package typically has more items in it – a larger quantity of small chipboard pieces instead of a smaller quantity of large ones, for instance. This reduces costs in many areas (like packaging and shipping), but increases them in others (such as design and machine set-up costs).
The substitution of 6×6 paper pads for 12×12 paper purchases can be either a win or a loss for companies. If the consumer is a “cherry picker” who tends to only buy a sheet or two of a collection, they may end up investing more in the company’s product by buying the paper pad and then being motivated to purchase coordinating embellishments since they have the whole selection of paper to work with. If the consumer was a “collection” buyer, purchasing 12×12 collection pack, the 6×6 pad is a much cheaper price point being substituted – a financial loss for the company.
Everything Has Gotten Flatter
Another trend that started with cards (due to the limitations of envelopes) but was greatly accelerated by the use of pocket pages in Project Life, is the flattening of page elements. Traditional layouts had gotten very dimensional with the vintage trend in particular, using metal elements and things like epoxy flowers. Now everything is flat, to fit in pockets and envelopes. Now we’ve transitioned to a lot of relatively flat die cut elements made from a variety of materials like chipboard and wood, stickers, brads and of course journal cards.
The downside of this from a marketing standpoint is that it is harder to create a “must have” item that stands out from the crowd when a consumer is looking at a sea of flat items.
Another side effect of the allure of “flat” to the consumer has been the explosive growth of die cutting, particularly machines like the Silhouette, which has a large library of journal card cutting files designed specifically for use in pocket pages. To get their foot in this market, savvy manufacturers are thinking outside the realm of physical products and designing digital cut files to accompany their physical collections.
Collections Must Have Journal Cards
Since the rising popularity of Project Life, it has become almost routine for companies to include 3×4 and 4×6 “journal cards” in some form in their scrapbook collections. Sometimes this is done by using the “B” side of a patterned paper. Other times it is done by packaging die cut elements (usually only 3×4 designs) and marketing them as part of the collection’s embellishments.
This is basically a “if you can’t beat them, join them” tactic by companies who realize that their customers are being drawn into the pocket scrapbooking concept and want to go along for the ride to preserve their relationship with the customer.
Color Palettes Are Standardized
With Project Life so dominating the industry, consumers are committing to the color palettes of its collections for their albums. They are purchasing Project Life core kits, and then going in search of “add ons” from other companies that coordinate with and expand on their chosen kit or kits.
The challenge this poses for other companies is in trying to keep their color palettes in line with the Project Life-led trends. In the past, companies would look to guidance from sources like Pantone reports and home decor and fashion to set their color palettes for a product release, and the industry would be dominated by a few trendy colors from those sources. Now Project Life is shaking all of that up. Like all products, Project Life color palettes are kept secret until right before the trade show so companies have to try to guess what direction they will go for their concurrent releases. I predict that we will start to see a cycle where we see Project Life releasing product at the trade shows, and then other companies announcing “mid release” product lines that follow those palettes.
Vintage is Dead; Long Live Graphic!
Vintage has dominated the scrapbook industry for several years, but now we are seeing an explosion of graphic style product. This is happening for several reasons. There is a normal fashion cycle at work, but it has been greatly accelerated by other factors. Consumers have fallen in love with Project Life’s signature graphic style and are adopting it for all of their papercrafting. Consumers are also buying products that coordinate with their kits to extend their Project Life kits, so of course they are looking for products that are a similar style.
The bottom line of all of this is that companies whose signature style is vintage style products are now shut out of a huge segment of the market, where they owned it a few years ago.
It’s rare that a product line is so revolutionary that it becomes evolutionary and changes the face of an industry. Project Life, while not the first product of its kind, caught the public’s imagination in a way that has given it incredible market power.