In my latest column for Visual Thesaurus, online today, I look at the shifting meaning of artisan in mass-market branding. The word originally meant “a craftsperson who uses traditional or non-mechanized methods.” (And manufacture literally meant “to make by hand,” but that’s another story.) Today, however, it has some strange bedfellows—or tablefellows—including Domino’s new Artisan Pizzas, which cost $7.99 each and are only kidding about the artisan part. “We’re Not Artisans,” reads Domino’s home-page banner, “But This Might Just Convince You We Are.”
Domino’s new “Artisan Pizza”: an inside joke? Photo from GrubGrade.
You’ll have to subscribe to read the full article (just $19.95 a year!). Here’s an excerpt:
In branding, “artisan” has become less a descriptor than an honorific. It’s shorthand for something desirable and time honored, and it’s defined largely by its context. The artisan cheese at your local farmers’ market may in fact have been made by artisans. At Domino’s Pizza, “artisan” is the verbal-branding equivalent of a parsley garnish: attractive but not nutritionally significant. The same can be said—according to the research organization Datamonitor—for many of the 800 or so food products introduced in the last five years that use “artisan” in their names.
Speaking for myself, whenever I see “artisan” I think about the Artesians. Does anyone else remember that ad campaign for Olympia beer?