Brand Basics For Artists

What Are People Saying About You, Your Art, Your Business?

What does your brand say about your art business?

What does your brand say about your art business?

Your brand is one of the most important things in your art business and will have a large impact on your overall success and direction. Other people will define your brand so it is imperative that you develop and manage its perception and reality.

Brands are everywhere, you have seen them; Coke, Pepsi, Nike, Ford, Mercedes, Dollar Store, Neiman Marcus, Oprah, Martha Stewart, PBS, Fox News, Prada, Walmart, Bic, Mount Blanc, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Louvre, and the list goes on and on. Each brand name has an experience and expectation associated with it.Here are a few names that you might not associate with a brand; Picasso, Andy Warhol, Christo and Jeane-Claude, Henry Moore, Salvador Dali, Richard Avedon, Ansel Adams, Jasper Johns, Robert Mapplethorpe, Georgia O’Keefe, Jackson Pollock, Norman Rockwell, and the list goes on and on. Each name has an experience and expectation associated with it.

The above examples are brands, some are businesses and some are personal. For many personal brands it may be hard to separate them from the business brand.

The Traditional View of Brand

Brands started out as a way to mark cattle with a hot iron so that on the open range each rancher could keep track of his herd. As the economy grew and became more industrialized there was a rise of products available to consumers. The concept of brand was applied to these products in the form of logos, designs and trademarks in order to differentiate them in the marketplace. It always makes me laugh when I meet consultants who say “they help others with branding” or “we do branding” – do all of their customers have cattle?  I prefer to use the term “brand development” and you don’t have to wonder if a hot iron is in your future.

Brands can be local, regional, national or worldwide. There are probably many brands in your local area that are not known to a wider geographic area. There are also brands like Coke that are familiar on every corner of the earth.

Brands relate to those that the business touches, such as customers, suppliers, employees, the media, partners, shareholders and the public in general.

An Expanded View of Brand

In developing your business and marketing plans it is helpful to take a much broader view of brand. Think of your brand as a term to aggregate all of the things that make up your business such as:

  • Your logo, designs and intellectual property such as trademarks and patents
  • Your marketing materials, web presence, advertising and other marketing activities and the image they give
  • Your network of people, both virtual and in-person
  • Your mission for your business, your vision of the future and values you hold
  • Your level of expertise and professionalism
  • The products and services you provide
  • Your creative style, genre, quality, and selection
  • Your level of being cutting edge or the use of technology
  • Your customers and prospects and how they perceive you
  • Your facilities, studio or workshop
  • How and where your products are distributed and sold
  • Your company in relation to your competition
  • Your customer service, return policies and pricing
  • Your payments terms and types of payment accepted
  • Your level of community involvement and environmental sensitivity
  • How others in your organization are brand champions for your business
  • How you create or manufacture your art / products
  • How and how well your company is managed
  • Your business’s reputation with customers, prospects, employees, suppliers, industry influentials, the press, your peers and the general public
  • Your promise of value to your customers

In short: Your brand is everything your business does and everybody you touch either directly or indirectly. Your brand is what OTHER people say about your business – you have the power and responsibility to manage what this message is.

Personal Brand

The concept of a personal brand has been around for about 20 years and was put in the forefront of the business world in the article The Brand Called You by Tom Peters. His concept was fairly simple, “It’s time for me – and you – to take a lesson from the big brands, a lesson that’s true for anyone who’s interested in what it takes to stand out and prosper in the new world of work…. We are CEO’s of our own companies, Me Inc.”

The concept of personal brand has not been accepted by all. Many would argue that a personal brand does not exist and it is crazy to try to apply brand attributes to a person. Others argue that personal brand is really just “reputation” or your “image”. Whatever side of the argument you are on there is a lot to be learned from the personal brand concept.

What Goes Into Personal Brand?

Just like your business has a brand you have a personal brand as well. Your business and personal brand may be separate but they also may be one in the same – it may be very hard for some to separate the two. Here are some questions that will help you identify what goes into defining your personal brand:

  • How are you, your accomplishments and your art viewed?
  • What makes you different?
  • What makes you remarkable?
  • What is your “secret sauce”?
  • How do you add value to customers who buy from you?
  • How do you add value to people you interact with?
  • Does your dress, speech, writing, communications, demeanor and the way you treat people support your brand?
  • Is your personal brand consistent in both in person and in the virtual world?
  • Are you sought after to teach, volunteer, write or speak?
  • Is your personal brand authentic and honest?

The Bottom Line of Brand

At the end of the day your brand whether business or personal is what others are saying about you, their expectations, and their perceptions. Your brand should guide you through planning and marketing your art business and serve as a basis for everyday actions – everything you do should support your brand.

Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What do you want to be known for?
  2. What do you want your brand to be?
  3. What makes you and/or your company the only solution?

If you don’t define and nurture your brand others may do it for you – take charge of your own future and take your brand seriously!

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About Neil McKenzie

Neil McKenzie is an author, educator and consultant to artists and arts organizations. He is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver. Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto