Artist Goals 2014 – Developing and Managing My Brand

Creatives and Business Cattle Branding

Branding is for cattle. Building your brand is what you do!

Ok, your brand is one of the most important things in your art business and it will have a large impact on your overall business success. One thing about your brand is that other people will define it, so it’s 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 and your brand does too!

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 and your name does too!

The above examples are brands, some are businesses and some are more personal. For many artists it may be hard to separate your personal brand from your business brand – they may be in the same.

The traditional view of brand

Brands started out as a way to mark livestock so that a 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, packaging and trademarks in order to differentiate them on the store shelf.

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. With the rise of the internet it is now easier than ever for you to expand your brand reach.

“A brand affects those that the business touches, such as customers, prospects, suppliers, employees, the media and the public in general.”

An expanded view of brand

In looking at your marketing efforts and how you run your business, it is helpful to take a much broader view of brand. Think of brand as a term that describes all of the things that make up your business such as:

  • Your unique creative style
  • Your level of expertise and professionalism
  • The genre, quality, and selection of the art you create
  • How you create or manufacture your art and the techniques you use
  • The mission for your business and the vision of the future and values you hold
  • The story you tell about you, your art and your art business
  • Your brand as experienced by all that it touches
  • Your network of people both in-person and online
  • Your level of community involvement and environmental sensitivity
  • Your location, facilities, studio, workshop or gallery representation
  • Yours, your employee’s and your representative’s attitude, dress, demeanor and manners
  • Your business’s reputation with customers, prospects, employees, suppliers, industry influentials, the press, your peers and the general public
  • Your logo, designs and intellectual property such as copyrights and trademarks
  • Your marketing materials, web presence, advertising and other marketing activities and how they reinforce your brand
  • How and where your art is distributed and sold
  • Your customer service, return policies, pricing, and payment terms
  • How and how well your company is managed and how others in your organization or network are brand champions for your business
  • Your promise of value to your customers and how well you keep it!

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

The bottom lines(s)…

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 not only guide you through the planning and marketing of your art business, it should also serve as a basis for everyday actions – everything you do should support your brand!

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 and all that goes into it seriously! Your brand is one of your most valuable assets.

If you would like to learn more about building your brand I invite you to check out my book – The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox. Good Luck!


Neil McKenzie 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 where he teaches “Marketing the Arts”.

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

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