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What The Art World Teaches Brands


What The Art World Teaches Brands

Do brands foster creativity? It’s doubtful. Despite all the articles online about how to foster a culture of creativity at brands, companies peddling products are the last place people turn for creative expression.

On the other hand, brands could learn a lot from the outsider art.

Art has always been about what one feels and what one wants to express. It’s also about making a personal statement. Art contributes to the world around us when it makes people feel something as a result of their interaction with it. For decades, brands wanted their statement and narrative to be the only story that customers heard. For this reason, brands were at the forefront of de-emphasizing art. As far as they were concerned, it was unimportant to the sales process. In the early 1990s, with the rise of personal computing and software such as PowerPoint, organizations concentrated solely on value process, asking, “How do we sell us?” “How do we talk about us?” Most ad and marketing campaigns at that time were brand centered. The only art was found in slogans, like one from Pepsi that showed pop art versions of their cans and the tagline: “Our idea of pop art. New Cool Cans.”

That was in a read-only world. Yet despite the changes, many brands still don’t seem to understand that we now live in a read/ write/remix world, and such narratives leave little space for creative expression or third-party partnerships. However, in 2013, art came roaring back into many marketing campaigns, including those for W Hotels, Lincoln cars, Ketel One Vodka, and Samsung Electronics. You could say that many on Madison Avenue were adopting the slogan Ars gratia artis, or “Art for art’s sake,” in order to speak the same language as a young generation that appreciated art as a common language.

Today, with platforms like Instagram, Snapwire, and Olapic ushering in creativity for any smartphone user, brands are beginning to backtrack and position themselves again in the middle of modern design and technology. After all, these actions now help generate revenue. For many brands, creative directors, and media, the appeal of using “social photography” for commercial purposes is growing. First, the variety of potential photos is nearly infinite, the visuals often have a personality or authenticity that traditional stock photos lack, and there’s plenty of opportunity for valuable engagement with fans and customers. Second, any mobile camera user can now be a photographer on behalf of the brand.

That said, does anyone really want to create brand art? For much of human history, economics de-emphasized making, creating, innovating, and producing art because it didn’t create capital. However, now that brands are moving away from capital as their main reason to exist, they are beginning to understand that creative imagery is a key piece in connecting with people.

Learn more about how to keep your brand relevant in the 21st Century in my new book Disruptive Marketing.

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