Building an Artist BrandNov 17, 2021
Author: Leigh Penner
Let's talk Branding.
We are all familiar with brand names when it comes to mainstream commercial products. Nike. Wrangler. Heinz. Red Rose Tea. West Jet. Harley Davidson. Johnson & Johnson. Pfizer. So now, let's free associate each of those names for a moment. Your first thoughts may be different than mine. but with each name, I have an immediate reaction. I know what they produce. I also have images and emotional associations with each name. You likely do, too. That is having a brand.
If you are going to sell your art, your brand as an artist is what you are known for, and it is how potential clients will immediately recognize your work over that of another artist. For me, if I want ketchup, I know I want Heinz. As an artist, you want people to think, I want ____, then have them think of you.
So, how do you, as an artist create a brand for your art?
Brand, according to Debbie Millman, is "deliberate differentiation." Basically, your brand is what makes your work unique, memorable, and different from everyone else in your same market. Which sounds great, and all, but have you ever actually tried to articulate what it is which sets you apart from everyone else? It can be harder to do than you expect and takes, at minimum, some introspection and observation. You need to pay attention to the trends, repetitions, and themes in your art that you return to over and over again with (or without) conscious intent.
1. Market Research
Even before defining your brand, a good first step is market research. Who is your ideal customer? Who are your competitors? What do your customers want? I mean, if you are an artist, they want artwork, but that is only the starting point. Customers want an experience, an emotion that they receive through purchasing and owning a product. So what do your potential customers want to feel? And how are your competitors going about meeting that need? How could you do it better?
2. Evaluate Personality
Your brand is how you are perceived by others, and it is the underlying story you are trying to tell. To build a brand, it is wise to consider the personality you want your brand to embody. What are the values and goals of your company?
This step in creating a brand can actually be the hardest. You have to figure out what makes you and your work unique. What is its primary identifying trait? Is the person who you are and the way you conduct yourself consistent with the feeling your product is trying to sell? Consider Charla for a moment. What she paints and who she is are both identifiably Charla Maarschalk. She is the brand. There is no conflict between who she is and the work she produces. Both are fearless, bright, and bold. Her artwork is a reflection of her inner reality.
Sometimes, it takes a while to figure out who you are as an artist. One thing that may help is to decide what you want to do with your artwork. What is your goal? Are you wanting to make a political statement? Is your goal to make beautiful images which make people happy? You get to decide. Take some time to think about it. Once you know what you want, stay true and authentic to your vision, yourself, and your talent.
Once you know what your art is about and what you want to do with it, it is time to get the word out. If you want your brand to be consistent, you also want it to be recognizable. This means letting it be seen.
We live in a visual world. A big part of brand involves the visual presentation of your work. To sell in a digital world, you are going to need an online platform. You will need a company name -- even if that is also your actual name. You will need to design a logo, choose a color scheme, come up with a company slogan and settle on the fonts you will use on a repeat basis. In effect, you are creating a visual language that identifies you to consumers.
Similarly, if you want people to recognize you through your visuals, you also want them to recognize you through how you sound. What is the voice of your company -- your tone? Are you positive? Are you focused on beauty in the world? Are you making a political statement? Are you classy and high-brow? Are you a voice in the wilderness calling for change?
The language you choose to use in all written communications and in public, verbal encounters needs to reflect the aims of your brand. You don't want what you say to sound discordant to the visual you project. This means, the level of formality, the underlying message, and the tone all need to work together and not distract from the statement your brand is making.
A brand is consistent -- that's what makes it identifiable. A brand is relatable. The product a brand represents sells something -- an item or an emotion -- which other individuals can relate to. It is at the same time incredibly personal and has a component of universality.
Once you've done the work behind crafting a brand, it's time to sell. Take your work to art shows, show it on social media, create a website. You want to be accessible to the public and easy to find. Once people see your work and your unique style on a regular, repeat basis, you will become recognizable to them. You will have developed your brand, and will keep people coming back for more.
"Brand is just perception, and perception will match reality over time."
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