As a brand strategist for the arts at Campbell’s, Brent Turner explores a facet of the art world that many of us never consider.
About four years ago, well into my practice as a marketing communications strategist for the contemporary art industry, I stumbled upon a very simple notion that changed the way I advised clients; it is a golden rule that some of us know instinctively, that many others of us will pick up along the way, and that some may never learn: “Give more than you get.”
The idea is easy to grasp and just trite enough to contain have a modicum of wisdom.
Let’s assume for a second that with every purchase of a branded product, a consumer enters into a compact that states that he or she believes the product to be more valuable than the cash in his or her pocket. Let’s also assume that, should this notion prove to be true and should the brand deliver on this promise, the consumer may develop a sense of loyalty to the brand. It’s not too hard then to see that loyalty is the root of a brand’s longevity. Tacitly implied in our choices as consumers, from the beer we drink to the health plans we choose, is the affirmation that those services are worth more to than our hard earned dollars. They give us more than they take.
In art however, value is not necessarily intrinsic to the object, nor is it necessarily tied to the object at all. Art is an industry not led by the perception of value but by the idea of perception as value. In order to market art, one must elegantly sidestep through a series of unconventional approaches. It’s within this construct that the concept of the person-as-brand, or artist-as-brand comes into play: Who are you? What do you offer? With whom else are you typically aligned and identified?
A product manager relentlessly refines ever clearer and more memorable distillations of a product’s value proposition. It’s through this same process that the person-as-brand can develop a caché. From superficial visual cues—be they affected (Jeffrey Deitch’s glasses) or naturally endowed (John Baldessari’s immense frame)— the person-as-brand can develop an arsenal of tropes from which symbols are drawn to communicate his or her unique value proposition. Some artists just do it. Other artists personify it. It’s not the art you’re buying, it’s the artist. (Warhol– we’re looking at you).
The reason that I now advocate for the artist-as-brand strategy is because I’ve seen it work.
I’ve watched as branded clients develop a sort of infectious magnetism in their game. People want to know them, be where they are, see the world as they see it. Somewhere in all that, deals are made, artwork shows or sells and everyone is happy. Theirs is a perceived value—and that, in an art world in which real value can be nearly impossible to discern, is the value of perception.