TITLE: Building Your Brand of Success
DATE: 8/18/2004 08:15:00 AM
"To succeed in the world you must do everything you can to appear successful." -François, Duc de la Rouchefoucauld (1613-1680)
I received an email last week from an artist who has worked tirelessly over the last four years to market and sell her work to craft galleries. All with little result. In fact she has had nearly NO result!
Her question to me: "What do I do now?"
Immediately I put my pen to paper and started a list of what I would do if I were in her shoes—where I would look next, what I would spend my remaining savings on, how I would work to elevate my name.
Everything on my list centered on one very basic idea. She must brand herself! Thus far she has been doing a show here, a mailing there, an ad here, an editorial there. People who are unfamiliar with her work may be lucky to have received a postcard in the mail or to have walked past her at a trade show. But the possibility of a gallery putting two and two together and remembering her name and artwork… well the possibility is frustratingly remote.
My advice to this artist begins with a simple matter of appearances . Perhaps these first impression boosting ideas will help you in selling your artwork and keeping your fledgling business afloat:
1) To attain success you must first appear successful. In the art world, professional photography and booth displays often make you appear as if you’ve been in business longer that you actually have. Similarly, confidence in pricing demonstrates you have been down an art sales path before, have tested your products in the marketplace, and have confidently come out the other side with an ideal pricing model. Maybe appearing successful feels a little gimmicky to you. But the truth is that consumers and galleries want to work with artists that know what they are doing. It goes against the frighteningly common view of an artist making work on their kitchen table, eating Ramen noodles, and throwing their frustrated hands in the air two months later in favor of a "real" job.
2) Many times… if you can mirror it, you will make it. By mirroring other successful business models you have the opportunity to learn what works for your business and what doesn't, increasing your chances of succeeding. What business is your ideal to mirror? Look at furniture companies, food producers, and of course, other artists and craftspeople. What brands can you relate to? Who has built their artist or company name up to such a level that it is indistinguishable from their work? Don’t just look at artists working in a similar medium or price range to you. Look specifically at the customer base your ideal brands have courted. Then pull up their web sites and make a list of what is working right in their model. Do they have a logo or a distinctive font they use over and over again in promotional materials? Do they sell to a specific niche market (golf aficionados, older women, beach dwellers, etc.) that might relate to you and your work? Do they price their work in a specific bracket?
3) Build your brand. I know it feels strange to most artists and craftspeople. Looking at your work or your company as a brand seems so impersonal and cold. It almost feels like you are stripping away your unique artistic identify. But, let’s face facts. Branding is entirely about adding personality back INTO your work. As you hone your branding plan you will identify key words that collectors will easily be able to relate to, connecting back to your work. Branding your name or company name will also make you easier to access on the Internet and more likely to be ‘discovered’ at a craft fair or multi-artist exhibition. Consider that seeing your company name, logo, or artist name just once is never enough. In fact, five times is not enough! Look at the materials you have produced in the last year and count how many times you have branded your materials with a name, logo, or repetitive image. Pull out those old postcards, newsletters, trade show listings, booth signage… even review your web site with a fine toothed comb. Over the course of last year you should have branded your materials at least FORTY TIMES. More than halfway through this year, how many brands can you spot in the materials you have output this year? Have you hit the mark or do you need to speed your promotion wheels up?
These three tips are more generic than the targeted advice I emailed to the exasperated artist that emailed me last week, but if you consider each you will likely find cracks in your business that could be easily repaired.
In this artists case, she has tried and tried and tried…
Ok. So, try again!
I don’t mean to sound trite or make it sound so simple. But, if the goal is worth achieving, it is surely worth some sleepless nights, a few bangs of your head against the wall, and a moderate case of "been there, done that."
What is the worst that could happen? You throw in the towel and give in to the "real" day job.
Monster.com will still be waiting for you. Why not give it one more try?