Branding as an Artist

I’ve spent days debating on where to start my blogs regarding the art business. However, since Thomas Kinkade has made the news lately, I think I’ll start with branding.

Branding is nothing more than how a customer views a business based on how the customer is treated. How many times have you walked into a store, been ignored by the sales people, and walked out thinking that you will never set foot in there again? That’s an example of bad branding. Walmart’s door greets are an example of branding.

Kinkade has set himself up as a religious fellow painting beautiful pictures filled with light. He views his art as a product (we’ll talk more about this in a later blog). He has built a large company. For a long time, this “Painter of Light” image has brought him good branding. But now, with a DUI looming right behind his company declaring bankruptcy, he’s getting bad branding.

The world use to be larger and idocyncasisy went unnoticed by the masses. Artists were seen as oddities and people expected them to be weird. In truth, too many artists were taken too early because of drugs and/or alcohol. Today the world is much smaller. If a popular artist shaves her head, everyone knows about it instantly. She’s talked about.

Is this arrest something that’s going to help Kinkade’s career? No. Already, people had started talking about his “dark period” from losing at a fraud arbitration case, to his company declaring bankrupcy, and now a DUI arrest (and the police don’t take you in unless they have pretty good reason to suspect you’re drunk! If he spent the night in the tank, it was because he needed to sleep it off). If he thinks his headache began the next morning, he’s wrong. Bad talk in today’s world makes people lose faith. If they lose faith, they don’t want to be associated with you. If Kinkade keeps going down this path, it’s a short matter of time before his works are found in thrift stores and dumps. Simple truth: no one wants to hang out with losers.

Today’s marketing is all about trust. Customers want to know all about you as a person. If you aren’t ready to have that level of transparency in your life then you need to rethink what you’re doing. People want to have faith in you. If they can’t trust you, you’ll be a charlatan in their eyes. At all times, you need to remember you are your brand! If you’re snooty, your customer will think they’ve just walked into a store with no customer service. If you’re sitting in the corner painting and lost in your world, people may be intrigued, but they’ll think you want to be left alone. If you’re fun and enthusiastic about your art, you’ll be infectious.

This last weekend at Art in the Park, no matter how I was feeling at any given moment, whenever a person walked into my booth and asked me how I was, I answered with “fantastic,” or something along those lines. I didn’t hear the same thing from other artists around me. In fact, many of them I overheard saying that it was going slow. Not only did these thoughts effect their world, but it shaded their branding — they seemed bored. Nothing makes a potential customer walk away faster than a bored artist.

Ever had a piece of work you didn’t feel 100% confident about that you took before a client? Did you make apologies for it? If so, how did the client react? If you seek reassurance from a client about a weak piece and they give you comfort, you’ve still shaded the piece as bad in their eyes. You will always be your own worst critic and notice things that others don’t. If you’re going to show it, stand behind your work and don’t get negative. This will show through. You’re sharing enthusiasm about your art, not critiques.

You will be seen by others however you represent yourself. Are you the artist who goes to the store in pajamas? Do you preach your faith? Do you wear slacks and a tie in your art booth or are you in ripped jeans and a paint-splattered tee shirt? Are your projects done on time or do they run a week or two past the deadline? Are your actions matching your deeds? Are you working to correct your own flaws? Do you not like to be judged by others? Are you constantly worrying about what others think of you or your art? Do you really know who you are?

So, in building your business as an artist, think about how you want to come across. How do you want to treat your clientele? How do you want them to view you? This is where you start.

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2 Responses to Branding as an Artist

  1. ericloiselle says:

    Good write-up. I recently wrote something that has to do with branding, kind of. I guess since I’m in a sour mood, I’ll post it today (maybe I shouldn’t say that… 🙂

    Snooty artist seem to be less frequent as snooty dealers/gallery owners. I don’t understand why anyone would want that type of aura. I also don’t understand how anyone could sell a painting or a commission without customer satisfaction. If the work isn’t right, then make it right.

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