Branding Yourself in the Artist Community
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” - Seth Godin
In a world flooded with art and creativity how do we set ourselves apart in a competitive market? The answer is; brand and relationships. Amazing talent does not make you a profitable artist and an artist with a great brand does not make you profitable; the magic comes in combining the two. Each artist has to find their own path of branding and how it should be applied. And this can come in many forms such as a unified style or even just a unified technique to the work.
Branding is not just about a logo or signature.
How do you define your brand?
- Define your audience.
Define your audience and determine how to connect with them. The biggest mistake an artist can make is thinking that they can appeal to everyone. By trying to appeal to everyone you end up only partially appealing to some. Look at who responds to your work and how they engage with you. Keep their interests in mind and remember creating work outside of that audience is within your right, but also runs the risk of losing an established audience and starting over.
- Define how you measure success.
Measure success realistically. Ask yourself do you want 10,000 Instagram followers? Do you want to be able support yourself by your art? Are shows important? Is getting into a gallery? Do you want this to be a passion, hobby or career? Define your end goal, your short term goals and your long term goals? Put a plan in place to make these things happen. An artist without a plan is just wasting their time and energy.
Develop your persona.
Your persona is key to your brand. It defines how you connect with your audience. Persona is defined as, “the aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others.” And it should be simple and relevant.
“They say a brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.” – Embellish Girls
Your persona to the public should be consistently applied and accessible to the consumer. Branding for artists is how you present yourself, how you show your values and what you stand for. Everything from your social media images, messages, website and interaction determines your persona.
- Develop your strategy.
Once you have defined your persona and image (i.e. your look, feel, logo, profile) look at how you are connecting with your audience. This can include anything from social media, your website and public relations. Define a strategy and implement.
The Bottom Line and Take Away
Your brand is not your logo or signature.
This is just one element that reinforces your persona.
Keep your content fresh.
Take the time to invest in a strong website and social media presence. Make your images consistent and well done.
Make your persona personal and relevant.
Don’t forget who you are, but also make sure you are putting out there how you want others to see you.
Develop a strong brand but retain your personal attributes as an artist.
Don’t try to be something you are not. If you are authentic and honest with your followers they will stick with you as you transition and move through different styles and approaches.
Be authentic and consistent, reflect your personal values.
It is not all about you. In order to be successful as an artist you must have the respect of your followers. Be true to yourself but also be the person you claim to be.
Remember community over competition.
You have chosen a career that thrives on community. Get to know your peers and look to them for fellowship and guidance. Offer assistance and remember that a self-serving artist is a lonely artist.
Create a good story.
People love a good story. Patrons will often purchase artwork from artists they connect with and know something about. So don’t be afraid to share parts of your life and who you are. It makes you human.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
My favorite quote is, “you don’t know until you ask.” And this has never been more true than it is today. If you want a gallery show, ask. If you want to collaborate, ask. The worst that will happen is you will get a “no.” But more often than not you will get a “yes.”
Thank you to the Instagram community for chiming in and lending their thoughts and advice. I did my best to address each concern and incorporate some valuable content.
Thoughts and Concerns on Branding by Catherine Freshley
Having worked in advertising for eight years, Catherine knows a lot about building brands and she has found it helpful in building her own brand. She states, “I am not trying to contrive something that is beyond my work and who I am as an artist. The hard part has been bringing my brand to life visually and identifying my target audience.”
Catherine knows the voice of her brand should be an authentic one. She writes her own Instagram captions, newsletter and speaks to her audience as a friend. She states, “I want people to feel like they know me. I am not trying to make a statement with my art or fight for a cause, so it’s not worth it to share anything that could be controversial or off-putting.” She wants to be genuine. But like many artists, she also has struggles.
Identifying Her Audience
Catherine shares, “Last spring I spent six days at the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts (estimated 750,000 attendees) and this allowed me see how people react to my work. I paint Oklahoma landscapes, so I had a biased crowd, but the paintings did not resonate with one demographic group more than another. That's bad news since demographic clues are a good starting point for identifying your audience. I know that my customers appreciate natural beauty and often have fond memories of time spent in rural areas. This is not surprising given my subject matter. The question now becomes how do I apply that information?”
Here is how Catherine describes her brand. “My paintings are contemporary landscapes – or skyscapes – bringing vibrant energy or calm to a room. I want my branding to feel fresh, clean and lively and to reflect who I am as a person – forward-looking and optimistic. I want my all my digital and print materials to match and to be beautiful. Right now, they don't match perfectly (and aren’t all beautiful), but I have ensured people don’t have a fractured experience. Bringing the brand to life in a truly beautiful, cohesive way is beyond my expertise, so I recently contracted a designer to help me.”