Bass ackwards- branding should come last

March 21, 2011

Whenever I read a story of a successful person who has realized their dreams, it rarely starts out with,

‘Well, I decided what to do, ran a market research, thought up a name and launched a successful business’. 

Instead it almost always starts out modestly:

‘I liked baking cookies and my friends all asked for some, eventually they were asking me to provide party cakes, and my bakery grew from there’.


‘I always liked to make gifts for people, and it just kept expanding until companies were asking me to make creative
business gifts’.

 While thinking about what I’d like to do with my shop, branding at this stage seems premature and I question the prevailing commercial practice of having to decide on a name, packaging and a style at this early stage.

The best most enduring things take time- time to emerge, to ripen, to take form.  This project will find its identity through a combination of: my intents; the people who visit it, the people I collaborate with, its growth through time, the surroundings, and other outside influences. So why would I want to pin it’s soul down before it is even born?

Heck, ANYONE can think up a name and present a product with a professional looking package. Even the most el cheapo products can be presented convincingly because the technology is open to everybody. 

We all judge a book by its cover these days. And to be honest, I love good packaging, it often will sell the product to me. I also like creating packaging with little booklets, tags, special paper etc. to delight others. And I will, in time.

Though it would be more edgy to simply sidestep traditional marketing methods and let the products speak for themselves. It would save customers the added expenses of me designing, printing and assembling all that extra stuff we surround our products with to make them more desirable.

I guess that is the real aggravation at the root of this. When I first started out selling my art, it just happened as a natural outgrowth of the community I was embedded in socially, peoples’ faith in my talent, and a demand for the things I made (quite a lot of calligraphy mixed with imagery in those days).

Now it seems that the product is not enough, it has to be surrounded by an aura of mystery and glamor (it was in this or that magazine) for people to want to pay for it.  And if you don’t want bottom price customers you have to create even more exclusivity and branding around your work.

So are these the kinds of dilemmas you wanted to be considering when you decided to follow your heart and be an artist?  Is our only path to  ‘go along to get along’? Though there are no easy solutions, I still think more of us need to question just what the purpose of our art is these days. Surely it goes beyond self interests – ie getting our products sold. I’ll be writing more on this theme.

3 Responses to “Bass ackwards- branding should come last”

  1. WildC Says:

    An interesting topic! I guess it depends who your customers are. I love designing the ‘branding’ and in some cases it can help to sell my work…but in other instances – high end galleries, for example, they would use THEIR branding and that’s part of what would sell the art…

  2. Donald Fox Says:

    You suggest a topic that every would-be artist should consider – maybe even many practicing artists – Why am I doing this? All of the hoopla about branding seems to me to be a spin on traditional advertising meeting the new market of the internet. It also says a lot about how much advertising has affected our culture.

    • szoutewelle Says:

      thanks Donald. I started out as a professional artist in the early ’70’s (of the last century 🙂 ), and the pace and the focus were just so different. I think you’ve pinpointed it perfectly.
      I”ve often felt, when confronted with the supposedly ‘new’ marketing on the social networks, that it is just the same old same old in a new package. It is still centred around making sure you jump out, creating an aura around your product, staying in the spotlight, and the good old popularity contest of how many followers one has.

      I visited your site and spent a little time with your paintings. It is good to see someone working well and steadily. Your commitment is what speaks. I like ‘The Reader’. Good luck

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