This week, I attended an AADL (Ann Arbor District Library) event hosted by Steve Feinman, the Director of SCORE – a mentoring leader for small businesses. In particular, we had a crowd of artists from the region. While the event really was focused on how to sell art and build a remarkable brand, for me the things that spoke particularly were about branding. This is relevant no matter which small business you’re a part of. So, read on, even if you’re not an artist but selling any goods using online and traditional channels as a small business or startup.
How To Sell Art And Build A Remarkable Brand
Why is creating a remarkable personal brand important?
Feinman began by emphasizing on how much value there is in branding art, giving us the example of Damien Hirst. His piece of art, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living was composed of a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde and vitrine. It was commissioned first by Charles Saatchi and sold for over $12 million to Steven Cohen, a hedge fund manager. The widely known work has since become the symbol of modern British art.
A dead shark in a pool. Many people in the audience cringed and whined about how art is defined. But the discussion quickly killed itself, as beauty does lie in the eyes of the beholder. Feinman noted the disconcertment and responded:
“Well, (art) loved by you…what you want is to be loved by others”
And the difference between a regular artist obsessed with death and Damien Hirst was the sheer force of branding and perception that Saatchi created. The piece was first showcased in the Royal Academy of Art and named the USA today art show (the newspaper had nothing to do with it), where the who’s-who of art showed up, branding it as a result.
Many artists or small businesses often stop short of creating something that helps them market themselves better. Noting this, Feinman said:
“only 5% of what we do will be important but you don’t know which one. That’s why we’re always marketing”
What can you brand as an artist or small business?
As the small business owners and artists began to find comfort in the idea of personal branding, Feinman opened up the pandora’s box of branding. What could you potentially brand as an artist?
- You: Who are you? What is your brand?
- The sales volume: How much are you selling (think one iconic piece/ mass volumes)
- The sales channel: Where are you showcasing and selling your art?
- The buyer: Did Saatchi or your local gallery commission a piece from you?
- The Art (product): Does a museum showcase your piece? Has your art won an award?
To be able to brand these different aspects, it was first important to define what your brand and art should be. Some relevant questions to ask yourself:
- What kind of an artist are you? – the next Van Gogh, a local, regional or national phenomena
- Who are you selling to?- hospitals, cafes, architects, galleries…
- Who are you competing with?
- What is your audience buying?- an experience, quality, originality, some art, a memory…
- How are you pricing your art? – define a logic and this will place a value on your ‘brand’
Which branding elements should you create for an engaged brand?
The key branding elements to be focused on included:
- Memorability: Will your art or brand be remembered the moment a buyer walks out of your display? What will you do so that you maintain the relationship and are not forgotten?
- Meaningfulness: What meaning does your art or product bring to the potential consumer? What’s the authentic story behind your art? How are you sharing it?
- Likeability: People buy from those they like. How are you making your brand likable?
- Transferability: If tomorrow you decided to launch a new set of products, from paintings to sculpture, would you be able to create a halo effect and transfer your brand?
- Adaptability: Are you making your brand flexible enough to adapt to new trends and consumer views? Are you with the times?
Where can you brand and sell your art?
Branding and sales in today’s world could happen on traditional and online venues. Feinman recommended that people must have a home base, e.g. a registered business, web presence – a site and Facebook presence. He dropped in Instagram as the home of new art sales and engagement. Here’s a list of channels recommended which are important for all small businesses not just artists:
- Where does your niche hang out in person?
- Rotary Clubs, Art Galleries, Art Fairs, Local events, Libraries…
- Where does your niche hang out online? Some examples for artists include:
- Society 6
- Big Cartel
Concluding thoughts: the 1-2-3-4 of how to sell art and build a brand
To summarize, it is important to have a sense of who you are and what your brand represents, before you get out there and feel overwhelmed. Here are the basic steps you will need to follow when you’re wondering how to sell art.
- Get a brand blueprint: Define who you are and who you’re selling to
- Invest in creating your brand presence online via your website and social media
- Show up where your audience hangs out and connect to build an engaged brand
- Develop relationships by constantly connecting with past/ future buyers. Send them emails, call them, send postcards. Stay in touch. Get your buyers to speak about you. Create loyalty.
Quite naturally, I had a great time attending the workshop and it was truly worth the time. It did reiterate the ideas we share on Brandanew regularly but it’s always good to connect with more people who believe in the power of strong branding for sales!
What are your experiences in trying to sell your art if you’re a newbie? As a small business what are some of the challenges you’ve been facing? Do share your thoughts and inputs with me!
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