Say what? There’s a difference between branding and marketing? Yes, indeed.
To put is simply, marketing is straight up saying, “Look here, I have this product, and you should buy it from me for X, Y, or Z reason.” It’s a pitch, and there are many ways to approach how to do it.*
Branding, on the other hand, is an invitation for people to come along for the ride. Instead of pushing your art at people, you pull them in by sharing your vision and passion.** Like-minded people interested in the same themes/values/processes that you share begin to look at your art and to follow you. They may not be buying at first, but the fact that they are interested in what you have to express is a good start. The people who stick around and want to join you on your journey become loyal followers. And at some point, they will indeed start supporting you through buying your art. It’s a win-win: you put yourself and your art out there in a consistent, thoughtful and professional manner and people start to buy it not out of pity (or because they’re family), but because they truly believe in what you’re doing and have become your fans!
Think of branding as the umbrella under which marketing falls. While your art (i.e. your product) may change over time, your brand, for the most part, does not. *** That is why it’s important to think strategically about your brand – you’re in it for the long haul. The good thing about this is that, hopefully, when your art does change you are able to bring a significant amount of your loyal followers along with you because they continue to love your overall themes and understand why your expression of these may change. The challenge is to not pigeon-hole yourself too early. For example, if you brand yourself as an “urban landscape painter,” but then several years in you switch to painting rural landscapes, people may get confused and leave. But, if you brand yourself as a “painter of place” that leaves it wide open for you to evolve as the muse pulls you.
In the first installment of this series, we talked about how branding is a way to share your unique vision with the world and to set you apart. It can also be a way to find your audience. Once you have come up with your brand – including a clear vision and a consistent and professional package – you will start to see patterns in the types of people who it attracts. This is great news because it means you can stop wasting your time trying to appeal to everyone and instead start to do targeted marketing to people with the same demographics of those already following your brand.
And there’s a bonus! As you cultivate a group of loyal followers, they start spreading the word for you. Your fans – whether they are collectors or not yet – will start talking about you with their friends and recommend that they, too, follow you on social media or sign up for your email newsletter. If you have a strong brand, it could be that they stumble across you (or your work) in real life, and recognize you. Then, they may be so excited to meet this person they have been following virtually that they actually buy something. For those who do turn into collectors, they promote your art by showcasing it their homes or offices. Again, this whole time you did no active marketing; it was all your brand at work.
At this point, you may be thinking, “Well, that’s all fine and peachy, but how the hell do I create a brand?” I’m so glad you asked – that’s what we’ll be talking about in installment 3 of this 6-part series next month. Read installment 1 here.
* If you want help improving your marketing, I recommend Alyson Stanfield of ArtBizCoach.com, who begins by reframing one’s attitude towards marketing by simply replacing the “dirty M word” with “sharing” – as in, you want to share your art with the world.
**I got this “push-pull” idea from an article written by the branding agency Tronvig Group; click here to read their more in-depth analysis of the difference between marketing and branding.
***Of course, nothing is set in stone; just like companies, artists can re-brand themselves. That’s a topic for a different conversation, but worth mentioning here to reassure you so that you don’t get paralyzed by fear of creating a too-restrictive brand.
Christine Rasmussen’s oil paintings explore themes of place, identity, boundaries and belonging. Christine describes herself as a ‘global nomad’ – she was born to American parents in Pakistan, and has lived in 13 cities across Pakistan, Vietnam and the United States. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Art Practice (with Honors) and Peace & Conflict Studies. Her works are in private collections in the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia. Christine is now based in Los Angeles, CA, where she enjoys art, books and blogs.