This Post is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Find out how you can be a guest author.
As an artist, you should take the task of marketing seriously. This is especially true if you sell your own work, but it is equally important even if you sell exclusively through galleries. Think about the products you consume, from your breakfast cereal to your jeans. Most of the products you use are not purchased directly from the producer, but those producers spend millions marketing directly to you. Why? Because retail stores also sell the competitors' products. They want you to want their product before you go to the store.
What is Marketing? Marketing is much more than salesmanship. It is much more than placing an ad in a magazine or on TV. What then is marketing? How do you market your work? Marketing includes any activity which increases awareness of your art. It is any activity which provides someone with information about you and/or your art. Some of the more obvious activities include: talking with collectors at a show, sending press releases, writing newsletter articles, placing magazine ads, speaking or lecturing about art, doing painting demonstrations, sending 'thank you' notes, sending post cards or brochures or photos to your mailing list, using business cards, using letterhead in your correspondence, having a website or blog, writing an artist's statement, including your contact info on the back of your paintings, etc., etc., etc. The possibilities are endless. Sending a birthday card to a client is marketing even if you never mention your art in the card. Even casual conversations when you meet someone could be an opportunity to say, "I am an artist." Many people are intrigued by that and want to know more. Be creative.
Who is your Target Audience? Big companies know their target audience. They cater to them, to their needs, to their wants, to their egos, etc. They put their information in places where the potential consumers will see it. If you sell prints, your marketing efforts would be different than if you sold originals. You may do both. If you do, then you need to market to both audiences. If you paint realistic portraits your marketing strategies would be different than if you paint abstract works or edgy urban scenes. Know your audience and cater the content of your marketing to them. Also, market where they will likely see it.
Content Most companies' marketing strategies are designed to differentiate their product from the competition. It is about information or content. The content may be tangible attributes of the product or intangible qualities that play off emotion or ego. Do this with your art marketing as well.
What do you want collectors to know about your art? What moves you to create? Why do you create in a specific style? What motivates your choice of subject? Why do you use a specific medium? What is the value (I'm not talking dollars) of your art? Why should they want it? What benefit would it give them?
Determine the message of your art and then in all of your marketing activities and conversations let that message come through. Differentiate yourself from your competition. You don't have to change your style to try to be different. You are unique and if your art is a true expression, it will be unique also.
Case Study: Coke vs. Pepsi Coke and Pepsi have similar products, yet their marketing strategies are designed to differentiate. Pepsi is slightly sweeter and targets the younger crowd by portraying it as fun, hip, or cool. Coke is about being original, classic and constant. It can be mimicked but not duplicated. Neither uses price as a marketing strategy. The generic brands market themselves based upon price, yet the big players dominate the market share. (More about pricing your art in another issue).
Case Study: Subway vs. Blimpie If I am not mistaken, Blimpie Subs has been around longer than Subway, yet Subway is much more successful. In my opinion, Blimpie's product is better. Blimpie makes a sandwich every bit as healthy as Subway, but Subway began to market their sandwiches as a fresh, healthy, and low-fat alternative to burgers. Even the name 'Blimpie' suggests fattening. Blimpie will always struggle until they find a better marketing strategy.
Case Study: Levis vs. Wrangler Wrangler is all about rugged and durable jeans. They cater especially to a blue collar, hard-working audience. Levis is about all-American. Born in the USA.
Case Study: Thomas Kinkade vs. Richard Schmid Both Thomas Kinkade and Richard Schmid are successful artists, yet there are striking differences. Kinkade marketed himself through his technique and subject. He was wildly successful among his target audience of home décor collectors. Yet, he marketed himself into a rut. He allowed his collectors to define him, rather than defining himself. Schmid on the other hand, distinguished himself by painting a truthful representation of his connection to the subject. He also defined himself as a student of the arts, continually striving to improve his technical abilities in order to better express himself. He marketed himself as one who paints from life, because to him that is the truest form of expression. His work is about the human experience. I do not know the extent to which he marketed himself in terms of promotion. He did, however, market himself with every conversation he had and with each book, lecture, workshop, demonstration, etc. He is gifted at communication and freely shares his thoughts and feelings about his art. This is marketing.
Conclusion What I am trying to say is that you need to tell people about your art. Why is it different from other artists' work, even if it appears to be similar? You need to have conversations, as Clint suggests. You need to control the message which is connected with your art. You cannot leave this to the galleries. They represent too many artists to do this effectively. They can and should do some, but you, as the artist, can let people know about you and your art much more effectively than anyone else can. Then let them know why it should matter to them.