Counterintuitive Art Branding Lesson from Coca-Cola


    This article is by Clint Watson,  former art gallery owner/director/salesperson and founder of FineArtViews. You should follow Clint on Twitter here or sign up for his newsletter here.


    Artists are often told that they need to pay attention to their "branding." 


    The advice generally goes something like this, "it's important to be consistent in your marketing.  Your website, business cards, letterhead, postcards should all match in color and style, and be recognizable, blah, blah, blah, blah".  I sometimes wonder if people who give this advice have ever sold a work of art in their lives.


    Then, during this advice-giving, somebody inevitably points out that Coca-Cola does all these things and is the "world's most recognized brand."


    Let's look at that a bit closer, shall we?


    OK, I'll grant you Coke does make an effort to be very consistent in their marketing.  Most big companies do. I have no doubt that they have "branding guidelines" all the way down to how their product is displayed on supermarket shelves.  So there must be something to this "branding" stuff, right?


    • Except when I order a Coke off a restaurant menu printed in plain type and served in an unbranded glass.


    • Except when the bartender shoots some Coca-Cola out of an unbranded gun into my drink.


    • Except when I'm in a third world country, searching the bottom shelf of a dingy shop, digging out virtually unbranded glass bottles of Coca-Cola.


    • Except when I grab the last 3-Liter bottle, with the label peeled or falling off, resulting in an unbranded bottle.



    Coke is not the "world's most recognizable brand" because their letterhead matches their business cards.


    Coke is as big as they are for two reasons:


    1.  The product.  They have a highly-guarded secret formula that results in the taste that we all know as "Coca-Cola".


    2.  The distribution.  They are masters at distribution of their product.



    That's it.  It's not about the logo, or the colors, or the letterhead matching their website.  


    And in 1985, we practically got a controlled experiment to prove it:  Coke changed their formula, thus changing only the product, and introduced "New Coke" - different taste but the same "branding".  Guess what happened?  People didn't care about the branding, they cared about the taste.  The original formula was back within three months.


    So here is the real lesson from Coca-Cola in branding for artists:  Your brand is your art.  Your style of painting, sculpting, or creating.


    Create artwork that people want, learn how to distribute it, and we'll buy it.  And we won't care one bit if the colors of your website match your business cards.  It's just not that important. [1]




    Clint Watson

    FASO Founder, Software Craftsman, Art Fanatic



    [1]  I have no problem with people wanting to "look professional" and have a consistent look to their website, business cards, etc.  Just realize it's not likely to help you sell much art.  If you do it, know that the reason you are doing it is simply because you believe it makes you look more "professional".  Also realize, of course, I deal with plenty of professional artists who do sell lots of art, who don't do any of this "branding" stuff.





    Editor's Note:  You can view Clint's original post here.

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