Warhol called it “Business Art.” A novel concept at the time: The idea that not only could art and business co-exist, but that there would be an inevitable inflection point. Warhol said, “Business art is the step that comes after art.”
In the post sell-out universe of 2019, the tension at the center of art vs. commerce has all but disappeared. From music to street art, art-led culture and brands have found ways to not only co-exist, but to truly support each other as both business and creative partners.
For artists, the walls have all but come down. In the last decade, Bob Dylan lent his music and sensibility to the world of lingerie, visual artists ranging from Kaws to Takashi Murakami have collaborated with brands including Uniqlo, Hennessy and Louis Vuitton, Kendrick Lamar let us in on what he does in his Calvin Kleins and indie music heroes like LCD Soundsystem made critically acclaimed music for Nike.
While this shift with creators opens up new partnership possibilities, the biggest opportunity for brands is the shift in the mindset of their audience.
The democratization of cultural currency means that meaningful art can come from anyone. More than ever before, we are in a position to go beyond storytelling to create work that positively impacts people while positively impacting revenue. To not just move them, but to support, inspire and provoke action. However, more often than not, brands are attempting to borrow equity, or latch onto meme-able moments without bringing anything to the table. They are forgetting the art and to play their part in creating it.
So how can brands play a role, while supporting their business goals? Here’s how:
Identify a pain point. Where are the gaps in the marketplace?
Identify the leaders that are at the bleeding edge of the community (e.g. coders, vloggers, engineers, chefs, bartenders, designers, athletes, parents, whomever) that are the influencer’s influencer. Those that may be onto something that is not yet understood. Then, create a cultural immersion with those community gatekeepers and your team. Talk to them. Find out their inspirations, their struggles, where they see opportunity and what they wish existed.
Next, ask lots of questions and listen, to really understand what their needs are. Too often marketers jump into planning with a preconceived idea of what the outcome should be.
Get laser-focused on a role your brand can credibly play
The essence of your brand has to be the foundation for creating something meaningful. Evaluate what your brand stands for and what it can uniquely bring to the table to help fill the identified void. Develop criteria and guidelines that all potential actions must be judged against.
Get everyone to buy in
It isn’t easy to sell through new ideas, but you need people to give a damn on the inside of your organization before anyone is going to care outside your four walls. Be sure to filter your platform through the lens of each stakeholder in the organization and identify what will excite them. Next, set up time to meet with each stakeholder, to get their input and work to establish their role in bringing the concept to life.
Commit to the work and be patient
Everyone has the intention to make a new idea long lasting, but too often good ideas fail because marketers chase the next shiny idea instead.
Create a three-year plan (or longer) and develop annual evaluations that scale up the goals. But be realistic about what you can accomplish in year one. Year one’s goals should be the foundation for year two.
We have more opportunity to impact culture than ever before. Consumer expectations are high. It is no longer good enough to tell compelling stories, you must play a role in the lives of others in order to remain in consumers’ hearts and minds. In 2019, the lines in the sand are gone, or as Andy knew all along, “making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”