Artist as Brand

The word “brand” has been overused, but its importance to artists and their businesses today can’t be overemphasized. To break out of the pack, to distinguish yourself and take your work and your business to a higher level, you must have a cohesive look and presence in your approach to marketing and messaging your targeted customer.

It isn’t just about your company name and your logo, although you need them. Your brand extends to the colors, fonts, appearance, and voice of your communications. Your brand is also about your philosophy, practices, values and integrity. It reflects a thoughtful, pulled-together, mature business. It also includes your customer service, your packaging, your pricing, your exclusivity.

Do you want to brand yourself and your business as “luxury”? Are you interested in coming across with a message of sustainability, repurposing, and social conscience? Want to position yourself as affordable, fun and innovative? All of these business personas involve more than just a look. They involve specific behaviors and well-planned conscious strategies.

A brand should be consistent and visible across all of your communications to the world. Your website, business card and brochures, your trade show booth, packaging and tags, press releases, and your entire presentation should follow with the brand that you have created. Pay attention to details, which make a huge difference in the perception of your brand.

Think of artists who have well-known brands. Thomas Kinkade is a textbook example, with his signature paintings of light-filled, comforting cottages and rural scenes. Kincaide became wealthy and famous by producing canvases that his audience understood and expected. He didn’t deviate from his signature style because to do so would create confusion and the dilution of his brand. He built on the emotional connection his fans had to his portrayal of nostalgia and endearing scenes of home and family.

Kinkade developed galleries nationwide with a formula for presentation of his work, and sales of other products with his images which were cross-sold to visitors happy to purchase them. Even if they could not afford a giclee or print of his work, they could own inexpensive merchandise with images of his work such as calendars or gift items.

Likewise, Wyland has created a highly successful brand. His website proclaims “Art. Conservation. Community.”  Backing up this claim is information about his foundation, charity work such as rebuilding New Orleans, and other accomplishments. Wyland partners effectively with a cause which ties in to his paintings of marine life and commitment to our environment. The smart branding and marketing strategies by his team includes many related activities – even offering fans an opportunity to accompany him on a cruise to Hawaii.

How does this relate to your small business? You may not be as big as Wyland, Kinkade or other high-profile artists, but you can learn from them. They have deliberately crafted their brands to be more than about just their art, by tapping into the emotions and the consciences of their audience.

Branding can effectively make your name and the image of your work larger than the sum of its parts. Create an aura about your work and brand by sharing a message that encompasses what is important to your customers. This fuels the growth of your brand, repeat customers, referrals and testimonials.


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  1. Ben Thompson says

    But haven’t they both become cliche’s in the art world?
    Which is the danger of commercially trying to brand oneself. The brand becomes bigger than the art.
    Does any artist really want to be that – art second in importance, business brand first?
    (And isn’t Thomas Kinkaide bankrupt or has other legal problems?)

    • Thomas Kinkade is an example because he is widely known. He did in fact become bankrupt, but that is not the point of the article. Branding doesn’t mean that your brand becomes bigger than the work. It means that you have a cohesive presentation which is recognizable, and professional.
      Artists who want to make a living selling their work are in business, of course. Businesses use consistent labeling, logos, message, etc. to communicate with their audience. There are many examples of small art businesses today who use these principles successfully.

  2. Diane Townsley says

    Great article, I printed this out and it’s going on my company “vision board” as a reminder to keep my designs cohesive and work on focusing a unified message. I’d be interested in learning about effective branding when your work is split between more than one identity – i.e. lines for retail and lines for wholesale.

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