More and more, the line between art and advertising is blurring. While there’s always been a certain overlap, even before Andy Warhol painted the iconic Campbell’s Soup cans, brands like Red Bull, Target, and Apple have made working with professional artists, musicians, and designers from far outside the marketing and advertising fold a key part of their brand. While some companies can still be scared off by the cliches of the temperamental, unreliable artiste, they are subject matter experts like in any other field who can help you stand out from your competition.
Working with a known professional artist has any number of advantages. It potentially gets your brand in front of a different range of customers, if the artist you choose to work with has an existing fan base that differs from yours. It can help change popular perception of your brand — a consumer brand can seem more high-end by working with a respected artist, or a traditional brand can seem more approachable and youthful by working with an edgier, more up and coming artist. Most importantly, it gives you incredibly high quality content that carries with it a level of artistic credibility that most advertising doesn’t get given by the bulk of the population.
The potential disadvantages are primarily going to center around the fact that you’re not working with a marketing professional, you’re working with an artist. Odds are you won’t have the same level of say in what’s produced, which is a good thing, but it means you have to be more flexible about what you get out of a collaboration. It also means that whatever work comes out of the agreement is not necessarily going to be a product that the business then owns outright in perpetuity. Compared to the strength and quality of the work that the business gains access to, the disadvantages offer little in the way of deterrence, especially if you follow a few tips.
Tips for Working with an Artist
Don’t expect them to shill – They’re not a marketing agency, they’re not doing this for your benefit exclusively, so give up the pretense that you’re going to be able to control the message. This is a collaboration that should be mutually beneficial, and not because you’re paying them.
Give them access and let them work – Because this isn’t really about money changing hands, the thing that you as a company can offer an artist is frequently access. To a festival, to a sporting event, to a new facility, to a behind the scenes day-in-the-life of someone associated with your company, to some other great artists or thinkers that you get in the same room, to something to which they wouldn’t otherwise have access. That’s what you’re bringing to the table. Give them that and then get out of the way until the deadline for a finished product.
Understand that you’re both leveraging the other’s brand – For both the business and the artist, this is about mutually beneficial branding. Both sides are hoping to gain something from being associated with each other, whether it’s legitimacy or exposure to new audiences or an updated image. All parties need to be sensitive to this if there are any places where perhaps the images don’t overlap in quite the way you’d want. If you’re trying to get some traditional high art cache, accept that maybe the artists image is a bit stuffy when compared to what you’re used to. If you’re looking to get a boost of creative and perhaps a bit counter-culture energy, then you need to accept that perhaps the artist you’re working with is further on that continuum than you and the brand are. The key is to try and meet in the middle.
Have clear expectations up front – You shouldn’t (and likely couldn’t) control the actual work being produced, but artists are still professionals and business people in their own right and you should expect to sit down and deal with them as such ahead of time. You’ll want to hammer out details like how much work you’re expecting, what the deadlines are, who exactly is paying for what (equipment, facilities, travel expenses, etc.), and probably most importantly, who owns what rights to the final products. The copyright issues are some of the most complex to negotiate, but the best place to start is to think about how and when you want to be able to use the work, and how and when you want other people to be able to use the work. Artists are, understandably, often reluctant to sign over complete rights that would preclude them from using their own work themselves down the line for things like compilations, portfolios, best ofs, or retrospectives, but negotiating a contract that allows the artist direct use of their work but disallows them from licensing it to someone other than you is typically a solution that can make everyone happy. Whatever you decide, be clear and get it in writing, as always.
Art and business aren’t and shouldn’t be at odds, so we hope these tips make you more confident (and even excited!) about finding some fabulous artists who can contribute to your brand. There have been a lot of corporate and artist collaborations of late, so what’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments!