It’ll be a while before the full impact of the coalition’s swingeing cuts in the Arts world are realised, but one thing is clear: it’s forcing artists’ hands. There will be little choice but to seek patronage from sources other than the Arts Council, NESTA or the British Film Institute.
Of course, brands have been supporting the arts for ages and there have been some great examples of this, although some backfire as seen recently with BP’s sponsorship of The Tate. And there are those in the arts community who feel that corporate sponsorship has no place, that it sullies the purity of art. But the harsh reality is that the arts need funds, and the most ready source is going to come from the private sector.
At Camp Bestival last weekend, in amongst the fun and wonder, I was struck by how much harder brands are going to have to work to engage with people, and how this has potential to benefit artists.
You're working on a popular supermarket brand of processed meat. You're in a brainstorm. It's late, the client's pushing hard for ideas. He's got pizza and beers in. The ideas have been flowing freely but they're starting to run dry. The brief is tight, you've got to come up with a way of "extending the customer's relationship with the product". You've gone through your entire inventory of stock ideas, you've talked about the innovation of Nike+, you've pushed the community angle, you've talked viral and you even pulled out the old 'Choose Your Own Adventure' concept. Still nothing is setting the room on fire. You take a bite out of the pizza and the idea hits you like a silver bullet to the brain. Deep SPAM™ Pizza.BOOYAH!! The wordplay is perfect, it hits the right demographic and the product is the main star. Then it hits you again,SPAM™ Rogan Josh. The client loves it and before you know it you're commissioning photography and updating the web site.
Adweek has an interesting article about sponsored blog posts and sites like Gawker and Digg “lending a hand with brands looking to fit into their environments without being relegated to the sidelines with run-of-the-mill banner ads”. I think this is a very smart proposition because it is one way for a brand to get access to a section of their audience that would be very difficult to reach otherwise. They mention the example of Federated Media crafting a sponsored blog post for Virgin America, in the design-conscious Apartment Therapy blog, that spoke of Virgin’s plush leather seats and soft lighting. The idea was to distinguish Virgin from low-cost competitors like Southwest Airlines.
I’ve been thinking of the concept of branded utility, and brands being useful, good or nice for some time.
Joe Heath at BBH just sent me this link to a deck by Paul Isakson at Space150:
It’s a very good slide presentation that says, “The product really is the marketing: make better products first”. IE. planners may have finally got it. It reminded me of the piece below which I wrote a very very long time ago as a result of experiences working with Orange, when at Metadesign. It’s about merging product and brand and service development and the importance of defining narratives in enabling a product or service to realise its true value; apologies for the academic tone – it’s called ‘The communication is the product…’ and it goes like this: