“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”
In the early 1950s Andy Warhol was a commercial illustrator working at a Madison Avenue advertising firm, but his dream was to one day become a famous artist. At his first solo gallery exhibition in 1962, five of his 32 paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans sold for around $100 each. At the time of his death in 1987, Warhol’s signature ‘pop art’ prints of consumer products and celebrities were embedded into popular culture, reprinted as posters and plastered onto T-shirts, skateboards and handbags. Andy Warhol had become a household name, a bona-fide celebrity and an icon beyond just the art world.
How did he do it? By marketing his art as a branded commodity in a way that no other artist before him had done. Warhol’s background in advertising allowed him to recognize that artists, just like brands, are producers of content through which their core ideals and values are expressed. By viewing his artwork as content produced by his brand, Warhol was able to effectively sell it to a mass market. Here’s what he and the artists who have followed in his footsteps can teach us about content marketing.
1.) Your content is your brand
Although Andy Warhol rose to fame before the term “content marketing” had been coined, he was – as his aforementioned quote suggests – adept at marketing Andy Warhol The Artist. This involved developing a signature style and theme for his content that would be instantly recognizable as a product of Andy Warhol. To this day his trademark pop art prints of Campbell’s Soup cans and Marilyn Monroe are as recognized as any other major brand logo that has infiltrated popular culture. The themes he explored in his artistic content, usually statements about the influence of advertising and mass consumerism on American pop culture, were part of his “brand message”.
When generating new content, it’s important to choose innovative themes that will resonate directly with your audience, but also to uphold a style and quality that people will positively associate with your brand. Content marketing has evolved rapidly as search engines have gotten smarter: gone are the early days of basic, keyword-rammed SEO content that lacked style and substance. Today, there is more room for innovation and originality in the tone and style of the content you choose to circulate, which can be a powerful tool in attracting and engaging new audiences. However, with power comes responsibility: it is essential to ensure the style and message of your content remains in line with your brand’s core identity.
In order to align your message, it’s helpful to incorporate a tool that can adapt to the various ways your teams define concepts and stages within the content marketing process. At Marketing.AI we call this the framework vs platform model, and it informs how we build our product. Using a flexible tool helps you to define your strategy and contexts, align your teams, and get everyone on the same page.
2.) Maintain brand loyalty through selective content:
The elusive subversive artist Banksy often uses his stylized pop-up graffiti “exhibitions” to express his disdain for the pervasion of advertising and mass marketing into everyday life, yet ironically, he could probably teach a master class on content marketing. Banksy is a brand rather than a person: his artwork (content) carries a satirical tone and strong themes that reflect current hot-button political and socioeconomic issues. By keeping his identity anonymous and dedicating himself to producing free street art, Banksy upholds the authenticity of his brand while simultaneously (and ingeniously) courting attention through controversy.
Just as Banksy would never betray his audience by suddenly subjecting them to brand-sponsored Instagram posts, so should you be mindful of the loyalty you are building as a content-producing brand. When sharing content with your audience, it’s essential to know what their wants and needs are. Because every company under the sun is jumping onto the content marketing bandwagon, audiences are becoming more selective in what they choose to engage with. And while it may be tempting to supply an endless stream of content, if that content doesn’t reflect your brand values or is irrelevant to your audience’s wants, it can actually have a detrimental effect. Make each piece of content you offer your audience count by knowing exactly what they want to engage with; if you subject them to irrelevant content too often, you risk alienating them – and losing their loyalty in the process.
One way to mitigate this content marketing risk is by creating a structured workflow process for each type of content and channel that embeds your guidelines through details, stages and permissions. This is one of the key features of Marketing.AI’s collaborative content workflow.
3.) Consider content within its context:
What is good art? How do you know when you see it? Perhaps when it is hanging inside a prestigious gallery? Again, leave it to the brilliant provocateur that is Banksy to highlight a crucial point: context affects content. In October 2014, Banksy anonymously sold a few of his pieces in Central Park to unsuspecting strangers for $60 a pop (his work typically sells for thousands of dollars in galleries). The stunt was effective: it landed Banksy in the headlines, but more importantly it got people talking about the context in which we experience art, and how that affects our perception of it.
Your content strategy should also take into account the context in which it will be experienced. Factors such as external environment (time of day), medium (smart phone, tablet, desktop), and individual personality traits contribute to the context in which your product or message will be perceived. There are also platforms to factor in when considering user experience: perhaps your blog post is appropriately formatted for LinkedIn, Facebook and WordPress. Re-formatting the same piece of content into a picture-led feature for Instagram and Pinterest might change your audience’s perception of the messages you’re trying to communicate. Conversely, thinking outside the box by expanding content across new platforms can help to improve your reach, for example a feature originally posted on Pinterest could be developed into a blog post to be shared on new platforms.
Planning and executing cross-platform strategies while also keeping everyone on the same page can be difficult, but tools like Markting.AI can help you plan strategic contexts up front by including each team member in assignments and workflows and making their progress easy to view, search and track.
4.) Collaboration is key:
The artist is often misrepresented as an isolated recluse who toils away in solitude; however many artists throughout history have found success through strategic business partnerships and artistic collaborations. In 1631 Rembrandt partnered with art dealer and entrepreneur Hendrick van Uylenburgh to help him launch his career as a painter in Amsterdam. Picasso and fellow painter George Braques formed an artistic partnership and collaborated in bringing the revolutionary concept of Cubism into the elite art world. And in his heyday, Andy Warhol surrounded himself with an entourage at his New York studio, otherwise known as The Factory; this motley crew of artists, writers, actors, musicians, and muses kept him inspired and entertained, collaborating with him on projects including paintings, photography, books, and films.
Effective content marketing requires collaborative efforts in the planning, execution and distribution of content. It is vital to weave together a team of individual experts who complement each other’s skill-sets, whether they are bouncing ideas off one another, giving each other feedback on content, or executing a detailed, multi-pronged distribution strategy. At all stages of content development and distribution, effective communication and management of individual tasks will make the process that much smoother.
Technology can streamline this process by making the end-to-end content lifecycle flow more smoothly, aligning teams in collaborative ideation, content requests, global editorial calendars, and collaborative workflows, and making the complicated task of content marketing less arduous – and dare we say, fun!
Just as art imitates life, so can you imitate some great artists when planning your own content marketing efforts. To start putting these ideas to use, sign up for a free trial today and start making your editorial calendar a work of art.