by David Carus
For many artists the idea of marketing means acting like a used car salesman, hounding people with annoying pleas to “come on down and look at what I got!” They wouldn’t be alone because there are plenty of people that have this viewpoint from so many salesmen not treating their profession as an artist might. I’m here to tell you that the used car salesman model doesn’t work and isn’t what anyone should be doing, not even used car salesmen. When done right, marketing is an art.
Marketing is more than just selling. There are many parts to it. Think of it like a big machine, ironically, like a car. You have your wheels, tires, body, frame, brakes, engine, windows, etc. The machine called marketing basically has these parts: the thinking up of an idea for something, the making of it, the distributing of it, the packaging of it, how people perceive and discover it and how they go spread the word about it. It includes things like selling and advertising too.
Once you know that marketing is not just putting up a sign or shouting at passers by, but an overall big picture of how you get a product from being a lightbulb over your head to getting it into the hands of lots of people, you can now move forward with some success. You’re probably already doing some marketing but in order to really take flight as an artist you’re going to have to be an artist at marketing too.
Let’s take a look at an example of successful marketing. Apple. They gave us the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad and are easily one of the biggest companies in the world. Why? They are artists at marketing. They created a concept for a product no one even knew they wanted. How could anyone imagine being able to carry thousands of songs on one small device called an iPod? We were used to portable CD players and thought we were hot stuff if our CD player had anti-skip protection! Apple came up with an amazing idea and then rolled out a marketing campaign that captured the idea. Remember those great ads of black silhouettes over colorful backgrounds rocking out, earphones swinging? The iPod was fun, creative and something new. People had to have it and it spread by word of mouth too. But there was also the packaging. Have you ever walked into an Apple store? It’s nice being in there isn’t it? From the sleek look to the workers in blue t-shirts to the way the packaging feels when you hold it. Apple has made the entire experience of being a customer of their products into something amazing. That takes skill and those guys are true artists.
You might say, “well Apple is a big corporation, they can afford to hire professional advertising agencies and designers, but what can I do?” They are a big company but they started as two guys in a garage. Walt Disney was a struggling artist trying to break into a new field called animation and started by reading one book on the subject. Today the Walt Disney Company is the largest entertainment company on Earth. My point is that everyone starts somewhere. So don’t feel limited. Feel empowered with the possibilities of what you can create and how you can create it.
You probably already know what kind of artist you are. You might be a fine artist or a novelist or a singer-songwriter but no matter what kind of artist you are you need to master the art of marketing. Hell, there was even a very famous car salesman that you could easily call an artist of marketing. What he’d do was simple, brilliant and got him the Guinness World Record for number of cars sold. Whenever someone would find their way to his car lot he would always remember to write down their name, address and birthday, then, like clockwork on their birthday he’d send them a birthday card. It got to be a major production where he’d send out thousands of birthday cards, but people loved them! He might not sell them a car right away but they’d always remember him and eventually they’d buy from him or refer a friend when the subject of buying a car came up in conversation. Why wouldn’t he get their business? He did something no one else was doing. Often, people don’t remember to give birthday cards to their family or friends and here he was sending a card year after year. He turned the idea of a used car salesman from the guy to avoid to the guy that always sends you a birthday card. Think about what you could do with one simple marketing action.
When it comes to marketing your art, the sky is the limit and it’s one big empty canvas for you to paint into a masterpiece. The internet makes it even easier to market your work. You now have the ability to reach millions overnight with the right work or message behind you. You must treat marketing like an art because it is. You have to continually work at it to get better. Over time your skills will improve until you have an assembly line of masterpieces being pumped out.
Tackle the marketing of your art as an extension of the art itself, not even because you want it to sell, but because there is further pleasure to be had creating in the field of marketing. Steve Jobs took an interest in not only building iPods but in building stores. Walt Disney looked beyond his movies and envisioned theme parks where parents could bring their kids.
Look beyond the empty canvas sitting on your easel as your only form of art to create at. Talk a walk outside and try imagining what the world will look like as you market your art in it. The ways are as limitless as your canvas at home because the canvas of the world is so much bigger. Get those lightbulbs glowing and start flinging that paint!
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There is probably no artist's name as well known, as attached to so many works of art and that has inspired more people than Walt Disney. From creating Mickey Mouse to building Disneyland to creating arguably the largest entertainment company on planet Earth, he is a giant personality whose works will be felt for many years into the future. Any artist should study the life of this American genius because they will find mountains of inspiration from any chapter of his brilliant story.
He grew up in a poor, yet hardworking farming family in the Midwest and at an early age discovered a love for drawing. He never finished high school, dropping out because he wanted to fight in the war but fortunate for us they turned him down because he was only 16. He found work in making advertisements which led him to discovering animation. He had no formal training whatsoever but was fascinated by the subject and found a book on it, read it, and soon after opened up an animation company. It gained some success but could not turn a profit and quickly failed. That's right, Walt Disney's first animation business went bankrupt and failed! He decided to move from Kansas City to Hollywood where the entertainment industry was. With the help of his brother Roy, they began creating new and exciting animation.
Disney's company had success with a character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, although it was technically owned by Universal and through strong arm business tactics the character was not only taken from Disney's company but also every single one of his animators except for one. With such a huge loss of staff and resources he did not wallow or dive into self-pity, instead he flourished and prospered through the creation of one of the most globally recognizable characters in human history: Mickey Mouse. Disney had the idea to produce a cartoon in sound and with the production of "Steamboat Willie" in 1928, his company had a bonafide hit on their hands, with Walt Disney's own voice imbuing the new animated star with a lovable soul.
Walt Disney would continue innovating in the field of animation with his most ambitious project yet. At the time, cartoons were short and shown before a movie played, but Disney had the idea to produce a feature length cartoon. This was unheard of and they called him crazy, constantly saying that no one would sit through a whole movie of a cartoon; it was ridiculous! Disney spent four years working on his feature length cartoon until he ran out of money and was forced to show early, unfinished material to bankers, and finally his film was released in 1937. You may have heard of it. It was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and it went on to earn Disney an Academy Award, was the most successful film of 1938, is listed in AFI's List of the 100 Greatest American Films (one of only two animated films to be on the list, the other is Disney's Fantasia) and Albert Einstein at the time said it was, "the greatest film ever made."
Despite the success of Snow White and Mickey Mouse, The Walt Disney Company had not managed to reach viability as a company because of huge loan debts and large investments into expanding the Disney Studios and beginning production on more animated feature films. Just when the public wanted to see Disney films, the world was thrown into World War II and the company faced giant obstacles to stay afloat and somehow survive. Walt Disney did not let a global war stop him from creating art and when the dust settled he was in control of a company that knew no boundaries, produced more animated films, expanded into live action films, had it's own distribution company and an international merchandising empire.
When Walt Disney wanted to create a place where parents could bring their kids that was beautiful, fun, and other worldly, they again called him crazy. His company would go into further debt and had to think creatively of how to raise more money for the idea of a theme park at a time when no one knew what a theme park was. He struck gold by working out a deal with ABC to air a TV show about his new theme park and it's construction and through an investment with ABC was able to get enough money to build his park and promote it on TV at the same time. Until Disneyland opened in 1951, the Walt Disney Company had spent its first 20 years in debt, but it could now go on to amass enormous revenue from the success of "the happiest place on Earth," which would evolve into more parks, including Disney World in 1971.
The Walt Disney Company now owns the companies ABC, Miramax, Marvel and Pixar, to name a few. It has produced countless hours of television, motion pictures, and music. It has arguably created more memorable pieces of art and entertainment than any other company in history, and to think it all stemmed from a man from very humble beginnings that wanted to draw instead of farm. His genius lay not in the ability to amass fame and fortune, but in his ability to constantly create art and push the limits of what was possible in whatever artistic field he was involved. and the fame and fortune were inevitable. He ignored the naysayers and always looked to the future. If they call Times Square the "center of the universe" and refer to a "Disneyfication" of it, it only means we have arrived at a future world that Walt Disney helped create, decades ago, while drawing pictures and wanting them to move.
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I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.