Sunday, January 19, 2014

Grudge Match: Branding vs. The Eyeroll

I've been reading with interest a conversation started by clay blogger Tracey Broome and chimed in by  Michael Kline over at Sawdust and Dirt. It's about branding and how it relates to studio artists, and seems to dovetail with the thoughts I've been mulling lately.

First, I have to make a confession: I don't exactly know what branding is. I mean, I know the definition of the word:
brand´ • ing : v., burning a mark into the skin of an animal (such as a cow) to show who owns the animal
Wait, that can't be right....they probably mean this sense of the word: 
brand´ • ing: n., :  the promoting of a product or service by identifying it with particular qualities or values. 
Which is all fine, but what I have trouble with is how it applies to a studio artist. I mean, it's great if I say I want people to think of my work as creative and well crafted, but...who doesn't? Nobody's slogan is, "I'm a Hack!" And the only way to claim those qualities is for the work to actually be creative and well crafted. Which I would do anyway. So I'm missing something, here.

To figure out what, I did some more reading. Most of what's out there on branding is positively eye-rolling for potters, and artists in general, because it's not really aimed at us. (Even the one aimed at artists was not much better.) Integrate your brand into how you answer your phone! That's if I ever did answer my phone, which I don't because it's never for me anyway. And here's a scary quote from the Bloomberg Business Week article: "Branding is about getting your prospects to perceive you as the only solution to their problem." Gaaaaaah! That is literally impossible for me. There are thousands of excellent potters from whom a person could purchase a sugar bowl.

Maybe I am being too literal.

Part of the problem is that obvious efforts at branding seem laughable and hokey. An artist with a tagline? Come on.  Cue the eye-roll.

Ouch! A thought just hit me, hard. Have you ever gone out with friends to Karaoke Night? Karaoke night is no fun if you can't quit rolling your eyes, drop your self-consciousness, and belt it out. Part of my resistance to the whole idea of branding is that it will be obvious what I am doing, and generate eye-rolls out there in TVland. But, so what? I love karaoke. I don't care who thinks I'm a cornball up there crooning Total Eclipse of the Heart.

But, flip! It does matter. The people who I need to like my work are pretty sophisticated. If I send out an email to stores or galleries, and the signature line contains a tagline, an eyeroll in that situation is near-fatal. It seems like any obvious attempt at branding could cause a potter - even a good one - to be perceived as a hack. A cornball hack.

It seems like I need to do more thinking on this matter. Back atcha tomorrow.

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