3 terrific reasons why brands are engaging with arts & culture

* Art has the power to bring creative energy to a brand

* Brands need to create memorable experiences, and engaging with the arts is one of the opportunities to do just that

* With consumer expectations on the rise, an increasing number of brands are turning to the cultural sphere

With consumer expectations on the rise, an increasing number of brands are turning to the cultural sphere to add new substance to their positioning and to connect with their target audiences on a deeper level.

Grayling has published a white paper explaining what makes creative partnerships work, tracing trends that are driving their future and showcasing the successful corporate arts programs of numerous brands, including Absolut, BMW, Cadillac, Davidoff, Swatch, UNIQLO and Vans.

“Welcome to the experience economy. Consumer expectations are on the rise. Just providing a good product or a service will no longer suffice. Brands need to create memorable experiences, and engaging with the arts is one of the opportunities to do just that,” the white paper says.

 

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Back in 1992, German sociologist Gerhardt Schulze introduced the concept of the Experience Society (Erlebnisgesellschaft) based on the analysis of cultural behavior in different social strata in Nurnberg. In 1998, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore coined the term of the Experience Economy, which implied a new way of establishing relationships between brands and consumers, and today it is becoming more and more relevant.

By introducing art support initiatives brands usually pursue a mixture of goals – to give back to the community and to demonstrate their social responsibility, to highlight their values and creative side, and to engage internal and external stakeholders such as employees, clients, and partners on a deeper level.

Social Responsibility

For many brands art support falls into the CSR realm. “Some companies view their art activities as a way of contributing to the quality of life of their communities and of their employees who value working for a company that is involved in such programs,” the Grayling report quoted Andras Szanto, a New York-based art writer and cultural strategy consultant who has advised such brands as Absolut, Audemars Piguet, Davidoff, and BMW.

“Many art initiatives, especially the ones that include art residencies and commissions, are often filling the gap in the areas that have weak art infrastructure,” he adds.

However, the success of collaborations is often determined by the company’s ability to find the intersection between the needs of the art world and the interests and goals of the brand.

Projects that are appreciated in the art community but don’t have a strong connection to a brand and its communication risk becoming a one-time thing rather than a long-term engagement. “You can also imagine that some things that brands do might have very little credibility in the art world, and they go unnoticed by it. But there is a kind of a sweet spot where interest from the brand and credibility in the art world overlap, and the success of your collaboration depends on whether you operate in that zone of mutual interest,” says Andras Szanto in Grayling’s white paper.

Brand positioning

Art has the power to bring creative energy to a brand and to influence its positioning, the white paper said.

Studies (i.e. by Henrik Hagtvedt and Vanessa M. Patrick, 2008) have shown the so-called “art fusion” phenomenon. It is a kind of spillover effect, in which the presence of visual art has a favorable influence on consumer perception and evaluations of products as art is generally associated with a heritage of culture and has connotations of luxury and prestige.

Art can also become a way to express a brand narrative in an unconventional way though its interpretation by an artist. There is a great quote on this in the book “Taken by Surprise: Cutting-Edge Collaborations between Designers, Artists, and Brands” by R. Klanten and S. Ehmann (2012): “Every successful brand has a glorious story to tell. Sometimes it takes someone on the outside to tease it out.”

 

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Collaboration with contemporary artists highlights the brand’s connection with the present. “If we partner with an art of the 21st century, that’s a way for us to be connected to the 21st century,” explains Jean-Claude Biver, president of the watch division at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, in an interview to The New York Times (November 2016) commenting on Hublot’s collaboration with the tattoo artist Maxime Buchi. “I want the young generation to dream about my brand,” he adds.

New way of communicating and the rise of a cultural brand

Art can help the brand start a conversation with its target audiences beyond its core product area and to establish more meaningful connections, the Grayling report added.

Art also provides the brand with an opportunity to communicate with its stakeholders around their passion points and to create a community of interest.

According to Thomas Girst, BMW is a cultured brand, and its target audiences are interested in arts, which can serve as a starting point in establishing relationships with them. “When it comes to participation in international art events like Art Basel, it’s about visibility beyond branding, about being where your potential clients are, about storytelling and creating meaningful experiences,” says Thomas Girst in the report.

“It is no longer about taking them into our world, but being a trustworthy player in a world they are involved in.”

Art also allows the company to engage its clients directly. “For many high-end luxury and financial services companies it is a great way to meet their clients in person,” says Andras Szanto.

In addition, art events organised by brands help to bring clients together and to give them a platform to network with like-minded individuals. It is an added value that the affiliation with the brand provides and it might be highly appreciated by its clientele.

Not every brand is ready for art collaborations. Eneuri Acosta from Cadillac finds cultural relevance and credibility to be important for creative partnerships, which gives the brand “a natural reason to interact with these communities because it is a brand they are already embracing.”

“Speaking of Cadillac, many artists like Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat turned to it for cultural relevance in their works as the brand has always been seen as a status symbol for success,” added Grayling’s white paper.

To download the report click on this link: Grayling brands and the arts whitepaper

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