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Permanent Banksy

A London gallery announced they’ve created the first permanent gallery exhibit dedicated to the master of impermanent – street artist Banksy. Master marketer Banksy has been unmasked by algorithms. And it doesn’t matter. Banksy’s brand is so complete, so well thought out and supported he can do whatever. Nirvana reached Banksy gets paid to be Banksy.

If there is a stronger testimony to the power of personal brands in the “new marketing” than Banksy’s prolific career, art world disruption, and extension of middle finger to all the normal ways of doing anything we don’t know it (and we watch for that kind of stuff :). Banksy’s lessons are simple and dramatic:

  • Less Is More
  • You Control Some of your Brand (crowdsource the rest)
  • Packaging Matters
  • Be POSITIVE Even When Shredding Something

Less Is More

Banksy would invade and then leave moving quickly. Banksy eschewed publicity. He played the new per marketing game beautifully. He kept his identity secret. Nothing like a mystery to awaken the cat in all of us. Banksy knows how strong we MUST solve the mystery, work the crossword and put the puzzle together. He created a robin hood sized myth and then fed it with just the right amount of support, nurturing and up is down gamesmanship.

In this strange time seeking approval, publicity and customers are seen as gauche and uncouth. We don’t make markets, sell things or publicize them. Markets and brands are made magically. Not so much as Banksy knows, but to be seen as playing the game is to lose. Only the swift, intelligent, and creative has the table stakes for this new branding poker.

The line between LESS and MORE is so thin, ever-changing and capricious it almost doesn’t exist. Marketers walk a thin, wobbly wire. Banksy walked the wire with courage, a Zen monk-like egolessness and he seemed to have fun. Fun is contagious. Your marketing walks on a thin wire strung between two impossibly tall buildings where wind, weather, life, and time are different than for the tiny spec humans below.

Control Is An Illusion

Control and our natural human desire to assert, discover and find it (control) are web marketing’s greatest fantasies. In such a complex system patterns are lies, beliefs are dangerous, and ego kills more brands, companies, and websites than any other sin. The illusion is real. The web is unknowable because it always happens now. Now is the Houdini escape artist always slipping away.

When YOU, the creator, maker or brand architect, can’t control what should you do? Banksy knows the answer. You do a little and crowdsource a lot. Banksy would do a little painting, run away and let other artists “bomb” or “write” on his work. Nevermind that Banksy’s work is worth millions. His rejection of the money made every other rejection correct, true and robin hood-like.

Think of what Banksy rejected, things such as:

  • Money and Fame
  • The Museum and Gallery Systems
  • The Usual Ways To Create An Artist Brand

Banksy understood something Donald Trump just proved too – we live in different times, times when intermediaries of all kinds from newspapers to art gallery have been dismantled, disenfranchised and reduced in stature, power, and influence. Banksy used social media to find, thrill and marshal his crowd. But Banksy didn’t use social media to control anything. He used social media to create the connections, crowds, and chaos needed to scale his brand.

Packaging Matters

May seem strange to connect Banksy to “packaging.” Think of “packaging” like experience, social media, and subjects (for his art) and you see Banksy was very involved with and concerned about packaging. Banksy didn’t strangle or insist. He floated ideas, watched results and tried to improve his process. Remember when Banksy invaded museums.

Banksy would “hang” one of his paintings in a famous British Museum. His acts of “vandalism” were pitch perfect. They showed the absurdity of letting a few old white guys decide who wins, loses and will be remembered in the art world. Banksy never met the Met’s great curator Thomas Hoving, and he didn’t care. Banksy’s rejection of the art system for the mob couldn’t have happened when Hoving ruled the Met.

But social media, blogs, and ubiquitous, always-on smartphones meant Thomas Hoving be damned.

Be Positive Even When Shredding

Banksy’s sense of humor was wicked, spot on with the cultural zeitgeist and rarely cruel. Banksy understood another fine line and potential trap lies between funny and SMART and abusive and whiney. We love the one and can’t abide the other. Social media and the mob to the rescue again. By focusing on his work and seemingly rejecting traditional trappings of success Banksy created a platform.

He used his platform to poke, prod and speak truth to power. The way Banksy spoke truth to power, like a robin hood robbing from the antiquated and over-stuffed for the “common man” assured increasing fame, growing support and a comfortable learning curve and fast feedback loop. Banksy’s willingness to poke fun at himself in his art, films such as Exit Through the Gift Shop and selling art anonymously on the streets of New York added to his legend.

“Selling” is a generous word. Most cynical New Yorkers walked right by his vendor stand. The handful of people who stopped, looked and bought are glad they did since Banksy sold those paintings for around a hundred dollars. Several of those sidewalk paintings have sold now for hundreds of thousands completing Banksy’s point about context, gatekeepers and the absurdity of the art market and the game of life.

In conclusion, think of your digital marketing like Banksy thinks about his art. Remember less is more. Patterns lie. You’re not in control, use humor and be positive. Be positive even when discussing tough issues. Take a broad definition of “packaging”.

Think of social media, brand experiences, and crowdsourcing as “packaging.” Develop a brand that matters, a brand people rush to join, support and advocate.

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