08 Mar 4 Lessons in Marketing from Balenciaga
I took myself off on an ‘artist date’ this past weekend – a concept coined by Julia Cameron, who wrote one of the seminal books on creativity: The Artist’s Way. Cameron’s idea was that once a week, creatives should arrange a solo expedition to explore something that interests them, with the aim to spark whimsy and inspiration. And my trip to the Kunstmuseum certainly did just that.
I have a firm love of fashion but must admit that I knew very little about Spanish designer Balenciaga (1895-1972), who is referred to as ‘The Master’ by those in the industry. As I strolled between his designs, all of which remain iconic and impeccable, here’s what I took from it that can be applied to the creative process – and marketing – today.
1. Narrower brief, higher creativity
Balenciaga was unusual in that he designed primarily in black. No flashy colours and fewer distractions. By narrowing his focus, he was able to play with texture and form, with fabrics and silhouettes, creating masterpieces that were ultra-clear in their mastery. The same applies to creative projects, and even when you’re briefing a supplier: if you’re very specific about your needs, the audience and the parameters within which you want to work, you’ll receive a stronger and more creative output. Briefing is something we’ve seen done poorly over the years, and it’s a skill that marketers need to master if they want campaigns that deliver.
2. High volume
This seems true for nearly all the masters of their creative trade: you have to produce high volumes in order to unearth those true gems. Balenciaga experimented endlessly with different fabrics (some would say he was obsessive in how much he produced), because he knew that to make something superb, you have to design a lot of fairly average stuff too. The same applies to music, writing, and nearly every form of creative output – you must get comfortable with the fact that you’re going to need to put in some serious hours, and that not every piece you produce is going to be great. That’s why with our conceptual copywriting and campaign ideas, we tend to produce more than we’ve been briefed to – and we often include a few outliers – so there’s a higher chance that one lands perfectly with the client.
Balenciaga designed nearly every dress in black, and another artist I saw at the museum was similar in terms of his specialisation: Piet Mondrian. This Dutch artist is best known for his abstract geometric compositions featuring red, yellow and blue, with lots of white space and thick straight black lines. Both of these artists specialised in perfecting a very specific niche and not trying to be all things to all people – and it’s this originality that made them stand out. I think this concept can be applied to marketing, as well as personal branding online: find your niche, hone in on it, get very good at it, and become known for it.
4. Bravery & instinct
Balenciaga ‘rejected’ all popular forms of decoration, deciding only to focus on the essential shapes. Mondrian was labelled a ‘degenerate’ when he started producing abstract art, leading to him having to flee war-time Europe for New York, which is where he produced one of his most timeless and well known pieces (at the age of 70). In both cases, these artists had this innate instinct to produce art that wasn’t necessarily ‘approved’ by society at the time – but in doing so, they made contributions that changed both the fashion and art industries forever.
We may not all change the world with our small creative contributions, or even our marketing, but we can choose to be brave. We can choose to trust our instincts and take risks, ultimately helping us produce better work, and have a more positive impact on those around us. Thanks to these two artists for reminding me of these enduring lessons.
Photo by Katy Hoogerwerf of Good Trips Travel