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Sunday, 10.31.04: Formulas for Success

I spent yesterday trying to recharge myself creatively. I was going through my pile of unread professional magazines, a stopped at this pullout quote:

Gabriel Garcia Marquez told me that the best thing going for yourself is that you are absolutely crazy.*

The half-read magazine was open to that page, so it must have stopped me before. That's my problem. I'm not nearly crazy enough. Robust mental health is nice in a person, but probably a bit of a deficit in an artist trying to stand out from a world full of half-way decent artists. (Oh, I do know this, of course: a competent artist with a good work ethic may get hired by film studios, ad agencies, etc and she may make good money -- but it's the crazy person who gets the recognition and the prizes.)

I was thinking about this last night when I met up with DK at a party. DK has a thriving sideline as a maker of wine jewelry (e.g., fancy stoppers) and has been branching out into earrings, purses, and other items with beads and twisted wire. She's very popular in boutiques, but not yet making enough to quit her day job. We were musing about how to make it into that next tier of profit. Perhaps she has not yet broken through the craziness barrier. Perhaps, like me, there is still a bit too much timidity or restraint in her work.

If she wants to become a "cult brand," what does she need? More interesting materials -- precious metals, magical beads? Or is what she needs a story? A mythology.

I once looked into "lovemarks" -- an idea developed by Saatchi & Saatchi to express "the future beyond brands." Lovemarks embody mystery (All great love affairs thrive on anticipation), sensuality (The 5 senses are portals to the emotions. How we experience the world and shape our relationships), and intimacy (Love affairs are personal. Commitment, empathy, passion).

The power of passionate consumers is covered by the Business Week/Interbrand survey of most valuable brands:

The brands that have managed to build cultlike followings have done so by being, well, cultlike, at least in some aspects. They are self-consciously different from rivals. They're bound by a set of clearly defined and rigorously enforced values. And they fulfill a range of needs for their members -- er, customers. The fastest-growing ones often project a an aura, an attractive group identity. Conjure up an image of an Armani customer or a Porsche... driver and it will evoke a set of personality characteristics as much as it evokes a product preference. They also beget proselytizers -- customers who will chat up the brands to their buddies, set up Web sites, attend events, and proudly identify themselves as adherents, according to strategist Douglas Atkin of ad agency Merkley & Partners, who recently wrote The Culting of Brands. Nobody has to pay them. They are owners as well as customers.

Hmmm... I realize I'm confusing marketing concepts with go-for-broke artistic craziness. But let's face it, you can be a batshit genius of an artist and be invisible as air unless somewhere along the way you tap into a marketing vein and get discovered by someone cool.





*By filmmaker, painter, cartoonist Sergio Arau, quoted in the Oct 2004 Independent. Among his recent projects is the movie A Day Without a Mexican.

Lovemarks, the future beyond brands. Loyalty beyond reason.

Cult Brands The BusinessWeek/Interbrand annual ranking of the world's most valuable brands shows the power of passionate consumers

Cult branding. Some guidelines for getting started.



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