Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Taking your marketing to the streets.

A few weeks ago, Black Sheep saw the Banksy film, Exit Through the Gift Shop. Of course we did! Banksy is basically the Dalai Lama of attention-grabbing, thought-provoking, guerrilla marketing tactics. Okay, maybe not marketing, per se, but he certainly sends a message in an unexpected way, and he’s been the source of inspiration for many Black Sheep projects.

What? You’re not familiar with the greatest street artist of all time? We’ll fill you in.

You get the idea.

Anyway, the movie chronicles Banksy and several other esteemed street artists like Shepard Fairey, Neckface and Space Invader as they undertake amazing, brilliant and often dangerous pursuits of street art, all through the eyes of an amateur “filmmaker.” As time progresses, the filmmaker decides to become a street artist himself, and he produces one of the largest exhibits ever featuring knock-offs of his more famous predecessors, leaving the audience to question his talent, his passion, and ultimately the plausibility of the entire film.

So even though the message rang true to us, half the fun of the movie was to see the outrageous products of the street art movement and the reactions of the people passing by. And while, perhaps, Banksy’s work lies in somewhat of a “legal gray area,” the ideology is something the most upright citizens can learn from.

Take chances. Our best clients are the ones that say, “We’ll try it! If it works, that’s great. If it doesn’t, we’ll try again.” As with business entrepreneurship, a risk is always involved, and the reward is usually directly proportional. I’m sure at some point Banksy wheat pasted something to the side of a building, and either got caught, got chastised or ripped his papers and failed at the venture entirely. It happens.

Expect dissent. Not everyone is going to like everything you do, especially if it has a strong message or meaning. Don’t worry about it. These people are not your audience. If you look back on the greatest ideas of all time, they had their naysayers too, so don’t let the possibility of criticism hold you back.

Bask in glory. Creating something big that catches people off-guard – a performance marketing stunt, a protest, a mural on the side of the wall or an underground grassroots campaign all over town – will get noticed. People will stop, take pictures and tell their friends. Those friends will tell their friends. Nothing is more valuable than a memorable experience, and when you use a “shock and awe” approach, you’re giving the people something they’ll not soon forget.

Don’t be a copycat. If you watch the film we mentioned above, you’ll see that in the street art world, imposters are not welcomed. If you’re going to do something that gets a lot of attention, make sure it’s thoughtful and original.

Wise up. Performance marketing requires a little humor and a little silliness too, but it also needs to be smart and insightful. Connecting emotionally and intellectually with your audience is essential to the success of any campaign, and this arena is no different. If you notice Banksy’s work, it’s not just meant to get a laugh or distract – there is a serious, often political, message attached to every piece of art. It is this jarring, poignant quality that makes his work so renowned.

Street artists find inspiration in the things around them. A wall is not just a wall – it’s a canvas. A sidewalk is not just used for traveling – it’s an artist’s playground. Try to find creative outlets in the unordinary, and take chances when you have the opportunity. Oh, and definitely go see Exit Through the Gift Shop.

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