Monday, October 20, 2008

Managing Your Personal Brand

I know this isn't something most artists want to think about, but it's not as complicated as it seems. Your brand is the impression people get when they first meet you or see your work, and it's what they will remember you for. It's easiest to break it up into two parts: image and reputation.
Assuming you already have a reputation in the community, the first thing to be aware of is to know who you are and how both peers and potential customers view you. This is a good starting point so you can enforce certain perceptions and (if need be) play down others. It's easiest to get honest feedback from close friends, but you shouldn't rely on them totally because they know you best and are biased.
Once you know where you stand, you can check your reputation within your community to find who are your best supporters and who is your competition. One of the most important things in reinforcing your brand is consistency. Your art, your dress, and your interactions should all portray the same message (unless your reputation for being unpredictable and erratic is what sets you apart and makes sales!). You should be working to differentiate yourself so that people remember you as opposed to another artist.
In personal presentation, it's hard to find much guidance for artists on what to wear. Most advice targets business students going into an interview or professionals giving a presentation. For creative people, the rules are much different. To be honest, there are no rules. Aside from bathing infrequently, it really doesn't matter as long as it is consistent with your brand. A rock musician can wear a scruffy t-shirt and jeans, but most fashion designers couldn't because they are expected to be more adventurous in their dress. The topic is really personal to each individual, which makes it difficult to provide clear examples.
To sum up:
Your brand is your reputation, and your image needs to be consistent in your art, your clothes, and the way you interact with people. Once you have figured out what your brand is, reinforce it everywhere you or your work appears so you will be remembered.
A lot of times your brand happens by accident, but you will have an advantage if you understand who you are and what other people think of you.