The Importance of Artist Branding
An artist—no matter how brilliant, eccentric, or hard-working—is only human. An artist laboring in a studio is confined by physical time and space. An artist can only do so much in a given time.
But an artist brand? An art brand can do what no human being ever could.
A brand can attain a life of its own and transcend human limitations. With just a few clicks on social media, an artist brand can travel millions of miles to all corners of the Earth. A good brand in the linchpin of many artists’ success.
What artist best exemplifies the importance of branding in the modern art world? When you look at 2020’s biggest art auction successes under the age of 40, you will find Sam Cox, whose works amassed nearly $4.7 million across three continents in just over nine months.
To illustrate (pun intended) this point, let’s explore how Sam created the Mr. Doodle brand, propelling him to international fame and (in some circles) acclaim.
The Curious Case of Mr. Doodle
Though he’s British, goes by a whimsical alter ego, and has made waves with his eccentric, instantly recognizable art style, Mr. Doodle is no Banksy. We know exactly who he is.
Born in Kent, England in 1994, Sam Cox adopted the moniker of “Mr Doodle” in 2014. Though known in the art world since 2017, he only recently went viral in March 2020 when his signature “graffiti spaghetti” works sold at auction.
Whether you know Mr. Doodle or not, there’s no denying that he embodies—literally and figuratively—the concept of a successful, instantly recognizable art brand.
Mr. Doodle’s Artist Brand
Mr. Doodle is rarely seen without his signature wardrobe. He can be spotted a mile away clad in stark white suits emblazoned with his whimsical, hand-drawn doodles.
Incorporating clothing into his art brand sends a clear message. Mr. Doodle doesn’t just make art; he lives art. Some artists work in a studio twelve hours a day, then click the lights off and go home. Not Mr. Doodle. He merges himself with his art. He literally embodies his artist brand.
Mr. Doodle’s art style looks, well, silly. And that’s the point! He never takes things too seriously. His exhibitions are accompanied by a healthy dose of self-awareness.
Consider his 2016 exhibition, “Attention Seeker.” Its title, with a wink and a nod, tells us exactly what is really going on. In it, Mr. Doodle created a mural along the walls of London’s Hoxton Gallery. When the crowd arrived, he (in his matching outfit) lined himself up against the mural for the perfect Instagram shot. Attention seeker, indeed.
That kind of sly self-awareness and willingness to laugh at his own antics is, itself, a crucial element of Mr. Doodle’s artist brand.
We don’t know what Sam Cox is like behind closed doors. For all we know, his private life is brimming with contemplation and ruminations on the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.
But, in public, Mr. Doodle projects a carefree, happy-go-lucky personality that perfectly matches his artist brand.
From general mannerisms and comportment to his fictional origin story—a tale of interplanetary exile, an evil twin brother, and a fantastical Paper Galaxy—Mr. Doodle lives and breathes his artist brand.
Maybe it’s an act; maybe he really believes that stuff. Regardless, public persona matters quite a bit in art branding. Mr. Doodle understands that like few others.
Mr. Doodle believes that we should all take life a little less seriously.
In part a reaction against the VUCA world, Mr. Doodle stresses the importance of stepping back from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Art, in his estimation, has become too serious, too fixated on its own meaning and purpose. He wants everyone—from the art snobs to the general public—to have a bit more fun with art.
Every element of Mr. Doodle’s artistic brand reinforces that message. His brand doubles as a lifestyle and life philosophy. He invites fans to accompany him on his journey, to see the world from his point of view.
This is the power of an artist brand. Properly branding art can enthrall an audience, captivate them, and change the way they think about life. It’s hard to build better customer loyalty than that.
Mr. Doodle’s meteoric success is owed, in large part, to his ability to craft, deploy, and leverage his art brand.
He offers artists today a shining example of the power of branding art and maintaining a consistent and instantly recognizable branding for visual artists.