One of my favorite family outings as a child was visiting the Art Institute of Chicago to explore the never-ending rooms filled with paintings, photographs, sculptures, and artifacts. As a young girl I don’t think I could articulate why I always wanted to go there, other than to look at all the pretty pictures, but as I grew up I realized that each work of art has a story to share.
Every time I walked by one painting in particular, (I believe it was this untitled piece by Clyfford Still) I would almost get angry. I didn’t understand how what appeared to be a plain black canvas could end up in a museum. I would get mad at the artist, thinking he should have put forth at least a little bit of effort to create something beautiful. I believed that anyone could paint a huge canvas black and didn’t understand what was so special about this “work of art.” Yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and every single time I would walk by that painting I would notice something new. An area of depth, texture, or something else interesting that had previously gone unnoticed.
This seemingly uncomplicated work of art has influenced me in many ways. The symbolism is profound—the fact that things are not usually what they seem at first glance, the value of slowing down to try and understand what doesn’t make sense, and that even things that seem very simple at first are often quite complex. I don’t know if that’s what the artist had in mind when he was creating the work, but it is remarkably powerful messaging for something that initially induced such a negative response.
There are many life lessons to be drawn here, but the point I’m trying to make is that “art,” in its many forms, tells a story. Isn’t that the point of marketing, too?
Marketing is more than an avenue to sales. It is a statement to the world about why your business exists. It’s a method of enticing people to engage with an idea—your idea. Whether we’re promoting a product, service, or concept, we believe our clients will realize some type of benefit from buying whatever it is we are selling. We tell the story of those benefits through our marketing activities.
The Magic Formula
Despite countless resources claiming to have the best marketing system, there’s no simple magic formula that works for every business every time. Like art, there is not a right or wrong way to share your message. That’s the good news.
However, also like art, not all potential clients will connect with all marketing initiatives. Some people will be drawn in by simplicity (like a black canvas). Others will require more obvious messages. What you say and how you say it will develop an impression of what your clients can expect from you. It takes a lot of careful consideration, research, and experimentation to get it right. But this isn’t bad news—you can develop a marketing plan that builds connections with precisely the clients you want to attract.
How do you do that? Approach your marketing with truth, integrity, and a little creativity. Ask your ideal clients what type of marketing engages them and what kind of messages they’d like to receive from you. Find imaginative ways to demonstrate the benefits clients will gain through working with your business. Pay attention the results of each marketing initiative. Repeat the things that work. Drop the ones that don’t.
There simply can’t be a “magic” formula to marketing. If everyone were doing it a certain way, nothing would stand out to capture anyone’s attention. If the Art Institute displayed only black canvases, the work by Clyfford Still (and the museum as a whole) wouldn’t be compelling at all.
In reality, marketing is a blend of art and science. You need to be intentional with the nuances of the messages you’re sharing. Colors, images, delivery method, and the type of language used all produce non-verbal cues that can say more than the words themselves. Subtle details can make viewers pass something by unnoticed or generate an unforgettable impression. Your marketing is an artistic representation of your business. The “magic” of successful marketing is really in making sure you’re consciously leveraging the artistic impressions created with your communication.
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