Art and the Fearless Brand

That “Fearless Girl” sculpture is about more than a charging bull. It’s a call to arms for artists and brands to team up and take a stand.

Meet Kristen Visbal, the artist who sculpted the bronze statue of a girl bravely facing down the icon of high finance.
Secretly installed at 3am on International Women’s Day, within hours the artwork went viral and millions understood what “Fearless Girl” was saying. Above all the news, noise, and Trump — art got through. By noon, petitions were underway to make the installation permanent.

Unlike almost every other form of media, art resonates on a deeper level. It flies under the radar of cynicism and straight into the cerebrum for processing.

Commissioned by State Street, “Fearless Girl” is no doubt a success for the respected financial services brand. Lifts will likely be seen in key measures like brand affinity, loyalty and growth. State Street spoke out, something that scares off most brands — but it shouldn’t.

If a brand knows their core customer and authentically embraces their values — “taking a side” can actually strengthen high value relationships.

When you experience a crisis with someone, you bond. You are closer as a result of that shared stressful experience. Politics in 2017 certainly feels like a crisis. With a polarized electorate and rising concerns over basic human issues like healthcare, the environment, immigration and LGBT rights — brands have a bounty of bonding opportunities.

Stacks of insight reports, customer personas, millennial journey maps and marketing funnels all say the same thing — brands need to be real or be gone. Integrity matters, as do inclusion and creative expression.

Warm and fuzzies aside, real world brands are having trouble just being seen. Ad blockers get in the way, as do ephemeral attention spans. Art as content has an advantage here. It sticks.

As a form of self expression, art goes beyond language and culture serving as a creative shorthand of sorts — spot on for social media.

Consumer brands looking to elevate their content marketing would be well-served to explore working with artists. Retailers for example have an opportunity to leverage their physical space for collaborative installations that drive foot traffic and social media engagement.

Media leaders can give emerging artists life-changing recognition and bring light to critical social issues in the process.

Connecting the worlds of artists and brands is the Brooklyn Art Project Collective. In it’s tenth year, the social network is evolving into a premium membership guild for artists, photographers, street artists, illustrators, filmmakers and sculptors.

CapitalOne teamed with Brooklyn Art Project in New York City installing local street art photography, mixed media and illustrations in three Manhattan branches.

The installation transformed a standard retail bank visit into a warmer, more inviting experience for employees and customers. Exhibiting work from local artists helped welcome new branches into the neighborhood.

Other Brooklyn Art Project brand collaborators have included: West Elm, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Burning Man. Increasingly, bold brands like State Street are speaking out, and seeing success among their base and beyond. Artists like Kristen Visbal are standing up for what they believe in — and seeing a global response to their work.

In a word, it’s time for artists and brands to be brave. In another, fearless.

 

– Anthony Cospito, Anthony is Managing Director of Digital Strategy at Popbox Digital and Co-founder of Brooklyn Art Project.

3 reasons you need to rethink your social media strategy

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With ad costs rising for brands to reach their fans and followers across social media, forward thinkers are switching strategy – and going direct.

Organic reach is waning on two of the largest social platforms, Facebook and Instagram. Core to their model, Facebook offers paid options to reach more fans, as does Instagram. We’ve hit the pay to play threshold.

After reaching critical mass with 1 billion DAU (daily active users), it’s no surprise that Facebook is ramping up monetization. The problem is that organic reach on Facebook isn’t just slowing – it’s in free fall, down from 16% in 2012, to 11% in 2015 – and project to dip to 7% in 2016 according to AdWeek.

Instagram growth is also down 93% with engagement plummeting 70% in 2015, according to a study by Locowise.

With the average Instagram user now following 400 to 500 accounts, any kind of interaction is fleeting at best.

The age of “build your social network for free” has transformed to “pay to engage fans at scale” – platform owners win big, brands get squeezed. Understandable in the capitalistic grand scheme of things, you can’t make the rules if you don’t own the room. Unless you do.

One company out to change the game is Mightybell, a SaaS customer community platform, purpose built for direct customer engagement. Led by social networking visionary Gina Bianchini (co-founder of Ning), Mightybell leverages the ubiquity of smartphones to connect brands with 100% of their base, not a declining percentage.

Brands like Intuit QuickBooks and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took notice and launched their own niche networks on Mightybell in 2013. Intuit, for example, has created OWN IT, the most active social network for small business owners and the self-employed with 100,000 members on the platform. The benefit is that members are building relationships with each other, not just the brand.

This quality of customer engagement at scale can generate network effects that spark innovation and help brands stay relevant – especially true for Millennials and Gen Z.

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Customer communities on Mightybell, Intuit’s OWN IT community shown in center.

These customer platforms aren’t new and have evolved quickly with the rise of mobile. As early as 2002, I worked on CPG customer community projects where participants were extremely high value customers (high spend/high frequency), first in their peer group to try something new, most likely to share new ideas, and would often brainstorm new products. A dream segment for any CMO.

The community approach delivers three key benefits over a standard Facebook or Instagram strategy:

Build vs. Buy – Building a customer community gives brands a chance to own the room and learn from all their customers, anytime needed. It’s a platform that focuses on customer interests, needs and opinions. Without limits on reach, brands can more easily deepen loyalty and engage in an ongoing dialog.

Whitespace vs. Whitenoise – The rise of content marketing and social media as a whole makes it harder for a brand to be heard. Communities offer a way to co-create new products with top-tier customers and tap opportunity gaps before the competition. Deep community engagement drives more ROI than standard social media postings.

Value vs. Vanity – Growing customer lifetime value is critical to long term survival. Brands need to go beyond superficial social media stats and care more about bringing high value customers into the fold, involving them in everything from product development, to packaging, and marketing.

While Facebook and Instagram still have a role in a brand’s social strategy, their roles are changing and the customer community is rising.

 

Anthony Cospito is Managing Director of Popbox Digital 

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