Portrait of the artist as an integrated marketer

Posted: July 3, 2008 in Integrated Marketing
Tags: , , ,

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My friend, the artist named Marrus, is the best integrated marketer I know. That’s because she is her brand, she lives her brand, she presents a consistent brand image to everyone she meets, and she has a heck of a story to tell.

When she’s not fighting for the right to show her work on Jackson Square in New Orleans (Click here, then see pages 7 and 9 of the newspaper pdf), Marrus travels from Renaissance Fair to Kink Festival to Science Fiction Convention, selling her art and painting faces.

Her tribe is far flung, she’s always on the road, and yet she’s always connected to her community via the internet. And because of this connection, she actually makes a living as an artist, mostly from sales of her prints online and at these events.

She started LiveJournaling because it was the logical way to stay in touch with her far flung tribe throughout the nomadic lifestyle she’d forged. Her posts during and from post-Katrina New Orleans, where she’s rebuilding a home and studio, and those of her partner Jay, who geared up and went back into the ravaged zone and was soon an integral part of the rebuild in some tiny town in Mississippi, were riveting and real, and public.

Her growing involvement with her community of fans has been hard to keep up with. The more popular she gets, the harder it is to answer every post, meet every fan. Like anyone who dives into the Groundswell, she has joined a conversation that she may have started, but no longer controls.

She’s writing an autobiography-journal sort of thing, and I was privileged to read a manuscript and give my opinions. Marrus is a person who lives in the now, vibrantly, and so the last thing I would have expected is that her book about her life would feel anything at all like hanging out with her in real life did. Except it did. For the three days I read the book, it was like hanging out and having one long extended conversation with her. Like a holograph, any one slice of Jen can deliver a fully integrated experience.

She was even the subject of a question I asked Seth Godin when I attended one of his paradigm shifting book tour appearances for The Dip. The question? It was hard enough for creators to have any distance between themselves and their fans before the internet, and blogging. Now, building a community online, a relationship with your fans, is all about personal relationships, answering posts and emails, opening up. And once you’ve built it, you fail to nurture it at your own risk. So, how do you manage community growth when you are your organization and you have limited time? (His answer, as always, was on point (paraphrased from memory, so be kind, Seth): be honest and renegotiate your relationship with your community in a way they can understand, and then own the consequences.)

Marrus is a microcosm of every brand out there that realizes they don’t own the conversation, even when the conversation is intimately about their brand. She’s got scalability issues, budget issues, resource issues, risk management issues (she’s been burned out, flooded out, and victimized by unfair and uneven government intervention), marketing issues, advertising issues, inventory issues, customer service issues… you get the point.

And yet her brand is fully integrated, 360 degrees, 24/7, always showing a consistent message to everyone she meets from every angle. She doesn’t know whether the kid whose face she’s painting is the child of a potential buyer of her original art. She doesn’t know if the person trying to get her attention at a show is one of her most devoted fans or a blogger or the art critic for the Times or just somebody who wants to know where the bathroom is. And she doesn’t care. Her customer service department is fully integrated with her marketing department, able to make the right choice to deliver customer satisfaction and a good user experience with every interaction. Her advertising department would never say something that Legal wouldn’t approve. And her CEO champions every new venture, no matter how cutting edge or low tech, regardless of ROI, as long as it’s in line with her brand integrity.

So, can someone please explain to me why every company and every brand isn’t striving to be more like Marrus?

Comments
  1. Dan Waldron says:

    Well said… Great information, keep up the great work!

  2. jlsimons says:

    Thanks, Dan. I appreciate the affirmation. It means a lot to me when someone takes the time to comment.

  3. Reddy says:

    You captured her essence exactly. I am proud to be counted as a member of her far flung, cross country tribe.
    Thank You for telling the rest of the world about this amazing artist.

    I am proud to have a number of her prints (cannot afford the originals just yet) making my home a more wonderful place to live.

  4. […] a blog at LiveJournal. A friend of hers, Jeff Simmons, recently wrote about her in his own blog, Can Someone Please Explain?. In his post, Jeff credits Marrus’ achievements in integrated […]

  5. keithcsmith says:

    I agree Marrus does an amazing job “branding” herself, though I have never thought of it quite in that way before, you are completely right.

  6. whittles says:

    I don’t know her work, but someone posted a link to your piece on LJ and I was intrigued. The way you write about her full embodiment of her work is inspiring.

    As a massage therapist, I strive to live my work in a similar way. Hearing about that kind of full dedication elsewhere just makes me smile.

    I’m definitely going to check out her art now. Thanks.

  7. PyroGuySr says:

    I know you were being rhetorical when you asked “Why doesn’t every corporation strive to be more like Marrus?” but I’ll answer anyway because I’m one of her fans, a purchaser of her efforts, (hopefully) a part of her tribe (albeit, on the fringes), and I’m anally, compulsively, analytical. *grins*

    Quite simply, it’s because the more people you involve in a project, the more diluted and blurred the vision becomes… sorta like a game we used to play as kids called “Chinese Telephone” where you send a message down a line of people and see how much of the original comes out intact at the end.

    But Marrus is an absolute dear and I love her to bits! I do hope that she becomes one of NOLA’s most famous and notorious artists.

  8. jlsimons says:

    Hi PyroGuySr. Actually, I’m not being rhetorical. I really mean it. There’s a disconnect between the marketing, customer service and PR of many companies and the user experience of their customers. You are right that one reason is size of company, but I can point to large companies that get every aspect of their customer interaction right. Unilever comes to mind, at least with their Dove line.

    I think a bigger reason is that many companies are still in the mindset that they control their brands, their customer relationships, and the conversations surrounding their brands. Whereas Marrus embraces her customers and their strange and wonderful ways of relating, allows them to come to her in whatever way they do, but relates out of the same unchanging set of corporate values (if you will indulge in the metaphor a bit longer.)

  9. jlsimons says:

    Hi Reddy, FivebyFivePR, Keithcsmith, and Whittles:
    Thanks for your comments. And Whittles, if you don’t already know Marrus and her work, you’re in for an intense treat.

  10. […] The case study I wrote was called “The Tribe of Marrus.” It appears on page 79 of the ebook. It’s about my friend, Marrus, an artist, who I also blogged about in a post here called “Portrait of the artist as an integrated marketer.“ […]

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