“I could do that,” a Tale of Modern Art and Marketing

Growing up, I loved going to the St. Louis Art Museum, going through the different sections and picking out my favorite pieces from each time period. But inevitably once we hit the modern art section, there was a change in tone. No longer were there life-like portrayals of people and scenery, or even stylized portrayals like the ancients or impressionists. Instead there was…well I wasn’t quite sure how to process it. Most of it seemed to lack any form or skill. Like so many before me, I looked up and said those naïve words:

“I could do that.”

Now that I’m in marketing, I tend to have people joke about how our profession just sounds fun or simple. Sure, when you break it down, it probably doesn’t seem intimidating. You could post a product on social media. You could write a blog. There are a lot of things you probably could do. But in that case, why doesn’t everyone just do their own marketing?

It takes vision

Not anyone can look at a blank canvas and create art that resonates with viewers. Even if the purpose of some modern art is to portray existential dread or meaninglessness, it is still, ironically, meaningful to some people. While existential dread is not something we try to inspire as marketers, we do try to create messages that resonate with specific audiences and create meaningful connections. Marketing is not just about technically representing what a company is, because there are a lot of companies that do the same thing. It’s about having the vision to see what makes that company unique, developing the messages that will resonate with the audience, and doing whatever it takes to communicate with them.

It takes skill

Not only is there a lot of creativity that goes into marketing, there is a lot of research and analyzing that makes everything work. Even beyond inherit gifts like being creative or analytical, there are many skills that take years to hone. I have been in marketing for two years, and not only am I still regularly learning new things in my field, there are many fields I can’t even begin to touch. Public relations, radio, email, social, content creation, digital marketing, web development and branding are all wildly different. Even if you could skim the surface of several of these areas, it takes more than one person to have enough skill to create a comprehensive marketing campaign.

One of the trademarks of both art and marketing is that when done well, it often looks easy. Don’t be fooled; most of the time, it’s not.

It takes resources

I’ve heard people look at modern art and say “my two-year-old could do that.” However, if compared side by side, even if I knew nothing about modern art, I could distinguish a Jackson Pollock from your two-year old’s art. How? Because your two-year-old does not paint on 8-foot by 17-foot canvases.

Why do I bring up this silly example? Because resources are often an overlooked aspect of marketing. Cameras, software, and more cost thousands of dollars, and make huge difference in how someone perceives your message. Marketing, if anything, is based on how people perceive your messages. Do you have what it takes to be taken seriously rather than thrown in the wastebasket after crafts?

It takes action

With time and effort and resources, most people could learn the skills needed and come up with visions that work to do either modern art or marketing. However, time and effort are things most people very rarely give up, even when they want to. How many people have wanted to write a book, but haven’t? How many people have wanted to start a business, but haven’t? The simple step of actually taking action is often the barrier that keep people from accomplishing their goals. This is not because people are lazy, it’s because there are always other things to do.

I don’t know how many times I’ve stepped into the art museum and been inspired to paint. I do know how many paintings I’ve done and can locate at this point in time. Two. I’ve seen people determined to market their business themselves, and then nothing ever happened. This is not to blame anyone, it’s to acknowledge that taking action is hard, because it’s never about taking action once. It’s about getting up every day and facing challenges and plateaus and failure and getting up the next day and trying even harder. If you’re already doing this for your business, how are you going to find the time to do it for your marketing too?

So why don’t you?

In the end, maybe you do decide you have what it takes. But most have decided it is better worth their time to visit art museums rather than try to be featured in one, and to work with a team to make their business succeed rather than attempt it on their own. A lot of things are involved in business, and a lot of things are involved in marketing, and in the end, you have to choose what you want to focus on. The results will be better when you see the value of what others bring to the table, and you are willing to collaborate.