This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….” For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
How a frozen food company is taking the internet by storm
(5 minute read)
We all wish we knew the exact marketing techniques that would create a perfect storm of new collectors, admirers, and galleries clamoring for our work.
And there are a whole lotta people out there selling their expertise on how to do that, from SEO (search engine optimization) to the best hashtags to use. Some of these are free, but most want your money first.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: “Branding” and “driving people to your website” are terms from the cattle industry.
And people know when they’re being treated like cattle.
If you’re like me, right now almost everything in your email in-box has ‘Covid-19’ or ‘coronavirus’ in there somewhere. It’s still important, it’s still with us, and will be for a long time in one way or another.
And everyone is desperate for people to buy what they’re selling, from future airline trips, magazine subscriptions, masks and sanitizing supplies to the foresaid ‘perfect’ marketing plans and expensive business coaching advice.
And yet, guess who’s taking the internet by storm this week?
Created by the company owner’s son, the strategy is an unusual one in the biz world. Because it is totally honest about its end goal (it freely admits that it’s “…a frozen meat brand posting ads inevitably made to misdirect people and generate sales, so this is peak irony.”) And honest about its intent: “gonna keep preaching from the frozen meat pulpit until this account runs into the ground because that’s marketing baby.” (Which is another important aspect of marketing: Perseverance!)
And yet their tweet series created a Twitter storm the internet, with thoughtful insights that amount to a coronavirus PSA, on how to trust science; how to research the sources of questionable information; and even why we should have compassion for those who spread ridiculous faux “facts” instead of ridicule. (My personal favorite? The shout-out to creatives tweet.)
Why does this strategy work? (One commenter said, “Because you rock on Twitter, this will be the first purchase in about 40 years!”)
And my last quote from a commenter, “Guarantee you at least 300 intense Zoom meetings with marketing managers brainstorming how to fake @steak_umm ’s intellectual sincerity.”
What are the insights we can harvest here?
Focusing on integrity vs. sales.
Practicing vulnerability vs. “perfection”.
Telling our story vs. how many awards, prizes, and prestigious galleries as credentials.
Recognizing, and sharing what is unique in our work vs. SEO and other “tricks” to play the system.
Creating real connection with our audience vs. focusing on how much money we’re making today.
The slow, not-so-shiny-or-glamorous human way of connecting with other humans vs. big budgets, “sure-fire” marketing strategies, and glitz.
I had inadvertently mimicked this approach this week, before my husband mentioned how Steak-umms was blowing up the internet.
I realized I was under-utilizing certain aspects of my FASO website. I got more serious about uploading new art (which is then sent as a brief email to my email subscribers.) I tried to post on Instagram daily (which reposts to my artist-and-writer page on Facebook). When I realized this looked like “sell, sell, sell” in overdrive, I added, “I know this looks like it’s all about hoping you’ll buy. But I also get a lot of joy out of making. I figure if I share that with you, maybe it will give you a little joy today, too.”
And of course, all my marketing shares not just my artwork, but the stories, inspiration, and my own personal ethos that goes into it.
In fact, this part may be even harder for many creatives to adopt. We may instinctively (and wisely) shy away from the big, bad-ass, brag-ish strategies that we’ve come to consider “marketing”. It may feel even weirder to simply be who we are in the world, to share what we yearn for in the world, and to show what we care about, in our art, our techniques, our style, and our voice.
But if a mega-frozen food company can gain a huge and appreciative audience in these wild and weird times, for a steak sandwich, fer-cryin’-out-loud, by showing integrity, humor, and a human heart and soul behind the screen, just imagine what we artists can do!
Today, make a little space to share your work with others. Post a work of art on social media (including your email newsletter!) Tell the story behind it: Think about what was going on in your mind, your heart, your life when you made it. Muse about what you think of now, when you see it.
Shine a little light on why you do the work you do, so others can see, too.
Remember this bit of wisdom from Willy Wonka himself:
We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
If this article inspired you today, please pass it on to someone else who might like it, too. And if someone sent this to you today, and you liked it, you can see more advice on art marketing at Fine Art Views, more of my articles on FAV, and subscribe to my email newsletter at my website at LuannUdell.com.