Murals and Marketing

Have you noticed the proliferation of brand-backed murals over the past year or so? They're hard to miss, especially in New York City. Some of the projects that I've been following include  Rag & Bone's Houston Project, Gucci's Art Wall, and the Adidas Pure Boost murals in Brooklyn. 

Maghan McDowell at The Business of Fashion just published a great piece on this phenomenon and I wasn't surprised to learn that the main motivation for a lot of these brands is to increase social media (mainly Instagram) posts and shares. Every project is slightly different - some are more overtly branded than others - but it's clear that they are commanding millions of social media impressions. Brands mentioned in the article include the aforementioned Rag & Bone, Gucci, and Adidas, along with Paul Smith, Givenchy, and Shinola. 

 Work by Coco Capitán commissioned by Gucci in New York (source: Gucci). 

Work by Coco Capitán commissioned by Gucci in New York (source: Gucci). 

The article goes further and questions if the buzz is actually translating into sales; McDowell concludes that it's hard to know. But there seems to be a sense that art-based advertising is a perhaps more genuine way to connect to target audiences. 

And then there's this quote from Rag & Bone's CEO Marcus Wainwright regarding the brand's mural commissions:

“It’s nothing to do with marketing… it’s just something that makes the neighbourhood a more inspiring place to be. It supports the arts and that’s incredibly important at the moment. It’s not about how much it costs versus a traditional campaign, because there are completely different end goals. But in terms of cost, you can spend one million on a photography campaign, but a can of Krylon is $10.

 Artist Rubin's mural for Rag & Bone's Houston Project. 

Artist Rubin's mural for Rag & Bone's Houston Project. 

I do think a company can be genuine about its support of the visual arts and simultaneously benefit from it. 

The reality is that millennials are the target audience for many of these brands. And it makes sense that our gravitation toward experiences (and sharing those experiences) translates into an affinity for street art and murals. A brand that commissions murals would appear to share our values, especially if there's the added intention of making the neighborhood "a more inspiring place to be" and supporting the community. 

But I'm curious how well artists are compensated for these projects, and whether the exposure they gain leads to other opportunities and sources of revenue for them. To know that would be to understand the full scope of the social impact of these projects - and while social media impressions are valuable for artists the same way they are for brands, my hope is that these opportunities are translating into sales for artists, too. 

 The Adidas Pure Boost mural series in Bushwick. 

The Adidas Pure Boost mural series in Bushwick.