Andy Warhol: a marketing masterclass from a legend of modern art

Artists are some of the best marketers around.

Kings of self-branding, masters of the publicity stunt, experts in beauty. They often do marketing better than the professionals themselves.

And no artist has done it better than Andy Warhol.

From pioneering self-branding to leading a whole new art-form (Pop Art!), his influence can be seen across the globe. And like all great brands, when you see a Warhol, you know it´s a Warhol. The distinctiveness of his brand carved out his own, untouched niche in the market.

So, what made Warhol so good at the job it takes years for so many to learn?

The odd one out?

Nobody looked, talked or created art like Warhol.

His image, just like his art, stood out. Camera and onlookers couldn't help but be drawn to the distinct persona that his wig, voice and suit created. It can be seen in his interviews, like this: And is what made him so popular with advertising executives across the globe.

Even his studio was unique. Self-labelled by Warhol as “The Factory”, it became an open playground for artists, musicians and celebrities, with figures like Bob Dylan and Sylvador Dalí regularly popping in and out. It was unlike anything seen before.

His work reflected and changed pop culture

Legendary designer and adman, George Lois, said “truly great graphic and verbal communication reflects, adapts and helps to change the culture.”

Warhol did that.

From his globally recognised screen-prints of Marylin Monroe, Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger to his paintings of Coca Cola bottles, Warhol capitalised on the power of brands and celebrity more successfully than almost any brand before or after. His influence can still be seen everywhere; Instagram filters, screen printed t-shirt designs and even the term “superstar” can all trace their origins back to Warhol.

The spreadsheet talks

In the world of marketing and advertising where success hinges on great ideas, it can often become the case that what may engage and entertain might not do what it´s really supposed to – persuade the audience to purchase your product.

And it's clear Warhol understood this. In fact, he famously claimed “good business is the best art.”

This belief is reflected in his sales. Aside from a brief dip in the 1990s, his artwork value has only experienced an upward trajectory. Between 1987 and 2010 his average auction price shot up 3,400%. And in just 2014, Warhol's works sold for $569 million – more than a sixth of the global art market!

But what is the key to his success?

Through the relevance, freshness and accessibility of his art, Warhol was able capture the essence of the commercial age in which he lived unlike any artist before him. This led to his work, as well as himself, becoming a cultural and historical artefact – something priceless.

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