An artistic lesson in relevance

Ensuring you are relevant to your audience is a critical challenge for any brand. Two experiences this weekend made me pause for thought and consider parallels between artists making their works connect with their audience, grab their attention and make them lean in, and brands.

First, the Eurovision Song Contest. The annual fabulous circus where 43 countries compete via song. The winner this year, Netta Barzilai for Israel and the song ‘Toy’. The secret to her success was not only the fantastically creative, contemporary melody and the quirky performance but the message of the lyrics and tone of the piece. Capitalizing on the highly topical #metoo movement with lyrics in this such as “I’m not your toy, you stupid boy” and “wonder woman don’t you ever forget, you’re divine and he’s about to regret”, this song is a fierce anthem supporting women and the fight against sexual harassment. The audience responded to this, a message with meaning, on a topic that is relevant in today’s world.

Second, something I came across when I was in The Met Museum this weekend. I saw a painting by Turner that was striking. The description of Turner’s piece fascinated me. Not only was it visually arresting, with the dramatic darkness of the clouds but I learnt the theme was highly topical for the time. Turner drew the parallel of Hannibal crossing the Alps, a journey from 218BC, with the recent Napoleonic wars at that time between Britain and France. The parallel it drew drove his work of art to be part of a topical conversation and cultural dialogue at that moment in time.


What both these examples share is the application of creativity to be intertwined with what is going on with people’s lives in the moment they were shared with the world. And that connection made for the pieces driving resonance and relevance with their audiences.

The same is true for brands. How your brand engages its audience in a relevant way can range from something as core as the essence of what the brand is all about right through to tactical, opportunistic display ads or social posts. Dove Men+Care for example, a brand I used to work on, had at its core the idea that when a man cares for himself and others that’s far from a sign of weakness and actually a sign of strength. This was particularly relevant because of the shifting macro trend of what it means to be a man in today’s world. It underpins every element of communication from the brand.

And who can forget the more opportunistic example of a brand embracing what’s going on in its surrounding world than that iconic Oreo post when the lights went off at Super Bowl halftime.

Brands can learn from art. Where art draws from cultural moments, current discourse, the prevailing zeitgeist to play with how it engages its audience in a disruptive way, so too can brands. Just like an artist, when a brand is creative enough to play with this and generate something truly disruptive, then it too can win versus the competition.

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