The Power of Marketing

With marketing inundated with measures upon measures, and people hard pressed to show marketing's relationship to sales and revenue, it is always tough telling anyone what marketing does.

A couple of days back, I came upon a great example which shows the true power of marketing. Even though it involves a 'brand' that eschews capitalism and branding per se, but is a brand at the end of the day. I'm talking about the graffiti artiste Banksy. He is one of the most prolific street artists in the whole wide world, and his documentary, Exit through the Gift Shop, is one of my favourite pieces of non-fiction. Pieces of art made by him sell for millions

Banksy is in New York this summer. He has been pulling various stunts, his art appearing in places for a couple of days before someone else spray paints over it. He's painted side walks, trucks and a project where the art spilled from a wall to a car parked nearby. All that done, he did something fairly unusual- he sold his art work off a stall in Central Park. 

The frames were selling for $60, and the first couple sold for a 50% discount. In the entire day, the total sale was a measly $450. Banksy abhors marketers and brands in particular, and yet this moment shows the power of marketing. Without information that aids their decision making, people thought of his original artwork as knock-off prints, and then too worth less than even the stated price.

This episode reminded me of something similar. Some years ago, Violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, one of the contemporary world's most well regarded musicians, once took up a street musician's place at a subway station. He played for over 45 minutes, getting no more than cursory glances from passing commuters. Two days prior, he had had a sold out show where connoisseurs paid more than $100 per seat. 

Without context, both these greats received little more than the cursory glance, and very middling success. For me, if that isn't the success of marketing, I don't know what is. Reams have been written about the scepticism marketing faces, where people ask for numbers to prove its effectiveness. This rather simple yet stunning series of examples, shows what matters.

I'll leave you with a quote from the Washington Pots article Joshua Bell pulled the stunt for:

In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would Beauty transcend?

UPDATE 22/10: Some guy put up a Fake Banksy stall some days after this stunt. His stall was sold out in 60 minutes, and someone even bought the sign with the sale price on it! Read here:


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