Subscribe » Issue #50, Mar-Apr 2014 Mag Cover
Idealog—in the ideas business

The age of unbranding

In one sense, the ultimate cachet is having such a famous brand that you don't need a logo, writes Mitch Joel at HBR.

How many painters do you know? Not the kind with drop cloths and coveralls who will refresh your old basement bathroom with a splashy Buckland Blue, but true artists? The ones who toil away in their studio — day and night — trying to create their lifetime masterpiece?

For centuries, the vast majorities of fine artists have done what thousands of artists have before them: starve. While the internet has brought with it many media disruptions, it has also created a truly global marketplace for fine artists. Now these artists no longer have to toil away in their studio hoping to impress an influential gallery owner, or praying that their local cafe will afford them the privilege of a vernissage. Suddenly, through online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy, individual artists have a global audience and are able to sell their creations to anybody and everybody who takes the time to discover them. In these instances, it has also become common for artists to work directly with their customers to deliver both the perfect size and look for their homes and offices.

When you walk into the home or office of individuals who have made purchases from these artists, you're not immediately pointing to them and saying, "Cezanne! Picasso! Warhol! Renoir!" These are — for the most part — unbranded works created to be both customised and personalised. It's part of a larger trend — instead of taking the time and resources to beat a brand into the modern consumer's mind, many new entrants are producing these customised and personalised — nearly unbranded — products for an ever-growing global consumer-base that is interested less in the label and brand experience and much more in something that can be uniquely "them."

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