Overview of Arts Marketing theory


The concept of branding in the arts market will be analysed through the examination of positioning strategies, the planning and implementation of brands, brand equity, product decisions and service evaluations, 

The shift from the product as marketing basis to the concept of brands has created a new strategic platform of relationship marketing. This provides the methodology for an organisation to identify what they are doing and how it is executed.

The starting point for brand development is positioning and discovering why a target market should purchase a product or as Kotler describes as ‘a customer-focused value-proposition’. (Kotler 2003 p297)

Ries and Ries 1999 (quoted in Hill, O’Sullivan and O’Sullivan 2003) endorse the idea that:

‘a successful brand is one that has created, in the minds of the customer, the perception that there is no other product on the market quite like it.’ (p. 129)

The product wants to be recognised as the best option compared to the competition. This incorporates all aspects of the product and the value the consumer gets from the organisation.

Kotler and Andreason’s observation that ‘there are always alternatives in the mind of the consumer’(p.166)  makes it abundantly clear that a thorough understanding and research of the current market at the beginning of strategic planning is essential in gaining part of the market.

In analysing a current organisation’s product, Lovelock, Patterson and Walker devised a series of questions (Lovelock, Patterson and Walker 2004 p188) that indicate:

  • how current and potential customers perceive an organisation and what they expect;
  • the demographic that an organisation targets and desires;
  • how they compare with competitors and methods of exploiting competitors’ weaknesses to their advantage;
  • how their product meets the needs of different market segments

This determining of where a brand and its products reside in the mind of consumers has become an integral part of marketing strategy. In their 1981 book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Ries and Trout define positioning as

“an organized system for finding a window in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances.” (p. 147)

Ries and Trout suggest three strategies to compete against them and this can be used in conjunction with Treacy and Wiersma’s rules for success (Kotler p 299):

Ries & Trout Positioning Strategies Treacy and Wiersma Rules for Success
1.     strengthen its own position in the consumer’s mind – finding a way to position in relation to the leading product can increase its market share 1.     Become the best at one of the following and adequate performance in the other two:

·      product leader (advanced level of innovation)

·      operations

·      customer satisfaction

·      Dedication to improvement in all areas

2.     take an unoccupied position – by being the first to find a unique position in a consumer’s mind and adopt a new category where there is no competition


3.     attempt to de-position or reposition the competitors – convincing consumers to view the competitors in a different way


Organisations should consider Kotler’s recognition of the errors of under-positioning, over-positioning, confused positioning and doubtful positioning of brands when making decisions on the benefits and features they want to convey to consumers. The USP (unique selling position) indicates to consumers the difference between competitors’ products and ensures that companies deliver on the benefits they propose.

‘If a company treats a brand only as a name, it misses the point of branding. The challenge in branding is to develop a deep set of meanings for the brand. Perhaps the most distinctive skill of professional marketers is their ability to create, maintain, protect, and enhance brands’. (Kotler 1994, 444–445)

The American Marketing Association’s definition of brand:

‘a name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of these intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of the competition’

accompanies the notion that a brand involves the signalling of a certain amount of awareness, reputation and prominence. This definition addresses the varying aspects of a brand the value accrued when comparing it to other brands. This is widely recognised in the marketing literature of Aaker (1991).

‘Branding is a powerful means of differentiation and can help to develop competitive advantages for a firm.’ (Aaker, 1991)

A consumer reaction to an overload of advertising and communication is accepting what is consistent with their prior knowledge or experience. In an over-communicated environment an organisation’s product should be presented simply and brands are built through repeated reinforcement of the product’s identity.

Aaker, the originator of the concept of brand equity defines the term as

‘a set of brand assets and liabilities linked to a brand name and symbol, which add to or subtract from the value provided by a product or service.’

Connecting ‘brand’ to the concepts of ‘equity’ and ‘assets’ radically changes the marketing function.

Kotler describes branding and the level of equity as a spectrum ranging from awareness, acceptability, preference and the ultimate goal of loyalty. A way to examine this spectrum and quantify both the level and value of brand equity is Urde’s Brand Hexagon.

In the arts industry there is a network of relationships and interdependencies that are far more complex than other industries. Aaker suggests the best way to consider the value of these components is to examine an organisation’s assets and skills and how these aspects give a sustainable competitive advantage. He also suggests that organisations need to consider future endeavours as well as nurturing and maintaining current assets and skills.

Aaker’s four dimensions of brand equity: brand loyalty, brand awareness, brand associations, and perceived quality, each provide value to an organisation in numerous ways. Measurement, analysis and active response to findings being a core part of this process.

Keller’s six steps in the brand management process clearly demonstrate the importance of planning and implementing programs that identify and establish brand value and position in the market, marketing activities, secondary associations with other industries, measuring the product performance and methods to grow and sustain brand equity. Aaker and Joachim see the challenges of building a strong brand include outlining a brand’s organisational environment, the architecture of roles and relationships with consumers, an identity that is clarified for both the market and stakeholders and building programs that refine the brand identity and manipulate consumer perceptions.

Organisations perceive themselves as either market leaders, market challengers or niche marketers and each group requires different product positioning strategies. However, what these categories have in common is that

‘they focus on building a product or service and an organisation that can sustain it.’ Bradbury (2002)

Finally, the evaluation of an organisation’s services considers how they provide, maintain and measure service delivery across quality expectations. This can be evaluated by examining the search, experience and credence qualities of an organisation’s service. This framework analyses both traditional marketing between the organisation and its customers as well as internal marketing between the organisation and its employees. All these factors determine the level of brand loyalty.

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