Illustration can be an enormously powerful marketing tool in the everyday vocabulary of a business. Whether it’s for packaging, promotional material, social media content or the editorial world, illustration can breathe new life and provide a Wow Factor to every thing you do. I wanted to dive into some of the reasons why you (or your clients) could benefit massively from incorporating custom art into your advertising endeavours.
What do Disney, Red Bull and Garfield all have in common?
Iconic imagery that has stood the test of time.
Don’t let the “juvenility” of the executions deceive you. The reality of modern media is that a more artistic/cartoonish aesthetic can be more digestible to the everyday consumer in a powerful way.
It also doesn’t hurt that it adds some flair.
Some brands have illustration embedded into their CI’s like Mailchimp, Google, Dumb Ways To Die and Johnny Cupcakes. Which works wonderfully for them and their brands in different ways, respectfully. For example, with Johnny Cupcakes being a clothing company, it makes perfect sense strategically that their brand uses illustration at its base aesthetic. The brand is fun, quirky, positive and has a lot of ideas based around parody which illustration can just breathe life into seamlessly and beautifully.
But what about something with a more serious tone? Look no further than The New Yorker. The titular magazine has been utilizing illustration in its pages for decades for an enormous array of subject matters. One artist who has made some particularly impactful work is Christoph Niemann. His surrealist approach and out of the box thinking has made many a magazine cover more interesting and has given editorial stories an extra bit of punch to drive their points home.
Brands are like cupcakes. Sure you have a baseline of cake flavours (which is the business’s offering, for example). But the elements that draw eyes, sparkle and give you an actual idea of what that very cake will taste like before you even think about eating it – is the icing.
Let illustration and art be your icing.
Picture it, a bug spray brand wants a fresh take on their product and they want to capture the essence of their tongue and cheek tone but also the effectiveness of their product. They want to depict an army of mosquito soldiers flying towards one lonely ninja, armed with a gigantic electric fly swatter pulsing with bolts of electricity and utility belt filled with the trademarked bug spray. If you can find that in a stock photo website’s gallery, I will be stunned.
Illustration can depict absolutely absurd but also deeply complex scenarios in an aesthetically eye catching way in which photography just can’t. It can accentuate the emotions written in blog posts or editorial articles, it can establish a mood for a novel without a viewer reading a single word, or it could potentially leave a lasting impression on your audiences psyches for years to come. Think about how everyone remembers Red Bull’s “Red Bull Gives You Wings” iconic TV adverts.
But what about the more nuanced and difficult subjects? Illustration provides a solution. Take for example, this piece of art created by illustrator Julia Breckenreid for The Washington Post’s piece My Husband is an Alcoholic. Not only would this exact scenario be difficult to photograph, but it’s beautifully executed and I would forever argue against the photography equivalent being able to carry the same impact!
We can feel defeated and frustrated when our creative visions are constrained and limited to an execution that will always feel lackluster in comparison. Illustration allows the creatively manic and excited dog of your business off the leash to blaze a trail not thought possible before, in a wild and exciting new way.
The phrase “style over substance” has a bit of a bad wrap. I prefer to see marketing as something where style and substance meet, and this is where illustration is effective. There are hundreds of artists that all have vastly unique styles that could suit your needs. Some illustrators even have mastered multiple styles within their arsenal like Kyle T. Webster.
But you must still choose wisely. Like graphic design, some individuals follow trends that come in and out of style faster than a haircut. Now in the short term, using a more generic and “popular” style of imagery might seem like the smarter move in terms of marketing, I would beg to differ. It is the same way that more bubbly, pastel coloured illustrations are populating home decor stores or how vector traced portraits of celebrities are littering social media. It’s digestible, but more concerningly, forgettable. And isn’t that the exact opposite of what marketing aims to achieve?
So, like a magician standing in front of you promising you wonder, a stack of cards with a variety of artists in his hands, you’re asked to pick a card and it can be absolutely any card you want. Choose and you will see different kinds of magic unfold and the possibilities will feel infinite. The only thing I implore you to do, is to consider using artists who might not have a massive social media following but who are professional, whose works are objectively good and will fit your brand. Afterall, this is about resonating with your target audience and bringing your brand to life, not simply about trying to generate sales through the chosen artists social media pages.
There is no magic in that. That’s just influencer marketing.
In closing, I will always believe that we need art, and I see illustration the same way. All it is, is commercial art and it lends power to advertising in an astounding way. So consider giving your project the boost it deserves and be brave enough to let the business (in synergy with the art) speak in a voice you hadn’t thought possible before.