NYC painter Jean-Michel Basquiat once told a friend as they walked home from a gallery one night “I’ll learn to draw later, first I want to get famous.” Sounds awfully backwards, unless you were a child of the 70-80s in NYC where punk rock and musicians were inventing a new scene. Lots of people had established personal brands through dress, hang-outs, hair and behavior while working on their art. For instance, on any given night if you saw a black Schwinn with a leather jacket chained to it in front of a rock club (in the winter), I was inside. (Lines for the coat check at 3-4 in the morning were way too long.)
While these artists-in-waiting fiddled with guitars, paint or prose during the day, between shifts as a waiters or bike messengers, they were focused brand builders. They had a vision, a sense of the time and an organizing principle.
Think if them as startups. I’ve helped build startup brands before and they all tend to over-hang the market — meaning offer promise before availability. And if you think of it, most small companies without brand strategies are startups. Even if fairly established. They are businesses, not brands. No brand plans in place to establish behavioral identity.
It’s always better to be aware of brand while building your art or your business. It focuses you.