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How art can become part of B2B marketing

Art should shape the world, not just decorate it. And art should shape the world of B2B too, says Claire Mason, MD of Man Bites Dog

Corporate art? Can such a thing exist? Or is the point at which the enfant terrible becomes sponsored by Coca Cola the moment they’re ‘off the artistic roll call’ as Bill Hicks would say?

In times gone by, the patronage of wealth, power and religion was an accepted transaction for artists. Today we take a purer approach to the separation of the artistic and the commercial. 

Pressure groups continue to challenge both corporate patronage of the arts and the lack thereof. Lego rejected Ai Weiwei’s request to bulk buy bricks in order to avoid complicity in a political statement. But art and commerce belong in the same political and social context; it’s difficult for them to exist in a detached fantasy land.

Grace Jones told us artists are not just looking for finance and profile; they seek challenges and a deeper level of collaboration to achieve artistic and commercial goals. Does corporate buy-in really corrupt art? Or can something powerful be achieved when art is used strategically to shape the world rather than decorate it? The impact of Banksy’s Dismaland collaboration can be measured as £20 million in extra revenue for the people and businesses of Weston. Is this strategic artistic collaboration something we can expect to see more of in B2B?

The recent Corporate Art exhibition in Rome’s National Gallery of Modern Art teemed with Warhol vodka bottles and McQueen credit cards. I was stunned by the lack of strategic collaboration, and the entire absence of B2B.

But there’s plenty of beauty to be found in this sector. While it’s easy to spot the artistic talent that shouts in consumer marketing, B2B marketing is the talent that whispers. Generating ideas within self-imposed constraints makes the B2B marketing industry hugely creative and value-adding.

But, in B2B, we have painted ourselves into a corner when it comes to how we think about our own creativity. It’s clear we need to add some colour to our creation. Michelangelo said: “A man paints with his brains, and not with his hands.” Our role as marketers is to infuse our creativity into everything we build for our clients.

2016 should be the time to hold our own art exhibition to showcase the art within marketing. B2B marketing as art – discuss.