Bryan Lindenberger

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Marketing is Full of Failed Artists

I think we should be honest about this. I wouldn’t be in marketing (or grant writing, newspaper, or features before that) if my freelance fiction writing career took off. If I sat right now on the bestseller list, or even made a nominal income from my writing as I once did, I wouldn’t be in marketing. I’d wake up at noon, hike until four in the afternoon, drink espresso or beer at the appropriate bars, and wonder at where all those marketing people in their little offices went wrong…why they sold out and how they do they live with themselves?

Well, I’m in marketing and I'm still alive.
Small marketing departments have taken us in by droves.
  • Graphic designers who, as kids, had a gift and hoped to join the ranks of Van Gogh or Dali
  • Videographers who admired Tarkovsky or Herzog, know what Dogme ’95 is, and planned to reinvent cinema
  • Musicians who are uncomfortable in a meeting over the latest jingle, but can go off for an hour about Jaki Byard or Alfred Schnittke, will argue with you “No, Philip Glass is not a minimalist!”
  • The hard-hitting investigative reporter brought up on Chomsky or maybe Weiner, now using that thesaurus to uncover the strong points of a new line of cotton socks
  • The psychologist or advocate now running focus groups
  • Even that model who shows up to adorn him- or herself in your product, probably planned to be on a runway somewhere, or maybe is most proud that a gig as an extra turned into one line on film
Marketing has a home for all of us!
But we have a tendency to get a little carried away with ourselves…with creating “art” when numbers matter. It’s our ability to “use” Photoshop, Word, Premiere Pro, Illustrator, and not screw things up that is valued at 90% with creativity at a distant 10. If the bosses had time to learn this stuff, they’d do it themselves! I’ve worked with Addy Award winning designers and gifted photographers who can spend weeks on a single image for a single social media post.
It drives me nuts that it doesn’t drive them nuts when my 5 minutes of schlock in the incorrect font and a typo gets 50 times the reach, 20 times the click-thrus, as the “art” they labored and held too many meetings to create.
I caution these artists here to remember the business they are in, a few steps below sales where the real action and ROI is. Not quite technically minded enough for IT, barely trusted to make the coffee let alone guide marketing plans. Truly, we are the lowest in the heap because we are, each of us, at the end of the day, equally, just failed artists.
But just when I sound ready to throw us under the bus, I remember something.
Artists speak to humanity. Even if a photographer had just one image that became noticed in a local gallery, or a designer that created one little website that got picked up and re-purposed by a major state media campaign, they pulled this off as individuals. One person who, despite the odds, created something that reached the hearts and minds tens of thousands of people who they never met … without focus groups, without a marketing plan. Purely, for the sake of art.
I like to think of the artist who found it amusing that GEICO sounds a bit like gecko, and walked into a board meeting to say, “How about we have a lizard with a British accent sell our insurance.”
I’ll bet that was a tough sell, and artists are always fun to listen to over espresso or beer.
Bryan Lindenberger welcomes new connections where this article appeared at LinkedIn. He maintains hobbies and portfolio at and is resurrecting his oddest fiction – published and unpublished – from the 1990s-2000s at

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