This is a question that has been rolling around in my head since I started licensing my art back in 2004.

Art licensing is an interesting thing… our main client is the manufacturer – without them putting our art on products, we don’t have a business.

The manufacturer then has to sell (or pre-sell which is so often the case these days!) the products with our art to the retailer.  So they are a customer of ours, once removed.

Then the end consumer is a customer twice removed. When we create art for licensing, we have to please the manufacturer and retailer, while trying to figure out what the end consumer (the shopper with the wallet) will want from us.

Tricky!  Sometimes we meet this end consumer – twice removed from our business.  They may look like a friend, an aunt, a neighbor… and they often sound like this:  “I love your stuff! Where can I find it?”  They are full of enthusiasm and ready to give gifts featuring your art…

I regret to say I often have to respond like this, “Well… I’m not sure.  You might find it in this store or that store but it really depends…”  Eek!  Hard to promote ourselves when we don’t control the product, isn’t it!?!

But the trickiness isn’t even done yet! Sometimes the retailers and manufacturers like to license art from artists who are “known” and have a reputation with the end consumer twice removed.  You would too.  If you owned a store and knew that any product you put on your shelves with art by ‘Betty the Great who’s been on every talk show known to man and has an amazing cult-like following” would sell, wouldn’t you do it?  Or would you take a chance on “Brand New Bob who does nice work but isn’t as known”?

This post isn’t intended to throw you into a panic and make you think there isn’t a point to even trying, OK?  Don’t get me wrong.

The point is to show you that to be really successful (read $ in the bank) in licensing, you can’t ignore building your brand with the consumer.

So now we have circled back to my 6 year question: HOW DO I BRAND MYSELF WITH THE END CONSUMER???

For me, this is still a work in progress but I have found one pretty cool strategy that I wanted to share.

I design fabric for South Sea Imports.  One day I walked into a local Craft Warehouse and one of the samples was using my fabric.  Well I got quite excited and literally started jumping up and down a bit.  The woman working noticed, may have been a little concerned, and asked if she could help me.  I explained that I had designed the fabric and was just very excited to see it as a sample.

This jumping encounter has led to me going “on tour” at 3 Craft Warehouse stores to date.  Each month, the stores have “Quilt Parties” where quilters come together to learn a new quilt block, listen to speakers, see what’s new in the store, and form a fun community of like-minded people.

I have had the pleasure of speaking to 7 groups (of end consumers – no longer twice removed) about how I design fabric.  How the ideas go from my head to their sewing machines.  Most of these women have never met anyone who actually designed the fabric before so they are interested and always have great questions.  I get to see “show and tell” and see how quilters are using the end product.  That helps me design the product.

So how do I keep in touch with these consumers I have met, once I leave the party?

CraftWarehouse1

Many want to look at my website or blog, so do I hand them a business card?  I could, but really, how much fun is a business card for a quilter?

I decided to have some blank notecards printed with my art on the front.  The back has my logo (branding!), a blurb about me and my website.  I told the women that they could have a card if they wanted when the quilt party was over.  That way they would have a fun note card and a way to find me online.

THEY LOVED IT! One woman just stared at me, jaw dropped, confirming that she could just “have” the card.  She was so appreciative.  So am I.  I have watched my unique visitors to my website and blog spike after these visits.  I also know that if these quilters send the card to a friend, that person will also learn about me or at least see my logo.  So it’s like double-dipping branding!

Note cards cost a little more than a business card but I think it’s worth it.  It creates good will and I have a hard time believing over 250 women would stand in line to get my card but that’s about how many note cards I’ve handed out.

Interact with your end user if and when you can.  And when you do, have a fun giveaway that they will want, that includes your art, your logo and your website.  Little interactions can do big things over time!

Here’s to your creative success – I have to get back to working on my next fabric collection.

– Tara

PS – you can find lots of places online to print Note Cards and other giveaways – and usually the more you buy the less they cost.  I went with one design and bought lots.  For the note cards (called greeting cards on the site but if they are blank inside, I call them note cards) I used www.OvernightPrints.com.  (disclosure: no affiliate relationship to this link)