Andy Warhol’s Branding Axiom

 

Twenty-eight years after his death, Andy Warhol’s brand remains strong. On a par with Picasso, his paintings still fetch historically high prices. The Andy Warhol Museum, in his native Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the largest museum in the US devoted to one artist.

Unique, talented, and iconic, Warhol, who coined the phrase, “15 minutes of fame,” had the guts and desire to stand out — and he knew his audience.

In Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding, I allot considerable ink to the fear and politics of branding. Unlike Mr. Warhol, most people have neither the guts nor the desire to stand out; that’s why they don’t. Instead, they use jargon: to fit in, to be safe.
 
Put It on a Wall

In our culture, we’re taught to diversify, to keep our day-jobs, never to put all our eggs in one basket, always to have a plan-B — in other words, play it safe. Consequently, people find it difficult to commit. Building a unique value proposition, a brand, is a commitment.

Newsflash: Using jargon is the perfect way to hedge, to not commit. Getting the picture?

Abstract art is akin to jargon: one must squint awkwardly to decipher its meaning, and may never succeed. If your brand is abstract art, put it on a wall — not on your homepage.

Andy Warhol averred what I consider a brilliant branding axiom: “The moment you label something you take a step — I mean, you can never go back again to seeing it unlabeled.”

When using jargon — the boring, generic buzzwords your competitors employ — you take no step, label nothing, and create no brand. Benefit? No stressing over unlabeling.

Below is one of Andy Warhol’s 32 cans of Campbell’s soup — nothing abstract about it. To its right is a generic can of jargon soup, filled with an amalgam of argot your salesreps spew to customers. Using jargon isn’t just unwise or costly. It’s nuts!
 

 
Parting Advice to CEOs

Clarity is the hallmark of a strong brand, and the antithesis of jargon. Clarity cuts the costs of sales, capital, and media. Clarity makes life easier, all around.

So, why are you using jargon? Afraid to put all your eggs in one brand basket?

Force your company to have a strong brand, just as you force it to have a strong balance sheet. But, this will require a relocation. There is only one headquarters locale to consider: the State of Clarity, where jargon has no license.
 

 
In the State of Clarity, nothing is abstract. There’s no awkward squinting, little safety, and no unlabeling. Customers, investors, and reporters will grasp a strong brand in 15 seconds — greatly boosting its owner’s profitability. Another plus: low population density, at first, because few have the guts to live there. Andy Warhol did. Do you?

POSTSCRIPT #1: Billionaires Pushed Warhol Paintings Ahead of Picassos in 2014

POSTSCRIPT #2: UC Outlaws Meritocracy & Opportunity & Other Words of Distinction

 

About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.

 

© 2014 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.

 

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