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Artists Can Provide a New Metaphor for Business

May 22, 2012
By Mitch Hare

We are in a new chapter of the information age and that should be  good news for creative content producers such as  film makers, visual design artists and music producers.   We are quickly entering a time where collaboration is valued as a business model.  The shift resonates strongly with the established workflow for art and production.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggests the language used by the marketing industry needs an update based on the shifting culture of collaboration.  Using concepts drawn from the 2003 book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, the article proposes now is a good time for the marketing community to apply new language in their industry.   The idea is that we shape our cultural reality by the language we use and the metaphors we create to talk about things.  In the example presented in the article, marketing professionals have created a military approach to their work.  Phrases such as hit the target, indefensible and capture the marketplace reflect a past stronghold in cultural ideology that is based on confrontational approaches to resolution of conflict.  (Comedian George Carlin did a great bit about this comparing football and baseball.)  Times and culture have changed and we are now reaching out to the weboshpere to augment and collaborate in  the acquisition of information and knowledge.

Marketing types are well on the way to applying the idea, if not the metaphor in their business practices.  In an effort to find resonance with a culture face down on their iPhones exploring their Twitter and Facebook worlds, businesses are looking for ways to interact directly with consumers.  Turns out that we consumers are tired and leery of someone telling us that soap will make us a better person, we want to hear it from people we know, or at least on a forum that feels like a conversation – i.e. collaboration.   Social media sells.

The collaborative idea isn’t anything new to artists and creatives.  The artist’s world isn’t about defending market share or winning an argument, it is essentially about reflecting the world and representing it to the viewer, reader, listener etc.  In some creative forms such as film and music, collaboration in the artistic process is part of  the workflow where communication and a reliance on others is required to achieve an end product. In a sense, artists have been participating in an ongoing information age throughout time in its purest form – providing information in the form or collaboration with other artist and art consumers.

The value for artists as the business world starts to make a shift in metaphors is they already know the language.  Not only do they know the language but the creative insight and representation of the world in an artist is becoming more valued as a commercial skill.  Certainly marketing has always embraced creative content as a way to reach consumers but more and more, many businesses are looking for people who are creative and think creatively to work with the evolving marketplace.