Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty, you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.
— Banksy in Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall
He may be openly and vocally anti-commercial and anti-establishment and considers himself an anarchist, but there is no denying that whatever he’s doing, it’s working. Ever since he came on the scene, Banksy has been outselling every other graffiti artist with not only a cutting edge style, but with his marketing prowess, which is raw and smart.
There is no wonder why even big name corporations have turned to these tactics. Banksy makes it look so effortless and spontaneous, but there are things you can learn and implement from his vision and strategy.
1. Publicity stunts: All eyes on the elephant in the room.
When Banksy brought a real live elephant to his first U.S. exhibition in 2006, the few heads that hadn’t already turned did. The show, named provocatively “Barely Legal,” was filled with A-list celebrities and, besides the elephant, a lot of Banksy art for sale. Publicity stunts can help generate direct exposure and get you massive amounts of press.
Here is a perfect example: The Fake Uber for Dog Poop App Is Taking a Dump on Your Brand.
2. Break rules: Mounting pieces while bending rules.
In 2005, a man wearing a disguise was caught on video stealthily hanging artwork at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. That same year, the “Hang and Run” artist, as he was dubbed, continued to set up his pieces at top institutions in the U.S. and the U.K., including New York City’s American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Museum.
Assert your brand into the conversation, and reap valuable exposure.
“It’s a very frustrated feeling you get when the only people with good photos of your work are the police department.” — Banksy
3. Be controversial: Take a stance.
Banksy creates art by tapping current integral issues and cultural tensions. His work has addressed controversial themes such as anarchism, anti-anything (war, fascism, consumerism) and existentialism. Whatever city he’s occupying and whatever the issue is, Banksy is not shy to talk about it through his art, be direct and satirical and stir up a conversation.
It is not necessary for advertisers to be controversial just to create good marketing, but being aware of current events and the conversation helps. News-jacking is an efficient way of using relevant, newsworthy topics to generate press for you or your company.
4. Consistent branding: Stencil art.
Call it style or call it smart branding, but whoever you are, wherever you live, you know Banksy’s trademark style. His stencils are still his major outlet and are recognizable all over the world. Everyone with internet access has seen them. His art can be seen on bridges, walls and streets all over the world using stencil graffiti that contains rich, animated graphics combined with provocative slogans.
The slogans are typically anti-something, including war, establishment or capitalism. And while the issues on the table may be changing, Banksy’s brand remains the same, and that means building trust. It’s a great lesson.
“You owe the companies nothing. You especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They have rearranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.” — Banksy, Wall and Piece
5. Video content: Taking matters into his hands.
When French street artist Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash, tried to make a movie about Banksy, the latter artist found himself more at home in the editor’s chair rather than as the star of the film. He took matters into his hands and after a year of editing video footage from Guetta, Banksy came out with a documentary that earned an Oscar nomination.
Gary Vaynerchuk contributes his success to video content and says that every entrepreneur should be creating video content due to its ease and low-cost effectiveness to reach the masses.
Guerilla marketing tactics are as old as time and still relevant today. Not only are they (usually) cheap, but they also have the tendency to be highly effective, leaking across social media and getting people talking. Guerilla marketing can serve any company and bring brand awareness to the streets, individuals and your users. It can be a great alternative to expensive ads, as it thrives on creativity and original thought.
And, as Banksy puts it, “Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a f-cking sharp knife to it.”