Debenhams has partnered with Gather.ly, a network of UK creative talent, to market its #knowmysize campaign, highlighting its free bra fit service.
This project involved five illustrators producing work based on sentences describing common problems for bra wearers, provided to the artists without context e.g. ‘digging into the shoulders’.
You can see a snapshot of some of the work below on some flyers I collected from the launch event. Apologies to the artists for not displaying them at their best, but you can see it’s art with serious chops.
The artists include graduates of Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art and those that have worked successfully with many brands already.
Social media will be the main medium for this work, as well as placing it in the bra fit areas in-store. A film created for the campaign will also be distributed online.
Debenhams is looking at more work for wider upcoming campaigns and this approach promises to allow unique content sitting alongside a commercial message.
Here are a few thoughts I had about this content marketing model:
1. This isn’t exactly patronage
Although the artists are all delighted to be involved, they’re doing it for free to gain exposure. Gather.ly is paid and creates the network and opportunity for artists, including recently flying some photographers to Barcelona for a project with Canon.
This could conceivably pique some artists who think that work should be paid for. Of course, Debenhams is paying for the work, it’s just not going to the creators.
I think this is probably not too great a concern for the artists in question. As I discussed with the founder of Gather.ly, this creates a sort of production line, artists get a break from working with a big brand and effectively ‘graduate’ from the programme.
Many of the artists take part because they have lots of work that isn’t being used and they are perhaps reluctant to engage directly with a brand (or vice versa).
This almost-agency model that Gather.ly is developing may be something we see more of. A more authentic creativity achieved by working with this kind of intermediary.
I’m not saying the model doesn’t pose questions, but the proof will be in how many artists are willing to jump aboard. I think it may allow artists to produce commercial work without being too constrained. That’s a good thing in terms of getting true examples of their work into the market.
The artists are also able to continue distributing the work through their own networks, rather producing the work and remaining mute and sometimes uncredited.
2. Debenhams is following in a lengthening line of bold brands
Whether these are content marketing or branding, I’m unsure. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that brands are increasingly seeing creatives and pioneers as sensible investment.
In many cases it may not require too great an investment either. I don’t know how Burberry’s model works but I’m sure some of the musicians, like with Debenhams’ illustrators, are involved for free. However, there’s still investment in the web architecture and events associated. It’s still a big undertaking.
3. Brand awareness is starting to make sense through social
Brand awareness might be becoming more about great content than it is about ads (Apple aside?).
Whether this means using artists as discussed, or creating funny and engaging videos that happen to feature a brand. See Purina’s ‘A Cat’s Guide To Taking Care of Your Human’ produced by BuzzFeed.
Artists and marketers and artistic marketers, let me know what you think through the medium of paint, dance, song or the comments box below.