What Andy Warhol Can Teach Marketers

Andy Warhol was an unbelievable talent. But while many understand the continuing impact that he has had on artists and society as a whole, they might not realize the profound influence he has had on advertising.

What Andy Warhol Can Teach Marketers

by Giselle Abramovich

Posted on 10-19-2018

This article is part of our September 2018 series about the state of advertising. Click here for more.

Andy Warhol was an unbelievable talent. But while many understand the continuing impact he has had on artists and society as a whole, they might not realize the profound influence he has had on advertising.

One of the biggest lessons Warhol has taught us, said MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan, is that “success is a balance of art and science.”

At Advertising Week, Kassan sat down with Donna De Salvo, chief curator at the Whitney Museum in New York City, to discuss Warhol’s work. The takeaways for marketers became quickly apparent to CMO.com.

Lesson 1: Warhol Was Multichannel

What’s most unique about Warhol is that his work hit every medium—silkscreen, painting, sculpting, publishing, TV, and more, said De Salvo, the mastermind behind the museum’s upcoming Warhol exhibit. It’s one of the reasons, she believes, he was so successful.

The takeaway: We’re living in a multichannel world, which means reaching consumers across various platforms, screens, and channels.

Lesson 2: Warhol Was Collaborative

According to De Salvo, “society influenced [Warhol], and he influenced society.” The artist understood that creating art that resonates isn’t a one-way street. It’s a two-way communication. When people think of artists, they don’t typically think of collaboration. But Warhol worked closely with creative directors, designers, and others because he knew they had a keen understanding about the audiences he was trying to reach. When working with media companies in the earlier part of his career, Warhol welcomed feedback and even tweaked his pieces based on what he learned.

The takeaway: Marketers must collaborate—and not just with one another. They need to be more in sync with other departments within the organization, including sales, IT, and communications.

Lesson 3: Warhol Broke The Rules

One of the reasons Warhol’s films remain important is because he broke the rules, De Salvo said. One film in particular, “Sleep,” was more than five hours of black-and-white, silent footage that focused on John Giorno, his lover at the time, sleeping. The 1963 film, one of Warhol’s firsts, was created as an “anti-film.”

The takeaway: Thinking outside of the box is a key to success. Don’t be afraid to experiment. In fact, failure that results in insights and lessons learned can sometimes be even more beneficial than success.

Lesson 4: Warhol Embraced Technology

Apple wasn’t the only company making computers in the ’80s. In fact, typewriter maker Commodore launched its first personal computer—the Amiga—back in 1985. The company held a launch event in Manhattan’s Lincoln Center and invited Warhol, along with actress Deborah Harry, to attend. That’s when Warhol became an enthusiastic ambassador for the brand and began dabbling in graphic design, according to De Salvo.

The takeaway: Marketers are tasked with reaching consumers wherever they are—platforms, channels, devices, and via new technologies, such as augmented and virtual realities. Marketers who embrace tech and make it a part of their strategies will be at the forefront of digital disruption.

Lesson 5: Warhol Stayed True To His DNA

Although there were times in his career when Warhol needed to “remake” himself, De Salvo said, his mechanics never changed. Only his delivery systems changed. “He had a sense of his own history,” she said. And while all of his pieces are different from one another, there’s something very Warhol about them all.

The takeaway: Brands are also trying to reinvent themselves for a new, digital, always-on consumer. And while that transformation is inevitable, companies need to remember to always stay true to their core values.

Topics: Experience Cloud, Trends & Research, Insights Inspiration, Digital Transformation, Trends & Research, Marketing, CMO by Adobe