Recognize that movie poster? It won critical acclaim from the design world for the Oscar winner “Walk the Line” last year. Designed by artist Shepard Fairey, it never would have happened were it not for the wrestler Andre the Giant.
You’ve probably seen Shepard Fairey’s “art”. If you’re under 35, you’re likely very familiar with it, and if over, you’ve probably seen and ignored it all. Shepard Fairey began a remarkable branding campaign in 1989 in Rhode Island as a joke. As a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, he created a silhouette of the famed wrestler Andre the Giant to show a friend how silhouettes could be made of virtually any photo. As a joke, he decided to place the image on a sticker, with the text “7’4″, 520 LB., Andre the Giant has a Posse”. Intended to mock underground skateboarding culture, these stickers were placed all over Providence, Rhode Island- on the back of street signs, streetlights, traffic signals, buildings, etc.
Getting lots of feedback from friends in the skating community, Shepard took out an ad in a skateboarding magazine featuring the image and a P.O. Box, with a note urging people to send a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope for more information. He would send back a few stickers, a template to use for printing more, and a note urging the recipient to spread the message.
I can recall personally seeing these stickers in Pittsburgh, PA in 1992, as well as in Los Angeles in the early 90s. Shepard Fairey then transitioned into a more stylized image, and created other silhouette styled images that were incorporated into posters that mock government propaganda with the word “Obey” featured prominently.
The end result? His work has been seen in numerous films (including Batman Forever, 8 MM, and others), is now designing CD covers, movie posters, and t-shirts, and has built a visual brand among persons who were young adults from the late 80s until now.
What is most interesting is that Shepard Fairey created a brand without a product! When he started, he had nothing to sell. He’s created a legion of fans who spread his message for him, and that has led to mainstream success. Whether you like or dislike his tactics (many view it as simple vandalism), the result cannot be denied- mainstream commercial success.
What can you do that will generate interest among your target audience? How can you encourage persons in your network to spread your message for you? What can you do to brand your company, products, or self to spread your message?
I’ll get this started for the SBA Network. Please take this article (or any of ours) and share it with a friend. 5’9″, 170 pounds. Mark Deo has a posse.