Commercial Sectors

Art as Differentiator: Influencing Consumer Choices

, Art as Differentiator: Influencing Consumer Choices
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Aesthetics play a powerful role in how we interact with our environment while influencing the decisions that we make. And no matter what your business, be it a buzzworthy new high-end property or a family-run grocery store, art is a powerful tool that can create a critical emotional connection that makes your space memorable and worth revisiting. 

Humans are aesthetically driven creatures, and art has a profound effect on the brain. With different brain regions being activated by the perception of beauty, it should come as no surprise that creating a unique and beautiful customer experience is a top priority for businesses that want to stand apart. Consider the importance of fostering an emotional connection – one that makes the customer feel things like comfort, familiarity, luxury, or community. Great art has the power to transform mere services and goods into a unique and covetable experience, and people prioritize those positive experiences when it comes to the places they frequent – and where they spend their money.

Art inherently acts as advertising by shaping the perception and importance of different products and brands in our individual lives. And when business owners effectively carve out their niche with thoughtful curations and creative branding, they can influence consumer decision-making and create a strong business with a foundation in customer loyalty.

Using Art to Enhance Your Brand

Take a moment to think of some of your favorite companies. What makes you gravitate towards them? Perhaps they feel modern and trendy, or maybe they’re a heritage brand that represents quality and durability. No matter what your perception, these characteristics weren’t established overnight – a brand’s reputation and image takes thoughtful consideration. But investing in art for your branding, and doing so in a thoughtful and clever way, can more than differentiate your business – it can even make you a powerhouse!

Let’s look at some of these brilliant examples from internationally recognizable brands. IKEA, originally founded in 1943, has long maintained a reputation for affordable yet attractive goods. However, perhaps because of a surplus of factories and overseas manufacturing, they’re not the only name in the game. Despite their longevity, there was a need to level up to make their goods and brand more desirable. Enter their artist collaborations, a series of limited edition products that are produced in collaboration with internationally respected artists and designers.

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The joy of the collab: an artist holds their latest textile design.

This move was nothing short of genius. Consumers are incredibly responsive to unique goods and scarcity (we want what others can’t have), and introducing limited edition collaborations ensures that exciting new products are created season after season, giving IKEA regular opportunities to reinforce and build upon its reputation. And if, worst-case scenario, a particular collection turns out to be a flop; they can always start fresh in a few months – and with a clearer understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

What’s more, thoughtful selections of top artists give these collections credibility and worth, and regular rollouts mean that IKEA is able to build hype while managing customer expectations. Better yet? It gives the brand an opportunity to reach new audiences by creating the same old trusted products – just with a welcome facelift, making them appealing to both their base and a new target audience.


Let’s also take a look at Smirnoff and their 2017 “We’re Open” campaign, which invited transgender and non-binary artists to shine a spotlight on nightlife culture and inclusivity. Working with creatives to produce authentic and progressive imagery cemented their position as a top lifestyle brand, all while establishing a positive and socially conscious message. The result? The company is now respected for its commitment to progressive values and connection to the LGBTQ+ community, making them a regular go-to for those that want to imbibe responsibly – and consciously.

, Art as Differentiator: Influencing Consumer Choices
Smirnoff’s forward-thinking campaign created timely imagery while propelling the brand.

Using Art in Product Design

Art is intentional – it’s emotional, it’s provocative. And increasingly, the way a product looks is becoming more and more important. Consumers have evolved far beyond usability and functionality. They now also desire something that looks good, and top companies understand that putting product design first is the stepping stone to creating desirability. 

While the brand is obviously having a moment, we’d be remiss to ignore the decades-long phenomenon of the Barbie doll. The original toy felt nearly subversive: the concept of an adult doll for children seemed an impossible sell to many marketers. However, Barbie’s creator, Ruth Handler, had tapped into something, and the doll quickly became an international sensation.

See also
The Art of Attraction: How Visual Art Drives Customer Traffic and Retention

Despite the recent Barbie movie’s obvious impact on bringing our long-time companion back into the spotlight, she’s rarely been unpopular. And this is, in part, due to Mattel’s incredible attention to consumer needs and desires. After identifying a need for diversification, Barbie started to shapeshift, inhabiting different body types and representing different cultures and races. This bold step clearly worked when a black Barbie sporting a short afro became the top-selling Barbie in 2019. In fact, this representation allowed Mattel to sell 86 million dolls in 2021 alone, or about 164 dolls every minute. 

Let’s also return to the incredible influence of the Barbie movie and its unparalleled art-based marketing strategy. Once, Barbie allowed us to live out different lifestyles and fantasies – you could be Barbie the beauty queen, Barbie the astronaut, or both. But now, major theaters feature a lifesize replica of the instantly recognizable Barbie box, giving customers an opportunity actually to become the dolls themselves. This branding is powerful and we see it everywhere – in fact, we challenge you to spend a few minutes on social media without seeing a connection post a picture of their night at the movies, clad in pink and doing their best Barbie pose.

With Mattel’s 360 marketing, we’re all Barbie girls now. By deagreez, from Adobe Stock.

Regardless of whether or not we can put our finger on it, most of us intrinsically understand that art has a profound impact on brands and product design. But by taking a deeper look at what makes your business unique and what customers need, you can make smarter decisions when it comes to working with artists and designers.

Look to the needs of your base and think about whom you’d like to invite to the party – how can you elevate your visual identity to welcome both? And how can you keep them excited and eager to come back? Great art encourages great relationships – don’t shy from leveraging it to propel your brand. 

About the author

Kate Kelly

Kate Kelly attended Syracuse University and majored in French Literature, which inspired her to start her first blog, FauxFrench. She has worked as an illustration agent at Morgan Gaynin Inc., a premiere boutique agency in New York, as well as written for commercial and marketing assignments, conducted historical and academic research, journalism, and education

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