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jules monster - original art by andy mcnally

You hate Paul Frank?  My answer is most certainly not.  It is easy to dislike someone who is successful doing what you think that you would like to do.  So in that case, I would also have to dislike TokiDoki, Simone Legno, Hello Kitty/ Sanrio, Johnny Cupcakes, and even Shawn White(his kids clothing line).  The truth is that I do not dislike any of these people or their brands.  In fact I’m happy for them.  I admire their creativity and success.  Most importantly, I learn from them.

The world has more than enough for all of us, so there is no sense wasting my time being upset with someone for their success.  What can we learn from all of these brands?  What do they do right?  What do they do wrong?

All of these brands have a fantastic sense of who they are and the audience they appeal to the most.  I mentioned Paul Frank, so lets focus on Julius the monkey and company.  Paul Frank doesn’t try to event a new character to make everyone happy, but rather sticks primarily to Julius the monkey and a few other core characters.  You can waste a lot of time trying to make everyone happy and in the end you will most likely end up alienating everyone.  Accept the fact that some people will not like your work.  Look for the people that do like what you do, and focus on them.  Those customers will be the ones that tell others about you, and they will find other like minded individuals.  I also can not emphasize enough how important it should be to reward the people that spread the word and help you.

What else do they do right?  Branding.  You have zero doubt whether or not an item is a Paul Frank item.  Does this mean you have to go to great lengths and have color tags and printed material?  Branding can be simple, very simple.  Put your website address on everything that you make or send out, and that can be your branding.  If you have a logo use it, if you don’t, it can be as simple as your name, like say “Paul Frank.”  See it was not as hard as you thought it would be.

What do they do wrong?  Many people would argue that all of these brands do fine, and they have a very valid point.  They are big, and sometimes can be to big.  It is cool to have something that everyone else does not have.  In all fairness, this is one of the things that Johnny Cupcakes does very well.  When he makes a design, there are only so many, and when they are gone, they are gone.  So if everyone is wearing the new Paul Frank t-shirt, then it loses it’s coolness factor.  Your smaller brands size, might be just the thing.  Focus on the exclusiveness of your creations.  A limited time offer, should be just that, limited.  Customers need to believe that it truly might not be around if they wait, or they might want to feel special because they were one of the first ones to get something and start the trend.

The one thing whether your are a small unknown artist or a large corporation, is to find your voice and stick to it.  Let everyone know who you are.  Find your crowd, and talk to them.  Now, go be creative and good luck.