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Better branding needed to sell art by-products

By Gao Feng, Xi Mu | 2016-03-31 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Art by-products, both decorative and functional, have become increasingly popular among consumers. Brand development has also become a focus of the art industry as enterprises attempt to enlarge their market share. 


Brand development refers to attempts by brand owners to enhance the value, market influence and competitiveness of their brands to improve brand popularity and trust among customers. The industry of art by-products in China grew from the initial stage of trial and error to a later stage of industry-scale development. Market-related brand development has also become a focal point of the art by-products industry in their efforts to survive in a competitive market.


Internet environment
Brand development of art by-products is a complex issue. Brand owners or creators must first consider how to establish a good image for the enterprise and at the same time, realize market gains by taking full advantage of branding.

The art by-products industry, in the Internet era, has reached the pinnacle of brand development. In the past, when brand images of art by-products were far removed from public life, it was difficult for them to transform in the same traditional way as general goods. Even after the art licensing industry developed, art by-products could only rely on immature marketing modes, such as the shopping channels managed by art institutions for exhibition sales or nonprofit sales. It was difficult for them to avoid being labeled affiliate products for regional artistic and cultural facilities.

The information revolution  has transformed the production and sales process which was once opaque and uncoordinated. Taking advantage of the network in which the consumption environment is “open and fair,” enterprises can achieve rapid market share expansion at low cost using digital information technology in accordance with the law of “diminishing marginal cost.” That is to say, traditional mass production operates via economies of scale—to gain profit by enlarging the industrial scale—but in the case of art by-products, sellers can choose to lower their costs in the links of sales, warehousing and distribution by making the best of their advantages of being “small, fast, agile,” in the Internet environment. These advantages also help the enterprises obtain higher cultural added value.

In the online business platform, art by-products have been scattered and classified into different industries, such as clothing, stationery, jewelry, accessories, toys and others. Restricted by limited product forms, art by-products have a hard time attracting enough interest from the market and mass consumers. Except for some professionals specializing in the sector, the masses remain unfamiliar with the concept of art by-products. Without established standards and systems in the industry, it is hard for the consumers to get a thorough understanding of it, let alone to consume much. The problem also requires professionals and associations in the industry as well as the news media to guide and support the art industry with a focus on improving its market environment.


Customization tendency
The previous market environment featured asymmetric information, which meant that the individual needs of the consumers were not accurately and effectively communicated to the producers and designers of the products. In the Internet era, the cultural attributes and commercial value of art by-products have been diluted and even supplanted by the trends of increasingly transparent and directive competition fostered by digital technology. Now that the generations born after the 1980s have entered the workplace and become the main group of cultural consumers, the consumption pattern of art by-products has become increasingly personalized and customized. In the past, due to a lack of a stable and prominent marketing strategies of brand development, it was hard for art by-products to avoid being called cultural tourism accessories. Nowadays, the newly emerging young middle-class consumers are more inclined to prefer high-end products, which have been positively evaluated by the public and have a higher social status. This trend also makes the branding of domestic art by-products transcend the confines of product design and marketing.


In addition, by taking full advantage of the Internet, where communication is instantaneous, enterprises can better grasp the needs of potential consumers. They are capable of learning more about the interests of certain age groups and consumers with various income levels. According to the common demand of a particular consumption group, the product category and cultural value of the art by-products can be defined in a more precise way.


Brand loyalty
The brand development of art by-products can bring enterprises more points of growth, which enable them to better cope with the market shock caused by competitors’ price strategies, research and development, and marketing tactics in order to enlarge the products’ market share. In the context of deepening Internet infiltration into the market competition, brand loyalty has been listed as one of the core factors that impact the branding of products. Retaining the preexisting consumption group is relatively easier than developing new target groups.

Therefore, art enterprises should take advantage of the convenience of online transmissions and transactions to lower the marketing costs of branding. To keep a foothold in the market, new brands need to overcome consumers’ loyalty to established brands and encourage them to shift their preferences. This process requires higher publicity costs. To deal with this, the viral phenomenon, which is unique to the Internet, can be put to good use. For instance, the proliferation of grassroots Internet journalists and bloggers has changed the way news is handled. By using news events to attract the public’s attention and taking advantage of social media, which is generally free of charge, enterprises can make new brands known at a low cost. In this process, enterprises should pay attention to the maintenance of brand image and brand promotion strategy to prevent possible conflicts between the two.

In addition, the enhancement of brand awareness and recognition is also one of the focuses and determining factors of cultivating art by-products. By definition, brand awareness and recognition represents consumers’ comprehensive perspective on the overall quality, image, and notability of the products. It can increase the long-term familiarity of consumers with a brand name. When the brand gains enough competitive advantage after experiencing a crucial period of transition, it will be difficult for other enterprises to rival it in terms of prestige and consumer satisfaction.

Research has shown that as brands gradually gain recognition from consumers, the symbolic utility of the brands and products is positively related to willingness on the part of consumers to pay a premium price. In addition, brand recognition is also positively correlated with the market performance of the brand. But because of the abundance of information and resources on the Internet, it is hard for enterprises to collect market information on brand recognition in an orderly fashion. Estimates of demand and market positioning remain vague despite a wealth of information. Therefore, the analysis and classification of hazy statistics also has become a crucial component of brand recognition. Based on this understanding, the brand development of art by-products should take holistic factors of brand image into consideration such as product attribute, market performance as well as the symbolic and emotional effect of branding.


Gao Feng and Xi Mu are from the China’s Academy for Art Industries at Shanghai University.