In a recent Facebook post, a rather famous and extremely successful artist and Facebook friend of mine listed his own rules and ideas for success in art. Number nine on his list was the simple statement "fuck branding". In some ways, I agree with my Facebook friend when he says "fuck branding".
I know others claim that branding is vitally important to success as a creative, but I question this claim. In some ways, when it comes to art, I think "branding" an unnecessary concept. I believe possessing a distinctive "style" is far more important than developing a specific "brand".
Now, I kind of get the whole concept of "branding". I understand the importance of having imagery and themes that are distinctive, recognizable, and memorable to success as an artist. I acknowledge the importance of building a certain reputation. However, I question how different such "branding" is from "style". In other words, an artist may have a distinctive, recognizable, and memorable style. If an artist's style is distinctive, recognizable, and memorable enough, it could be said that that artist's style and brand are one and the same.
As a promotional tool, branding may have its uses, but only to a point. Telling others about your brand is fine and dandy, but when it comes to art, sooner or later you have to show the world what you're talking about. I can say that my style is "unique" and oftentimes "quirky" (words others have used to describe my art), but I would rather let my style speak for itself. I can declare that my work is inspired by history, myth, folklore, and legend (and I do), but viewers of my works can actually see that for themselves. Even so, I would hate to be restricted to JUST that brand, SOLELY art inspired by history, myth, folklore, and legend. That's where I get really annoyed over the whole "branding" thing.
One thing I resist strongly is being confined into one little box branded "illustrator inspired by history", or "artist inspired by myth and folklore", or fantasy artist", or "horror artist", etc. Though my style is my own, I refuse to remain restricted to just a handful of subjects and themes. I love to draw dragons and knights, but I also like to experiment with more abstract art on occasion. Even though I have done a number of darker works for horror publications, I have also created several lighter pieces for publications geared toward younger readers. Admittedly, my style might be best suited for medieval fantasy, but I have also had a bit of success with sci-fi art and illustrations. To be quite honest, I prefer versatility over being trapped within the boundaries of a certain "brand".
It seems to me that "branding" is really just a catchphrase people like to throw around when they want to sound like they know what they're talking about. When you boil it down, a lot of the talk about "branding"is empty gobbledygook.