Art of Retail Reprise (Happy Birthday, Jasper Johns)

In honor of Jasper Johns' birthday, I'm dusting off this post from 2010. Still feels relevant.

"Take an object.  Do something to it.  Do something else to it.  Ditto." 

That was renowned artist Jasper Johns' formula for art creation in the 1950's and it helps explain all of those flags, numbers, targets and maps; imagery that he said derived from "things the mind already knows" but that he of course, did lots of stuff to.  This flag from 1954-55, for example, is 1. A flag image 2.  On fabric  3.  Mounted on plywood. 

This got me thinking about the state of retail (doesn't everything?).  Johns' formula worked really well for him, as it has for many suppliers and brands.  Take something familiar (an existing product or brand).  Do something to it (line extension).  Do something else to it (another line extension).  That's why we have a Swiffer for every occasion, mega-blade razors and shampoos that do everything but windows.  It's also why big companies sometimes buy "under-marketed brands with strong name recognition" as Clorox did back in 1998, when it paid $2 billion for First Brand Corporation in order to snag GladSTP auto products and Scoop Away Litter.  That version of the formula, which has been repeated many times over by countless brand houses, is:  Buy a recognizable but neglected property.  Sink marketing dollars into it.  Explore brand and distribution extensions.  Watch the volume roll in as more consumers than ever welcome the newly relevant and omnipresent brand into their homes.

The formula is being tested.

Jasper Johns' works commanded some of the highest prices ever paid for art . . . and they also set the stage for the pop art movement . . . Or what I like to call, "the art world's version of private label."  Do you see where I'm going with this?   If not, you soon will.