Experiential marketing: the antidote to mural advertising

Brands from Starbucks to Disney to Avocado hire street artists for urban beautification. It’s not advertising—it’s brand-building within communities.


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Zappos worked with Beautify to bring this mural by Trek Thunder Kelly to San Diego


It’s not about what you sell, it’s about what you stand for.


A mural shouldn’t just be a billboard on the ground. It’s part of the neighborhood, part of a community. Anheuser-Busch gets it: they’re going beyond Bud Light billboards with murals for their premium Mexican beer, Estrella Jalisco, by renovating walls in cities across America with slogans like, “You belong here.”


Disney, Lexus, Lululemon, American Express, Blue Shield of California, Target, Zappos, Cadillac, March Capital, Sit ‘n Sleep … Beautify has worked with more than 50 brands, both international and local, as part of the 10,000-plus murals we’ve helped create in more than 150 cities.


Murals don’t need to be advertising. They’re brand-building as an active force for good in the community. That’s why unlike billboards, the murals are seen all over social media.


Our online platform removes the friction and uncertainties from the process, making it easy for NewMark Merrill to find and work with professional street artists. As both a muralist and a software product manager, I founded Beautify to connect people who want great art with the professional artists who create it.


Property owners love brand murals

Building owners and their tenants don’t need to be sold on brand murals. They reduce graffiti and crime. They increase foot traffic to retailers and restaurants. They even lower vacancy rates. They turn a bland or ill-repaired wall into a visual landmark that gets photographed and shared by customers and tourists.


Brand managers see a bigger picture: That social media presence creates a real-world presence, a landmark that people have seen on Twitter. It establishes the brand as an investor in the community, a participant whose brand value goes beyond their products.


Consumers love them, too Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become an essential aspect of branding. Accenture reports that 62% of consumers “want companies want companies to stand up for the issues they are passionate about.” Global leadership organization YPO found that 92% of CEOs and younger people alike believe “business should have a positive impact on society beyond pursuing profits.” Much more than a billboard placed above a community, a wall mural establishes a brand as a part and participant of that community.


Brands as part of the community

In hindsight it’s obvious: Target reopened its store in South Minneapolis that had been looted and damaged following the death of George Floyd, but with a twist: The entrance is now framed by a mural, chosen with local members of the Black community. Instead of a big red wall, the Target store is now a visual part of the neighborhood’s culture.


Murals as company culture Murals are found in many of top brands’ headquarters including AirBnB, Hulu, and Avocado Mattress. Bringing the brand’s message inside company space, they elevate employee experience and show a serious investment in workplace culture and community.


Murals as experiential marketing for brands

Mural sponsored by Estrella Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission Bernal district celebrates a local hero.


Zappos The shoe and clothing retailer worked with Beautify to turn its “10 Core Values” into ten murals around the U.S., each of which visualizes one of those values. From Boston to Chicago to San Diego, muralists created visual representations of Zappos values including “Build a positive team and family spirit,” “Be humble,” and “Create fun and a little weirdness.”


Zappos founder Tony Hsieh praised the program at an all-hands meeting. Not only did Zappos give back to these communities, but the campaign had improved employee retention. It’s one thing to circulate 10 Core Values as an internal memo or press release, another to paint those principles onto community walls.


One core value is, "Be adventurous, creative and open-minded." Beautify Chief Creative Officer Ruben Rojas, an accomplished mural artist himself, describes the “Create” mural he painted with Marcel Blanco. “Create is a piece that lives in constant creative exploration. As the woman gazes out beyond the horizon she takes in and receives not only her presence in the present, but what is possible when living with an open mind and heart. The galaxy coming from her mind is the possibility of adventure, while the paper planes take us back to childhood creativity and imagination. Do you recall making paper airplanes? Maybe you believed you were the pilot and they would whisk you away to a far- off place. When we are open to possibility anything can truly be. We can create. We can live, love and adventure.”


Lexus As part of the launch of its UX crossover SUV in 2019, Lexus commissioned three murals with Beautify around Los Angeles. The brand challenge: How do you create a sense of exploration in a world that’s been mapped in its entirety? The new frontier and greatest sense of adventure lies in our creative ability to shape the world around us into something new.


That’s what Lexus’ team of street artists did at three locations around Los Angeles. Instead of billboard blight, Lexus’ murals reduced neighborhood decay and disorder. They increased the sense of safety and social cohesion.


The campaign’s measured impact was an 80% increase in brand sentiment, with 69% more likely to consider or recommend the brand and a 57% increase in overall favorability toward the new UX. No surprise to us, the murals had a higher click rate than other UX marketing on social media.


Blue Shield

Blue Shield moved their headquarters from San Francisco to Oakland in 2020. They decided to bring the neighborhood a gift upon arrival. The mural is tied to Blue Shield's program to boost access to mental health services for young people and education for their parents.


Estrella Jalisco Estrella Jalisco (“Star of Jalisco”) is a light golden pale pilsner beer which originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco, which borders the Pacific Ocean and includes the city of Guadalajara, where Estrella Jalisco was first brewed. To bring this cultural favorite to Mexican-American drinkers in the U.S., Anheuser-Busch has earmarked $1 million through 2025 to bring vibrant murals to walls in 100 communities in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.


Working with Beautify, Estrella Jalisco invited people in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and El Paso to nominate local artists on Twitter. The program’s goal is to bring the brand’s tradition of “bringing people together around colorful art and celebrating life” to the landscapes of these communities.


The murals’ messages are meant to inspire a sense of community and neighborhood, best exemplified by one that says simply, “You belong here.”


Heineken As part of its nationwide Cities campaign,, Heineken worked with Beautify to fund the installation of 25 artworks, along with an Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign to fund another 25, in a campaign called Beautify Hollywood.


The campaign’s goal is to make Hollywood more attractive and walkable, drawing more foot traffic and creating a more visible sense of community. To create the buzz of a launch event, a dozen of the 15 approved murals were begun the same night, with 15 of them painted within a week.


Overall, businesses with facades painted by Beautify have seen revenues increase by up to 50 percent.


Target

The giant retailer invested in murals with Beautify to bring beauty into their distribution centers. They bring brightness and cheer to what is typically a grey and drab area into a bright spot, a constant source of inspiration within the distribution center. Target's murals reflect the beauty and culture of the surrounding city or state, to connect with the employees who work there as part of the local community rather than an outside entity.


How to think about murals

Mural in Oakland by Joshua Hayes for Blue Shield

Mural by Joshua Hayes on Blue Shields' Oakland headquarters reflects the health plan provider's program to improve mental health awareness and access for young people.


There’s a new form of marketing and advertising: It’s called doing good for the community. Murals fit into marketers’ CSR budgets to fund corporate social responsibility—not just “giving back” but being a participant in local communities. Murals are CSR on public display around the clock, every day.


Landmarks, not ads

People don’t think of well-done murals as ads, but as landmarks. Mural artists have been personally thanked by passersby not only for beautifying bare or decaying walls, but for inspiring people. Artists have learned that some commuters switch their daily routes to drive past a specific mural on the way to or from work. Mural artists have been approached while painting by grateful neighbors who bring them food, offer them cash tips, or simply want to thank them for making the place where they live a better place.


Where billboards can’t go

Murals engage consumers at eye level, where billboards and other ads are often banned. They're not billboards on the ground, however. Rather, they should become part of the community—a visual presence that goes beyond signage. In fact, Beautify specifically avoids incorporating brand names and logos into murals, as well as corporate signage and advertising all together. It’s best if the sponsorship is low-profile on the wall, but widely publicized in the community, especially through digital campaigns. Rule of thumb: If it looks like an ad, or it looks like it's trying to be an ad cover-up, your doing it wrong, and likely to face signage and advertising issues in many communities.


A mural should beautify its neighborhood, becoming an attractive landmark, often with an uplifting message. That message can be implied visually or spelled out in text, as with Ruben Rojas “Gratitude”in Santa Monica, or Charlie Hewitt’s “Hopeful” sign on a former factory building in Maine.


Art that expresses the brand Instead of looking for art to license that properly expresses a brand, hiring a mural artist gives brand managers the opportunity to commission their own art that meets their approval from design phase through completion. How to express your brand through art is a topic I’ll explain in detail in an upcoming blog post.


Fit into the community Of course a mural should align with a brand’s positioning and messaging. Zappos’ ten murals that visualize each of Zappos’ ten core values is the perfect example. Working with the late Tony Hsieh and his team was an inspiring and educational experience for me. Tony helped me better understand my own mission—“Beautify every community”—to mean that my goal was to bring visual aspects to each community that reflect its own culture back to itself in a positive, uplifting way. Not just a pretty painting on a wall, but a powerful reminder to all who see it that this is a great place to be.


A simple guideline for a good mural is: If the brand were to disappear tomorrow, would the mural still seem vibrant and current on its own? That’s a major difference between billboards and murals: A mural doesn’t have an unspoken expiration date for its relevance.


Viral landmarks As a mural’s reputation grows, it becomes the backdrop for social media selfies, or even the subject itself of photos shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other networks.


Measurable benefits

For brand managers, mural benefits can be measured:

  • More positive brand sentiment

  • Higher favorability toward the brand’s products and services

  • Higher willingness to recommend the brand

  • Higher foot traffic and revenue to brand venues


It’s not magic, it’s math: With a majority of today’s consumers wanting to see brands participate in community and stand up for issues, a mural sends the message that a brand is doing exactly that.


What to expect

Adrian Wong painted this wall in Los Angeles for Lexus' launch of its UX crossover vehicle.


Time

Do you alreay have a wall you’re ready to beautify with your brand’s presence? Through Beautify’s platform, you can have mockup designs from one or more artists whom you select in a week, often less.


Looking to find walls to beautify in a specific community not currently available on our platform? In 1-2 weeks, Beautify can connect you with the area’s local artists (or those willing to travel) and find walls for which they’ll create design mockups for you.


The painting time can vary widely, especially if the wall needs preparation first. But once a design is approved, most murals are complete within a few weeks.


Cost

Exploring a mural is generally a fixed-price and low cost: $199 for a design mockup for a single wall, or $799 to find walls suitable for beautification in a specific community.


The murals themselves are priced based on several factors which affect the amount of artist work and supplies required to implement the approved design: wall size, mural complexity, wall materials and accessibility, site preparation before painting, the artist’s own level of experience, and the number of stakeholders allowed to have a say in the final work.


Factors that affect pricing include:

  • Size of the wall

  • Maximum height of the wall

  • Complexity of the artwork

  • The artist’s experience and reputation

  • Site preparation that may need to be done before painting

  • Accessibility to the site for preparation and painting work

  • Number of stakeholders involved in the design and final approval process

  • Your own unique requirements, which we work to accommodate from our experience with 10,000 murals in more than 100 cities for brands, property owners, and local government programs or community groups.


Our design phase is generally a fixed price to encourage both artists and clients to get started on designs. Pricing to activate the approved design is negotiable and variable. The best approach is to get on a call with us to help you determine from experience how best to meet your needs and budget. We’d love to talk to you!


Start now—explore your options with qualified artists

Beautify has created a step-by-step process, guided by, tracked, and managed on our automated platform. There are no hidden or surprise costs to a project—everyone agrees up front on price and schedule. To learn more and explore a campaign for your own brand, visit our Brands & Agencies page and click Get Started to connect with artists who can make your brand a part of the community.


Evan Meyer is a co-founder and the CEO of Beautify.

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