A Lesson in Brand from Pablo Picasso

Man in a Beret

Man in a Beret 1895 Pablo Ruiz Picasso

A Lesson from the Master
Last week I was lucky enough to find myself in Barcelona, one sunny afternoon at the Museu Picasso. Walking the halls of the gallery, admiring the craftsmanship and creative evolution of one of the greatest artists of all time, I was struck by one thing more than any other; Picasso’s ability – even from a very early age – to put paint onto canvas with life-like accuracy.

When we think of Picasso, we typically think of his colourful and imaginative cubist work. Those paintings are without doubt what Picasso is most famous for and most widely remembered by. But what I was reminded of as I walked around the gallery, was how much Picasso’s painting style had evolved through his many years of painting. The art Picasso created in his early years under the tutelage of his art teacher father was of a distinctly classic style.

Learning to Paint
The young Picasso’s ability to capture realism, detail, texture, light and mood was astounding. But what struck me most was the realisation that before he was able to express his vision in a new and unique style, Picasso first had to master the basics, to capture the essence of his vision with absolute clarity.

Seated Man 1969 Pablo Picasso

Seated Man 1969 Pablo Picasso

Whilst we typically assume that Picasso picked up his first paint brush and began painting with his unique, surreal view on life, we generally are unaware of the years of development that went into creating the Picasso style of painting. What a great analogy that is for brand.

Putting the Picasso before the Horse
When we view the masters of branding; Nike, Apple, Coke, what we see is the current expression of those brands to market with all their unique colour and style. What we don’t see and often overlook, is the years of strategic development and definition that underpin those creative expressions. As brand and marketing professionals we are too often drawn into picking up our paint brushes and attempting to paint a unique and expressive brand for ourselves right away, without first spending the necessary time and energy on getting the fundamentals right.

Whilst a brand with the unique colour and style of a Picasso will not be right for every brand, we can ensure we invest the level of thinking necessary to develop the clarity we need around the brands we are responsible for. This will at the very least ensure as we set out to paint, we have a clear vision of the style that is right for the business our brand serves.

If you’d like to talk painting, Picasso, or brand proposition, why not get in touch – it’s always worth the conversation.

David Ansett, Brandamentalist.

If you’d like daily updates of our brand thinking, you can follow me on Twitter here.


  1. I agree David. The thing that is important here is that brands such as Nike, Apple, Coke had the ability to recognise how crucial and important strategic development and definition was for their marketing, brand and creative expressions. Without a clear direction brands too often lose their way. Brands must spend the necessary time and energy to get the fundamentals right just as Pablo did. Well said David!

  2. I had a similar feeling when I walked around the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. The early work is very powerful – yet you can see the essence of Van Gogh throughout.
    The great artists are born with the ability to play up those elements of a subject that most connect emotionally with the viewer – a colour, the shape of a smile, the hue of skin, the curve of a body – in a way that even photography can struggle to achieve.I think great brands often do the same thing.

  3. Today, the pressure to get product to market precludes the learning curve you allude to. University, to some degree, provides the training. But many business curricula put the balance sheet way before creativity. Perhaps studying art history (or art?) alongside business would help. But that sounds crazy, doesn’t, it?

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