Blown Glass and Gladiolas: How to Build a Brand with Something New

It’s very much like an alien invasion of graceful, iridescent beings – frozen in a timeless garden.  The Dallas Arboretum has attracted new accolades, audiences and media attention by doing something new. Distinct. And amazing. They’ve mixed blown glass with gladiolas and magnolias. Wow.

Directors of the garden partnered with world-class sculptor and entrepreneur Dale Chihuly to blend his unique glass artistry with the greenery of city’s best-known garden. And it works. Suddenly the arboretum has something exciting and new and even bizarre. The Cirque du Soleil of Modern Art.  The twisty designs unfurl long tentacles and spikes and blades, nestled among manicured greenery and gentle pools. It’s an amazing blend of artistry and agriculture.  Man-made sculpture and natural scenery. It makes the Dallas Arboretum unique, fascinating and newsworthy. The media coverage has been overwhelmingly positive, whether here in Dallas or in Midland.

So – what could you do to attract a new audience? How could  you interest new clients and customers with something different that your competitors would never consider? How could you update your offer? Reinvent  your storefront? How could you modernize your brand with something startling, bold and counterintuitive?

The Arboretum took a risk. Traditional gardeners might not like the idea of giant spikey alien objects in their classic landscape. The Dallas Museum of Art might not want to tell people that the most interesting art exhibit in town is ‘over there’. Others might not like the foreign shapes and twisted tentacles. But who cares? Art is always in the eye of you know who.

Last night my wife and I took the kids to explore the exhibit at sunset. The Arboretum’s open on Wednesday and Thursday nights, when Chihuly’s swirly glass is illuminated for an even more dramatic look. Sure,  was a little muggy. Heck, it’s August! But we were all amazed at the exhibit. The artists’s team of glass blowers and mechanics installed the works in May and they will be on display through November 5th. Chihuly has his extravagant candy-colored creations in hundreds of museums, hotel lobbies and institutes around the world. Here in Dallas, you can see his work at the DMA or in a lobby at UT Southwestern. But at the Arboretum, it’s different. It seems organic and earthy. An explosion of color at 15 different sites around the giant manicured gardens.

The Arboretum has scored a big win by doing something outlandish, extreme, and – some might say gaudy.  But why not? It’s undoubtedly a win for ticket sales. For attracting modern art lovers. For entertaining kids (although my five-year-old daughter spent half the time chasing after rabbits and fireflies!) For soliciting media – both standard media and social media. Last night, there were hundreds of people snapping cell phone pictures in front of the giant glass chandeliers and cornucopias. Most of those photos were likely headed to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or an Instagram.

Yes, the Arboretum paid a big BIG fee to get Mr Chihuly to bring his colorful creations in. There were logistical and planning problems to navigate. In June, a Dallas hailstorm damaged some of the sculptures. And yet – it’s a big win for the Arboretum.

Consider how you could do something surprising to garner a similar big win for you brand. If not gigantic blown glass, then what?