Ikonick, an affordable canvas art business, started as a side hustle and scaled quickly. Two years ago, the co-founders were coming up with content ideas from movie quotes watched on bean bag chairs in their live-work space — now, they’re about to open a Las Vegas store front.


On this episode of “The Commerce Marketer,” Mark Brazil, Ikonick’s co-founder, joins us to share how he rapidly scaled up his business and how his marketing program grew along with it.


“It was a creative outlet, I had no clue this would become my calling in life — it was purely out of passion,” he said. “We were just putting stuff out that was authentic to our lifestyles.”


Brazil and his friend started the business based on a chance encounter and good luck with a celebrity.


“I was touring Boston and I met a random kid with a cool drawing in a streetwear shop.” he did some contracting for him, and wound up giving a piece to Rob Kardashian who posted it on Instagram — he wound up selling his piece for $1,000.”


They continued to work with the artist and sold pieces to other celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Meghan Trainor. Inquiries came in from people looking to buy the pieces, but he soon recognized a problem that became an opportunity.


“I realized that not everyone emailing me to buy the art could afford the art,” he said.


They experimented with dropping a limited time (not limited unit) print that was much more affordable — they made $20,000 in two days, and he recognized the hole in the price point art market.


“We found some white space,” he said. “And we sprinted for thirteen months in a row with increasing revenue.”


With this growth came a need for increased marketing. Their first major sale came from influencer marketing, and influencer is still their main outreach technique. When they began scaling up, they started digging into data and using targeted ads on social media platforms.


“It was only Facebook, and then it was Facebook and Instagram for the first eight months,” he said. “But Facebook and Instagram have gotten much harder.” 


Algorithm changes made connecting with customers more expensive, and they realized that they could drum up more revenue without paying for acquisition by using their email list.


“If you already own the customer and there’s no cost to acquire the customer, there’s no reason you can’t ask them if they’d like another piece to complete the collection,” he said, noting that email subscribers are, by default, already engaged.


Until this point, their email strategy consisted of announcing sales and new items. The big shift came when they introduced what Brazil calls “storytelling,” adding value without asking for a purchase. Ikonick began sharing the founders’ backstories, social proof, and the stories behind the pieces to build engagement before introducing more advanced campaigns. He details


“I think it’s really about being creative and figuring out ways to keep people engaged,” he said, describing how they share content now. “Value, value, value, ‘buy this’ — not ‘buy this’, ‘buy this’, ‘buy this’.”


He goes on to share the ways he approaches multichannel marketing and the challenge of attributing the first touch across the channels. He also explains why you can’t always get bogged down in metrics and details when you’re trying to value your content.


“As long as we’re moving in the right direction, I’m always going to err on the side of building more story, more brands, and getting more people into the tribe,” he said. “Whether it be by words on paper, by audio, or by video… I think when it’s all said and done, in the next five years brand and story is all that’s going to be important.”