Murphy Draws Up Possibilities

October 24, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Just as Harold used his purple crayon to draw himself imaginative adventures, Bill Murphy used his to draw himself a marketing company.

Fueled by his love for Crockett Johnson’s book “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” Murphy started Purple Crayon Direct — a marketing firm that caters to the likes of artists — although there was much more behind his creation than the color purple.

Purple Crayon Direct began as a freelance project of Murphy’s while he was working on and off for other agencies in Milwaukee and Grand Rapids. When Murphy decided to take his idea and develop it into an agency, he thought he had a catchy name for it. But what he found was that people didn’t want just another agency.

He decided that he needed to come up with a more creative angle and, after reading a book entitled, “Purple Cow: How to Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable,” by Seth Godin, he changed the agency from a general focus to one that focused on the arts.

The Purple Crayon team includes Sasha Tylzynski, photographer; Gregg Ayers, creative director; and Bill’s wife, Beth Murphy, project manager. Bill Murphy fills the role of executive creative director and wordsmith.

“Since we are all into the arts and love music and photography and books, we decided why not do what makes us really happy?” said Murphy. “We found that these people (artists) know their craft; they don’t know ours. They don’t know how to market themselves, so we are able to share what we know to help them succeed. That is our gift.”

When he sees an artist using a photocopy for his business card and resume, and a black and white sheet of paper as a brochure — while his or her paintings are selling for between $3,000 and $4,000 — he knows Purple Crayon can help.

That’s why the agency’s services encompass everything from Web site design and consultation on existing Web sites, brochures and business cards to working with corporate buyers and licensing agreements.

Licensing is an area into which Purple Crayon is moving because the agency sees it as a tool that can be used to free up artists’ time, thereby allowing them to do what they do best.

“We want them to be able to take a step off the art show circuit and let their art work for them behind the scenes,” said Murphy. “This way they could see their art on any mouse pad or calendar in Barnes and Noble.”

Purple Crayon deals with a wide variety of artists: actors in Chicago, abstract painters in Iowa, an Old World European artist in Saginaw, and local musicians, poets and painters.

And what Murphy feels his team brings to artists that other agencies may not is a passion for what they are promoting. Murphy said he, Ayers, Tylzynski and Beth Murphy have the arts in their hearts, and while it is a product they are selling, it’s a product that they interact with on a daily basis for personal enjoyment.

“We live and breathe the arts, so we not only know the marketing side of it but we bring to it the passion to help them succeed — and they can’t do that anywhere else,” said Murphy. “The cool part of our job is we get to do two things we love: marketing and advertising, and being involved in the arts.”

He noted that not every artist is a good fit with Purple Crayon. He said the business sees itself working with artists that are looking to take their work to the national level.

In many cases, Murphy said, Purple Crayon discovers such artists often don’t have the resources to set up an interview, create a CD cover, press kit or brochure, and also may be missing crucial steps in the branding process.

“We want to get them to see that every point along the career path is a branding opportunity,” said Murphy.           

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