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Can You Survive Offline? Ernest Did!


I’m pretty sure you know who Ernest Zacharevic is. If you don’t, well… it’s time to make a trip to Penang!
Ernest is the celebrated Lithuanian street artist whose beautiful murals colour the vintage streets of Penang and other buzzing cities like Kuala Lumpur and Johor.

From depicting the most fun childhood moments ridden on a shaky bike to violent Lego pieces that wield heavy social commentary, Ernest Zacharevic paints pictures that reflects the life of locals from a perspective that resembles so much of a Malaysian’s, it’s almost uncanny.

And there is no stopping him.

Malaysians love his paintings! So much so, that he has a massive fan base who stay up-to-date with his murals. The funny thing is, he seldom updates his activities online, yet the things he does often get nationwide attention.

Ernest Zacharevic has successfully branded himself as the “Malaysian Bansky;” being a big name in our region now. He is a brilliant example of a successful “brand” that has a huge following both on and offline, that requires very little housekeeping on the Internet itself.

So what can we learn from Ernest’s on ground (and lack of online) presence?

He does what he does and is least concerned about what others think.
Sure, you can give your verdict on his artwork but it wouldn’t affect his next piece’s direction in the slightest, because the brush is in his hands alone. As an audience it’s rare to find such boldness (especially in the social climate we live in today) understanding his personality through his work. Transparency is important when connecting.

He positions his creations in high traffic areas and let the crowd advertise for him.
Ernest’s photogenic works are situated at the most visible spots in town. The main attraction of his artworks is that they are often interactive, making it impossible for the audience to not want to be part of the piece itself. For example, visitors can actually sit on the bike of “Little Children on a Bicycle.”

Almost instinctively, people will take pictures with the murals and share it with their friends on social media thus providing him free advertising. Interactivity breeds shareability. Note that he doesn’t even have to talk about his work. If this isn’t a great example of effective organic exposure, I don’t know what is.

Money is not his first priority.
He is truly driven by passion. It is an artist’s relentless craving to perfect what they do that attracts people who would commission them for work. The point is, Ernest Zacharevic focuses on doing what he cares about and let money find him. This breeds total and complete authenticity, leaving us waiting on the edge of our seats for his next piece, because we know his art is coming from somewhere real.

When he falls, he picks himself straight back up.
Every brand has haters and Ernest is no exception. When authorities decided to paint over his mural in Johor, he expressed surprise but said that he expected it. It is street art, after all. Later on in his “Art Is Rubbish” exhibition in Penang, he made a life-sized replica of the mural. Ernest Zacharevic stood up for something, and they painted over his work. Did that stop him? No. And this is why we respect him.

Almost every service or product has an online presence, which means word-of-mouth is the most utilised form of advertising today. Search and you will find virtually anything that has a circle of loyal users, and more than often they are eager to recommend you what they love. Look them up again on the infamous social media trio (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and you will find dozens of thousands of photos and posts with a dedicated #hashtag for netizens to find their one true passion easily.

But Ernest did it differently. He made his way out of this digital world so gracefully to pursue his art, like a conductor turning his back to the audience to direct his orchestra. What launched his success however, is the way he has crafted his work to speak for itself, allowing his audience to be the viral triggers, the headlines, the hashtags and the keywords.

The key to starting a conversation in real life is to make space for the person you’re engaging to talk more than you, and the same rule applies online. It’s time to connect with your consumers better! Your job is to turn on the tap by giving them something to talk about, and the water will cascade on its own.

Is your brand connecting with consumers from the ground level?

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