As a company that has provided graffiti removal services for over 10 years, we’ve seen and heard what the public think about graffiti as we’re removing it. The overwhelming consensus on the street is that people don’t like graffiti. They cheer as it’s being removed and tell us what extreme penalties the offenders must receive, but this might be a skewed perception of reality. We’re seeing people downtown in a city during early business hours, not the people going to night clubs, pubs, restaurants, sporting events, concerts, etc. So is our perception right or wrong about graffiti?
Lately, graffiti has been used during protests to get messages to politicians or people who are at the top of the economic food chain, but a lot of it is also just being used to cause damage to statues and buildings that represent what is being protested. It seems to be an effective tool when most media these days is visual and becoming viral can happen for the most bizarre reasons. The message in this type of communication receives a lot of media coverage, so maybe people are changing their minds about it.
The poles done within the last 10 years (CBS News) show an upward trend towards people liking graffiti more than they use to. 44% of people polled say graffiti is art, which was up 4% from 3 years prior (2014). The data isn’t the most up to date (it’s now 2020), but large polls on graffiti aren’t often taken.
Another way to find out how popular graffiti is would be to look at how large companies market their products. If you think that graffiti would be the last thing a major brand would think of getting involved with due to the backlash from consumers, you would be extremely wrong. Many major brands have embraced graffiti as a way to relate to their customers, or give them what they want. Or perhaps they are large enough brands that their consumers will follow whatever they give them?? It seems more realistic that people will like or tolerate what they’re shown these days by marketing campaigns, rather than draw a hard line in the sand on what they won’t support. Equality would be a definite line and maybe even something political, but something that boarders on art or expression? I’m not convinced that would be the line for a lot of people who get to choose whether or not they buy an item of clothing or not because of a design on one of the items. Brands have been embracing graffiti and used it on their products all the time, but they aren’t the brands you might suspect.
Take a second before reading further and guess 3 large companies that you think might have used graffiti within their products and marketing.
The brands you probably thought about were probably not the ones you’re about to read. I would have guessed some brands in the music industry like Sony, perhaps an extreme sports industry brand like Burton, or maybe Redbull or Monster (which all may have used it, but that’s not much of a surprise or the niche demographic I’m talking about). The brands that have used graffiti (KRINK) in their marketing have been larger brands like Nike, Coach, Casio, Carhartt, Levi’s, Mini (yes, the car), and many others. These companies consumers don’t all seem to fit the profile of people who support graffiti, so maybe we don’t know who really supports graffiti, or why.
If your neighbourhood, or home, was often hit with graffiti would you see graffiti as something cool that you would want on your purse or jeans? Maybe there’s a glitch in society that we’re missing, or ignoring. I’m not convinced that someone who buys a designer bag with graffiti style prints on them would tolerate graffiti on their house or neighbourhood, so is the question ‘How popular is graffiti?’ really the question we should be asking, or is it ‘Why do you like the idea of someone else’s misfortune?’. Why would this be cool? Art comes in may forms, but the only one that I can think of that is considered vandalism and dominantly appears in lower economic neighbourhoods is graffiti. Is there another? This digs into a lot psychology that I’m not equipped to answer, so I’ll leave this up to you to discuss and ponder.
Graffiti has come a long way since it was used primarily by gangs. It might be popular or liked for many different reasons now, but I’ve never come across someone who has liked having their building hit with graffiti. Even when they used it in their own branding to seem “hip”.