The Mural is the Message


In the mid ‘60s Marshal McLuhan introduced the timeless phrase: “The medium is the message”.   With this, he proffered that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.

A couple of weekends ago, as I was admiring the graffiti murals throughoutMiami’s Wynwood neighborhood, McLuhan’s phrase really hit home. I saw a sugar skull painting for the beverage Oculto (matching their branding ) that was creatively splayed across a wall along one of the areas main avenues. While I applaud their efforts, however, I am unsure if the Anheuser-Busch product stands up to the craft of the art of the mural in this mecca of authentic street art.

Wynwood, the art statement, located in an old Puerto Rican section of the city, has become an awe-inspiring street graffiti museum with works from more than 50 artists representing 16 countries who have covered over 80,000 sq.-ft. of walls. This walking tour will make you rethink of you definition of graffiti.

Six years ago, renowned community revitalizer Tony Goldman set out to transform the warehouse district of Miami by turning the buildings into giant canvases for street art. Starting with a complex of six separate buildings, his goal was to create a public center­ that would develop the area’s pedestrian potential. Now, brands are beginning to utilize the walls for advertising and promotions.

In this day of cluttered media, Oculto is attempting a creative way to make a brand feel and appear hip, young and authentic to reach certain demographics while giving the product street credibility. While it’s not anything new, I think it’s great that street artists can be compensated for their craft, as Luis Valle was for this product. (Let’s hope he wasn’t paid in bottles of Oculto, a mediocre beverage with a hint of tequila, as I have read some unflavorable reviews of the product.}

More often than not, street artists create this art via their passion, sweat and tears. Although it’s often associated with vandalizing, graffiti has evolved into an art form. Typically, it is done metaphorically and goes against the mainstream, and that’s why I love it.

Colossal Media, a leading advertiser in outdoor hand-painted campaigns, is just one example of a company that lets its clients tell their stories though cans of spray paint. Today in Wynwood, you’ll see brands aligning themselves with street culture such as Heineken and Anheuser-Busch (which recently launched a new multi-million dollar campaign that culminated in an over- the-top-celebration at Wynwood’s Soho Studios) splattering themselves across the walls.

Take Shepard Fairey, for example. He’s an American contemporary street artist who created a sticker while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design that evolved into a worldwide street art campaign. From there, he launched his own clothing line: OBEY Clothing.

As far as brands reaching their target markets and trendsetters, Ocluto has done a successful job of align itself with the graffiti medium. The challenge then becomes creating a product worthy of a lifestyle brand – one that consumers genuinely embrace and that doesn’t become a fleeting trend. Next, time I come across a bottle of Oculto I will give it a swig to see if it gives me the same feeling I get when among the walls of Wynwood.


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