Why People Buy < Deep Thought Thursday

People don’t buy WHAT you do

They buy WHY you do it.

Is this true for art?

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18 comments to Why People Buy < Deep Thought Thursday

  • I simply adore this TED video. It’s one of the most inspirational for me.
    Thanks for the reminder Alyson!

  • The first impression is WHAT the artist has done. How compelling is the art itself for that viewer? The WHY it was done provides substance and reinforcement for the decision to buy. I’m sure there are collectors who don’t care much what the art looks like so long as it fits their criteria for why it was made – so their collection is cohesive. But my guess is most collectors CARE what the art looks like, and are finally sold by the artist’s content attendant to that art.

  • This explains why my art sells best when I am present! Others don’t have the capacity to express the why.

  • My first thought was that I buy things because of how they make me feel. After viewing this I am beyond inspired to how to apply this. Thanks so very much!

  • In the first place — and not to minimize the importance of marketing for artists who would like to be recognized in their own lifetime — to the extent that you think about selling when you’re alone with your materials in the studio, you’re torpedoing your chances of being a real artist. You may become a person who does well at art fairs or craft fairs, or be called a successful painter, but if you’re not cultivating and paying attention to that inner light that separates your inspiration from what’s commercially viable right now, you’re depriving yourself of one of the most valuable things there is. You’re ignoring your personal Why, and putting commercial success in its place. There are plenty of good, responsible reasons for doing that, of course, but let’s not pretend that it’s the path to artistic fulfillment — and (if we have to use the term) artistic success, although I’m talking about the kind of success that might come long after we’re dead.

    Having said that, clearly having a “back story” for your art is a valuable thing; people love to hear that stuff, and to regale their friends with it after they’ve bought your work. At an art fair, while they decide whether to lay out cold, hard cash for something they’ve spotted, that story can make all the difference. But do people revere Michaelangelo or da Vinci because they were sponsored by corrupt noblemen or popes, or hang Van Gogh’s on the wall because they love the tortured mix of thoughts and emotions that pushed him? I doubt it. Do they buy Koons because of why he has workmen assemble his stuff? I doubt that, too.

    The Why behind our work may be valuable when the right time comes, but it’s easily lost in the shuffle. The biggest challenge is keeping our eye on it and making sure it remains our own.

  • I actually have that quote posted to my desk right in front of me. Sooooooooooo true! Thanks for the reminder, love this video!

  • Hmmmm. I guess I’m not fully human because I’m truly not buying what this guy is selling. Or maybe he’s wrong?
    And I can think of a word to describe the type of people willing to stand in the rain outside an Apple store for six hours waiting to buy an iphone, and ‘early adopter” ain’t it!

  • If you look at all of the various art styles that have emerged over the centuries, not everyone will enjoy every single style. I do agree with Simon and also think that this can very well apply to art. We don’t have to take it in the most literal of context since he was talking a lot about technology companies, but they still have similarities with the art world.

    The other day I was at a gallery and viewing the artwork when a lady came in. After a few minutes of her bustling about the gallery, she said to the receptionist, “I know this sounds bad, but I’m looking for a painting that is square or portrait shaped. That’s the best size for the space I’m looking to fill.” The lady wasn’t intent on browsing the gallery till she fell in love with a painting. She had a purpose and priorities.

    Some people won’t need to know much about the artist or why you do what you do as long as what YOU have fills their needs. While other people will need a feeling or connection to the artwork or artist… perhaps someone does relate to the inner turmoil that Van Gogh felt and in turn they relate to his work. Or perhaps you tell a story of your work process, why you love it, why you paint while your listeners walk away or whip out their wallets.

    It comes back to the artist being focused and knowing THEIR direction. If you’re in your studio, near the Swiss Alps, or in a cottage in Canada, sharing your artwork with others; making yourself open to possibilities, ideas, and avenues will be your biggest aid to making the ultimate personal connections between you, your art, and the audience.

  • In my sales coaching course, I impress upon the participants one very crucial fact that was alluded to by the speaker, but not given the weight it deserves:

    People are only interested in themselves, “What’s in it for me?” is a driving force. Six hours to buy the first whatever – concert ticket or new gizmo is all about bragging rights. THAT ability to say: I got this and here is what I did in order to get this is the perfect example. Did you hear about the “sale” of the first place spot for the Ipad 2? $900 was given over to someone who was not even content to get in on the first day sales – FIRST sale was worth $900. THAT has very little to do with Apple. THAT has everything to do with our egos.

    So what I have been teaching for years to (mostly) artists in my seminars, is to get a firm hand on the WHY of buyers by understanding what I call: Purposeful Selling. It starts with a mantra:

    “My selling purpose is to help people get the good feelings they want from their purchases and therefore themselves.”

    Years ago, when I sold very expensive “collectible” art in San Francisco – $10K to $500k purchases – a series of questions were commonly asked: What museum collections is the artist in, what auction pricing history exists, and (if alive) how old it the artist. Can you figure out what they were actually buying??? Were they buying the art? (sometimes) Were they buying the “why” of the artist? Rarely. As usual, they were buying for their egos and for the bragging rights: “I have a so and so by so and so who is in the such and such museum and just had a piece sell at auction for la de da dollars!”

    In the end: Believe in your art. And to echo Arthur’s excellent post – Believe in YOUR message. Believe that it is ALWAYS worthy of sharing with the world. And just like a good book or movie or dining experience you had recently that you feel compelled to recommend to everyone – SHARE your art. YOUR art and the changes it will bring into people’s lives is no different. SHARE – love yourself, love your expressions of yourself, but above all: love those who love your work. Love them enough to “insist” they become collectors. Use the same “innate” ability to promote a restaurant to a complete stranger and simply apply that to sales of anything in life, but especially YOUR art.

    That should be the “why” for each of us. Artists and Art change peoples lives forever. Go forth and create a change.

    Mckenna

  • McKenna has it right, I think. We each buy to satisfy ourself. It may be for ego, it may be for need, (which really, feeding the ego is a kind of need after all). The important thing, I think, is to do what needs to be done but still remain true to oneself both as an artist and as a human being.

  • so inspirational! people are more likely to buy my art when I’ve told them about myself and how much I love doing it! It is like they want to be a part of it!

  • ??? Usually when I hear about how “the public” behaves, it’s not at all how I behave, for instance, when it comes to responding to sales letters (in the mail or online) or purchasing art. I buy art. I don’t have a big budget but I buy what I like. This could be a print reproduction, a lithograph, an etching, a painting, or a torn antique postcard.

    I break my own rules, sometimes matching art to walls or decor.

    And I really don’t like hearing an artist expound on their work, much like I don’t want to know what a poem means. I don’t really care at all about the artist or their process. I don’t want a piece of the person, nor do I think of the art I buy as such.

    I have always followed my own path creatively, despite what ‘experts’ who often come in the form of teachers say.

    I’ve enjoyed the conversation so far here – a lot of really good points made by all.

  • Sari Grove

    Each work of art has its own why… I don’t have a why in general because that is not possible… I have been designing woven artificial nests for once almost extinct Trumpet swans, because I love them & they need our help… Also, because I need a break from painting because my eyes have been telescoping… I am also working on a Trumpet swan decoy outdoor sculpture to attract them to the nesting area & detract predators… So the why is specific to the work…

  • I found this clip insiteful, and I think its one more factor to put in the mix. I will certainly think about the why in the future. What I have discovered is there is not a silver bullet solution, there is no magic answer. Rather it is a case of getting a lot of ingredients into the mix, in terms of marketing, finding the right blend.

    In terms of making art that bit has to come from your spirit. The making has to come from passion to create. If you are thinking about the marketing durring the making, you will not make good art. But maybe that is what he was talking about, the Write brothers were driven by passion not ego and that is what drives good art too.

  • It is a real shame that we have to “sell” our creations like this. I am sure I am not the only one who would just rather paint and bless the world with the images we create and not worry about selling. Unfortunately that is reality and the video above is an excellent one to watch. On the flip side, if we focus on our “why” the journey could be more enjoyable as people get on board and support our motives. Thanks for posting.

  • I had to sleep on this video clip a few nights- it is definitely inspiring and motivates me to ‘stick to my guns’ and not back away from difficult and non-commercial ideas. But some of the comments here make it seem like this is not a problem for other artists. Perhaps I am not fearless enough with my ideas? For example, Arthur Comings, above, states that if you’re not focused on the WHY, then you will become only a “craft fair artist” (as thought that is a dirty kind of success). But I think that people forget that John Singer Sargent was a society portrait painter (WHY??) or that Degas painted his “little ballet girls, another” because they sold (WHY??). Now, go ahead and argue that Sargent and Degas do not belong in the Canon of the best painters, but I have their backs, so to speak. And they were expressive and moving and lasting. I think that if you’re not thinking about the tension between creating visionary art and ‘how will I pay the rent?’ then you’re only thinking with a part of your brain.

    • Well, that commercially oriented part of my brain is one that I do my best to leave behind when I’m in the studio. I tried to emphasize in my first post that there are plenty of good reasons for creating stuff that will be immediately salable. but I don’t feel that’s the path for doing my own best work.

      On the other side of the coin, I’ve been reading The Yellow House, which Alyson mentioned a week or two ago, and it turns out that Van Gogh and Gauguin were very aware of what was selling — and quite interested in seeing some money. So those guys could handle it. Long enough to paint some fine stuff, at least.

  • Elaine, I love your comment! unless we have a trust fund we all have to think about what sells. I doubt anyone who truly loves what they do would completely sell out to be at the point of painting something they hate! There would be no beauty in the piece. Art is not elitist, only painting for ourselves may create work we can only hang on our own walls! Ofcourse we love it when our art is bought for itself, no explanation needed the customer just loves the piece,the challenge of working to a brief can bring on fantastic new ideas. What this video is showng us is that it does no harm to know why people buy