Why do people buy art?

Welcome to the next installment of Ask Me Anything week!

This question comes from the lovely Jessie:

Hi Naomi!

Thanks for the opportunity, here is my question :)

How do I create a marketing plan, if I can't work out why customers are buying my product?

…Am a visual artist, have some sales which are growing. I can't quite get my head around why they are buying though, and what concrete benefit it brings. Of course, I'm very happy that they are. I'd just like to be a little more pro-active with the sales :)

Here is my website if that helps! http://www.jessiedunlop.com

Look forward to hearing from you,

Hi Jessie!

You ask a very interesting question, for a whole host of reasons.

One, it's interesting that you're asking this as an artist at all. As you know, most artists aren't selling anything at all. So you're happy that you're selling, but you can't figure out why. This is not an issue that many artists have, but you're right – it's still an issue. :)

The other reason this is interesting is that your question has two parts. You're wondering why they're buying YOUR art, yes. But you're also wondering why they buy art at all. What concrete benefit does it bring?

I'm glad you sent your website so I could take a look at the art itself. I'll give you my first few thoughts.

One, you're good. That helps. :) This speaks to why they're buying from you.

Two, you're affordable. That also helps. This also speaks to why they're buying from you.

But why are they buying at all?

Some thoughts:

You're in an arty area. This increases local sales, yes, but it actually has a psychological effect on non-local buyers. You're in an arty community, and that makes art buyers feel good. The Group of Seven would not have been nearly as interesting if they came from all over the world. The idea of a little enclave of artists doing arty things is very appealing to people who dig art.

Your work is very grounded in time and space. Yes, there's a big story component to it, and it does have an ethereal quality. But you're painting local-looking animals and local-looking environments. That has always been important in the art world. It's expanding into being important in other worlds too, and the combination of those two things really does affect buyers. Do I REALLY care that my honey comes from a rooftop hive at a local farm-to-table restaurant? Really? No, I guess I don't. But it makes me feel SUPER cool. Same with art.

The concrete benefit, though? It's the way it makes people feel. Sometimes that's about the piece itself. “This piece makes me feel [good thing]”. But sometimes it's about buying it and owning it, about feeling cultured, elite, evolved, liberal. We like to feel it's more about the former than the latter, but it's made up of shades of grey. Buying art makes me feel like I've made it, like I'm one of the people contributing to the community. It makes me feel like I'm putting my money where my mouth is, particularly politically.


Google “why people buy art“.

Now, on to the marketing component of your question.

“How do I create a marketing plan, if I can't work out why customers are buying my product?”

For working artists, marketing comes down to two things – breadth of network and longevity. The sales cycle for art tends to be either 10 seconds or 10 years. You create a massive community – local is better, but online can work. And you keep being in that community for ever.

Also? Your site is good. It makes me feel all the things I want to feel in an artist's website. I don't want a picture of a buffalo in my house but if I did, or if I knew someone who would, I would be thrilled to buy from you. I can't say that for many artists.

I hope that helped. :)


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