They Buy Your Story

I had always appreciated art, but never collected it.  Then I went to Las Vegas with a friend and we stopped into an art gallery to appreciate some art  without any intention of making a purchase.

We were both attracted to a lithograph that had additional gold leafing and work done to the piece by the artist, it was a real beauty.  A sales person came over and asked if we were familiar with the artist.  “No, no”, we replied (uh oh, a sales person is going to try to pressure us!).  So, she stood there and told us his name, his geography and why he was one of her favorite painters.  All of his paintings told a story through the sybolism of various objects in the picture.  She had met with him many times and had heard his story for each of the paintings they sold, first hand.  She gave us a couple examples for the painting we were looking at, which were, well, rather intriguing to my friend and me.

Next, she said, if we would like, she would take the painting into a room where we could see it better and not be interrupted (as had happened a couple times during her story telling), if we would like.  We were on vacation, we thought.  No where to be and we were learning something new.  Sure.  Which room?

We met her in a room that had black walls and was very dark where she placed the painting under a light that brought out all the colors and brilliance, the beautiful art filling the room.  She started at the top and described what each of the symbols meant in the picture and how collectively they told a story that had religious messages, good vs. evil, and current cultural mores conveyed through various objects and techniques.  We were spellbound and related completely to the message the artist was sharing (now that we knew what it was).

She left the room and brought in another of his paintings we had been admiring and told this painting’s story.   Once again, we were connected to the piece.  Initially by the pure beauty and colors, but the bond, the real connection came from knowing that everytime we looked at that piece of art, it would have its aesthetic value and then the deep and profound story we saw.  The sales person left the room.

My friend and I discussed how the different pictures were pieces we would like to look at and be reminded of their story every day in our own homes. One of the pieces had a story that spoke deeply to us both, and we both purchased a copy of it.  I purchased the second painting as well, for the same reason. 

I had no intention of buying anything in that gallery.  I never considered myself an art collector.  And, if I had made a decision to buy (or not to buy) based on the appearance of the painting(s) alone, I would have walked out without a purchase.  But, the sales person sold me the story that the picture would retell me everytime I looked at it.

I have a client that sells apparel.   When I asked them what they sold, they told me bamboo children’s jerseys with sayings on them.  I asked why they  decided to create these jerseys?  They told me:  “We developed our company out of our shared passion to create fashion that would be desirable to wear based on its appearance and comfort, have a positive impact on those that encountered it through inspiring sayings, minimize impact on the environment by using sustainable fabrics, and when possible, is manufactured right here in the USA.  We try to stay true to this mission in everything that we manufacture. That is why our clothes impact both the wearer (through the amazing silky comfort and colorful fashion), as well as the observer with the inspirational and thought –provoking words they convey.  Additionally, our economy is suffering, so we try to keep the manufacturing here instead of overseas, which is why our shirts cost more to make, but make us feel good about helping American workers.” 

Now, would you be more convinced to buy that child’s jersey made out of bamboo knowing this whole story behind it?  They weren’t trying to sell me anything, they just told me their story.  But, in the end, it is their story that I buy.  After all, I like their story, and everytime I look at one of their shirts on a child it reminds me of their story.  I feel good knowing I had supported this story that I connected to, believe in and want to be part of.

Do you have a story for your products and services?  Are you the most green providor in the area?  Are you award winning for creativity or precision?  What was the passion that led you to start your business or create a specific story?  What problem were you solving for yourself or someone else?  Do you share that story?  In the end, people are persuaded to buy based on the whole story related to your product or service, not just your widget or service alone.

5 Comments so far »

  1. S L Donaldson said,

    Wrote on December 16, 2009 @ 5:28 pm

    Thank you for such a lovely explanation of the importance of descriptive ‘stories’ to help sell paintings (anything, really). I will be taking another look at the descriptions of my art and hopefully make some significant improvements. Thank you for the inspiration.

    S L Donaldson
    S L Donaldson Fine Art

  2. admin said,

    Wrote on December 16, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

    Dr Mr/Ms Donaldson, I am sure there are many who believe that art is about inspiring a different interpretation for each viewer that has their own meaning for them. I respect that perspective, as well. But for me, the story provides a connection that is introduced by the tangible work that the explanation (sort of a behind the scenes view) from the artist. However, no matter which perspective you choose, I think that we all want to know what the artist was thinking/feeling/trying to convey, even if the art does not invoke those same things in us. Those pieces of information add a human element to, in marketing terms, a product. We become interested in supporting the person, as well as their art. Everytime I go to a gallery and look at a painting I admire – I think about what was the artist thinking when she did this work? What did he try to pronounce and what did he try to conceal? What would he say if he were narrating the painting like the director of a movie on DVD does for us as we watch his work? Do I want to be spoonfed what I am supposed to understand from the art in front of me? No. I just want to experience a connection that transcends the tangible product.

  3. Nancy said,

    Wrote on December 16, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

    Great article Rachel!

  4. S L Donaldson said,

    Wrote on December 17, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

    Ms. Perlmutter, I was not disagreeing with you. In fact, I was complimenting you on how broadly applicable and enlightening your blog is and that I could see where I, in the presentation of my artwork, needed to not be so set in my mentality of “less is more”, but give the public a bit more of the who, what, where, and why of my work.

    Art is deeply personal, and my work speaks differently to me than it does the next person. I would never have the audacity to tell someone that my art represents one thing and only one, but through my reading your blog I realized I do need to explain myself more thoroughly and not just assume everyone ‘gets’ it.

    S L Donaldson

  5. admin said,

    Wrote on December 17, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

    I’m sorry, I did not mean to convey that I felt you were disagreeing with me, I apologize for giving you that impression. Thank you indeed for the compliment and I am glad you were able to take something of personal use from my post. In my poor attempt, I was just trying to say that for all the art lovers who might read this post and think I was trying to take their right to interpret the artist’s paintings on their own away from them, that was not my intent. Just that I (and many others like me) am interested in the artist and his or her story as much as the piece and what I see on my own. I realize you were not questioning this idea, but I feared others might and used my response to you to address that concern. :) Thank you for responding back to me and sharing your kind feedback.

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