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Lessons in selling art from my weird obsession with camper vans.

by Helen Aldous

I think I’m having a midlife crisis! Over the past few weeks I have developed an unhealthy and possibly slightly weird obsession with getting a camper van.

It all started with a retro turquoise VW camper which one of my favourite galleries uses to advertise their business. It is parked outside with the gallery name on and gives out a jaunty air of summer happiness.

Since seeing this vintage Volkswagen beauty, my campervan obsession spread like wildfire through 70′s Scooby Doo style Toyota Hiace motorhomes, VW T25′s and the “clearly named by a lunatic” Mazda Bongo. I can be found on the Internet at 4am comparing mileage or in the corner of a carpark pawing at camper bodywork and interrogating the owners on miles per gallon economy.

To be honest it’s all got a bit sad…

 

Mr Artonomy has taken on a resigned look and has taken to disowning me when I dash off to look at my latest find. He has more sense than to get in the way of one of my obsessions.

But where he sees a rusty money pit and possible dangerous descent into being a middle aged couple with a flask of tea, I see a life of wild adventure on the open road. I see Friday night spontaneous escape. Sleep under the stars cushioned from the elements by German efficiency. I see waking up on a beach to the roar of the ocean and running joyfully across the sand with my tousel haired children for an early morning dip. I see festivals and sun. I see magical childhood memories being made and I WANT A CAMPERVAN.

So “what on earth has this got to do with selling my art you sad middle aged woman” I hear you cry.

 

Well it’s all to do with “features” versus “benefits” which is an important marketing concept to get your head around and one which very much applies when you are selling your art in a gallery or online.

What I would ACTUALLY physically be buying (features) would be a rusty old van which drinks petrol like a fish, has a weird tent instead of a roof, contains more Formica than is natural and probably has an onboard potty.

However, what I am REALLY BUYING IN MY HEAD (benefits) is a romantic notion of freedom, escape and being at one with nature.

Painting the picture in your collectors head.

 

If a camper van sales man comes up to me at this point and starts telling me about engine size I won’t be too interested in an immediate sale, but if he paints a picture to me of the free and magical campervan lifestyle in my head and how his vehicle will help me achieve it I will be handing over my hard earned cash to him quicker than you can say “split screen VW”

And that, my friends, is the secret of selling anything, be it sprockets, cars, t shirts, jewellery or paintings. You have to discover the deep personal magical inner desires of the buyer and show how your painting can meet that desire.

Collectors  buying an escape.

 

A great example of this is the gallery I talked about who own the gorgeous blue campervan that started this whole blooming thing off. They are located in a beautiful Welsh seaside town and sell a lovely selection of work, a lot of which is based around the sea or countryside. Their customers aren’t just buying a painting. They are buying a memory of being relaxed on holiday, of picnics on the beach, pub lunches, an escape from work and getting on better with their husband. The bottom line is they buy the painting to capture this feeling and FEEL BETTER ABOUT THEMSELVES. They are buying an escape.

So when you are considering where or how to sell your paintings, remember the magical dialogue that will go on in your buyers heads. Try to imagine what it will be and promote your work accordingly.

Me? I’m off to check AutoTrader for a pre-loved VW.

Let me know what you think in the comments…


Image by Barkaw under Creative Commons licence



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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah's Silks October 12, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Did you get one? I wonder if I could do this and drive it around to fairs…keep my inventory in it, park it in my “booth” space…would this work?

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Helen Aldous October 12, 2011 at 8:28 pm

I DID get one! ;-) Not a groovy old VW as alas they were outside my price range and known for being a little temperamental [not good with 2 kids]… but I did get a groovy surf bus that has more than a little of the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine about it ;-) Love It. Brilliant fun

Unfortunately, since I got it, it has POURED down here pretty much non stop, although we have managed two weekends away which have been wonderful and lots of days out cooking beans in the back of the van in the rain which the kids love ;-) .

I reckon driving a van around your fairs with your inventory in would be wonderful!. Especially if the van were quirky and attracted attention. Would be a brilliant way to do it!. Go for it Sarah!

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Helen Aldous August 16, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Thanks guys. This really seems to have touched a nerve with us all loving the old campervans… ;-) They do have an air of magical possibilities and summer about them ;-)

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Dawn Lundquist August 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Hooray for you!! I’ve been in sales for 40 years and this is the first time someone explained the Benefit of buying art ( other than, prestige,warm feeling , make me smile etc.) Thank you.

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Debbie Shirley August 16, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Great post! Love the image of collectors buying an escape.

Funny – I have been obsessed with campervans this summer, too! The lure of the open road…..

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Carol McIntyre August 16, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Wow! I have not read about anyone in the art world talking about Features and Benefits! Few artists understand the importance and you described it well. Keep it up and love those vans.

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Tara August 15, 2011 at 11:35 pm

1. I love a good analogy.
2. I am completely obsessed with campervans, partly because they are so beautiful, but mainly because of the lifestyle I imagine I will have when I get one, therefore
3. I understand what you are saying about features and benefits because I totally relate to the subject matter.
Excellent. :)

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Rebecca Myers August 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm

This is a great blog Helen, and so true – you capture what we already know, like how the sell works and wrap it up in a lovely story to remind us in a simple way … BUT I’m sure I started off the whole camper van thing, or should I say Mr O’kaywellgetaV8 did … I bought into the escape … ;-)

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Helen Aldous August 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm

LOL yes you did. It is ALL your fault, but lets blame MrO’KaywellgetaV8 as he’s not here to defend himself {cos hes off in his van lucky devil ;-) } LOL

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Helen Burgin August 15, 2011 at 8:37 am

Adore this entry!

I’ve also fallen in live with the idea of living sporadically in and out of different towns, enjoying the treats of the world without being tied down to a particular place, the ideal escapism.

I almost managed to convince Mr ArtFound we needed to get one for my other job before he realised how much I wanted to change the insides, put my stamp on it and travel round the country in a wonderful whirlwind of love and creativity. I had no desire to use it for my other job at all in fact… ho hum!

Muchos Love,
Hx

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Helen Aldous August 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm

LOL. Im SO glad it’s not just me ;-) Like you I am trying to justify it {“oh it will be so handy to have a big van to cart music equipment/shopping round in etc” } but really I just WANT ONE like you to have that freedom of the open road ;-)

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