Clobbered By My Own Advice


The Power Of Repetition 


My kids desperately want a dog, but their mother and I have mixed feelings about taking care of their animal once the kids go off to college in three years. But at every turn, when we ask them a question of any kind … like, “What do you want for dinner?” or, “What do you want to do this weekend?” the answer is always, “I want to go get a dog.”

Just yesterday my wife saw twin dogs online that are available for adoption. Suddenly the kids went into sales mode to convince us to get one of those dogs.

Last night as I walked into my studio there was an 8” x 10” glossy of the dog on my easel. When I went to bed, there was one on my pillow. When I got up this morning, there was one at the breakfast bar. And today when I came to work, there was one on my keyboard.

Though I’ve been pretty opposed to a dog for all the practical reasons, I have to admit, each time I see the picture, it melts my heart a little more and I get a little closer to saying yes. In fact, I’ve already gone from a firm “no” to a “maybe,” and I’ve even agreed to go visit and meet the twins this weekend.

Of course my kids have clobbered me with the advice I’ve given them about marketing. Repetition is powerful. The more people see something, the more it warms them up.

Back in the dark ages when I first learned marketing, the average marketer needed four repetitions to sell something. Then it went up to seven. Now, with all the noise in media, some experts say the number has doubled to about 15 impressions.

Ever wonder why you see things on television or hear things on radio over and over again?

The first reason is that it takes a certain number of impressions to sell someone. For discussion, let’s say it takes 10 impressions. Does that mean you only run 10 ads? Nope, it means the ad needs to reach an individual 10 times. If you ran 10 ads and the prospect happened to see only five of them, then it’s not enough. The prospect needs X number of impressions to be sold.

The other reason frequency is important is that circumstances change and moods change. For instance, a dealer once told me about a man who kept coming into his gallery for years but never bought anything. Then one day he came in and dropped a half million bucks. When questioned, the man said, “I had kids in college and no extra cash. Plus, I just sold my business for a lot of money, so now I can afford to collect.”

You see, tire companies or car dealers repeat constantly on television because they know you may not be in the market today, but if you blow out your tires, or decide you want a new car tomorrow, they need to be there when you begin to move into shopping mode. Most of us ignore all those ads until we decide we’re in the market, then we start paying attention.

One more reason for repetition is what is called top-of-mind awareness. You may not need tires now, but the goal is to hammer a message into your brain so that when you do need tires, you know exactly where to go. (But just in case you don’t, you’ll always find tire ads in the sports section of the local paper or on your local station.)

I believe people go through a few stages to get to a purchase. The first is attention — you have to get noticed. Then they move into the interest stage. They may think, “Hmm, maybe this is for me. I’ll have to pay closer attention next time.” Then they move to the desire stage. “Yes, this is for me. I should do something about it someday.” Of course, some then move into the purchase stage. “I’m going to buy this one day.”

Most marketers blow it because they forget that everyone has their own timing, and therefore you need to be there all the time for those who are coming into the market.

For example, let’s say you have an article coming out about your art in an art magazine like Fine Art Connoisseur. It’s not uncommon for a gallery or the artist to advertise in an issue with an article. But you’re assuming instant action. People don’t work that way. They may be thinking, “I’ll keep an eye on this artist,” but then your ads are not in the next issue, or the next, and there’s nothing to remind them of you or your work.

I once talked to a collector who told me he saw an article on an artist and decided he wanted to buy one of the paintings in the article. He set the magazine down, fully intending to go back to it, call, and inquire about the painting. But later, he couldn’t find the magazine and he didn’t remember the name of the artist or the gallery that advertised. He never did find the name of that artist.

Yet if that same artist had repeated her ad in the following couple of issues, she would have increased her chances of reaching and reminding this collector, and others. The ad could have even said, “As featured in the April issue of Fine Art Connoisseur.”

Why is repetition important?

Every person needs a certain number of impressions to take them through the levels of attention, interest, desire, and purchase.

People are always in and out of the market. One day they have no money, the next day they have money from a bonus, an inheritance, or some other event.

Moods change. A person can feel poor the day they have to replace their roof and feel rich the following week because their business made a big sale. Also, if they happen to see your ad on a day when they are in a bad mood, you need to make sure it keeps being seen so they see it in a different mood. That’s why I like to re-send direct mail campaigns.

You’re creating top-of-mind awareness so they think of you when they have money burning a hole in their pocket or a house that needs some paintings.

Branding. Building your brand takes repetition over years so that people will hold you in higher esteem, which will make you the choice if they are deciding between two paintings, will sell you as a status item (sorry, but it’s true), and will help you get higher prices because you’re well known. It will also drive people to you for events and shows, which then builds on your brand.

I’ll let you know the outcome of the puppy campaign, but my gut tells me I’ve already lost that battle. Certainly, repetition has softened me up.

By | March 31st, 2017|Branding|18 Comments

The Magic Lamp: Just Rub It and Your Art Career Will Soar

Magic lamp art marketing eric rhoads art


Much like the Fountain of Youth, I think we all tend to seek out a “magic lamp.” All we have to do is rub it, and “Poof!” A genie will grant us the success we dream of.


Over decades as a marketer, I have sometimes fallen prey to the belief that a magic lamp exists — and I’m happy to report that yes, indeed it does. There is a way to rub a magic lamp and watch your career go “poof” toward success. It will take more effort on your part than you might have hoped, but if you rub the lamp, it will happen.


A “magic lamp” is usually the promise of something too good to be true, raising unrealistic expectations of success with little effort or small investment.


I’m always looking for shortcuts, and even when I know something seems too good to be true, it often tempts me. So I spend my money in hopes of magical results, and poof! Nothing happens.


The biggest seduction in art marketing is the belief that big audience numbers can equal instant success from a single ad. Yet every time I fall into that trap, I wish I had realized that the physics of marketing always matter. There are things that will give you that desired success, and things that won’t. Violating the physics of marketing almost never works.


Most think that advertising to a big audience is like rubbing the lamp. “If only,” they think … “If only I advertise to a giant audience, I’ll sell a painting, or a couple of dozen.”


So they prepare an ad, pay the money, and poof! The money is gone, and there are no results from rubbing that magic lamp.


Oh, in case you think an experienced marketer like me doesn’t sometimes fall for it, think again. One year I decided that the subscribers to a major auction house list would be great potential subscribers for one of my magazines targeting art collectors. It was a big number, and a very high price.


I ran a spreadsheet, and told myself that if just 2 percent signed up, I’d pay for the campaign and make money on it. So I paid $18,000 for one ad, and poof! Something amazing happened. My money disappeared and I sold a grand total of two $40 subscriptions. It cost me $9,000 per subscriber.


Of course I kept waiting for more results, rationalizing that some readers hadn’t seen it yet, or some hadn’t responded yet.


Nothing happened other than my feeling like a buffoon for throwing away a big amount of money.


If there is a magic lamp to marketing art, it is to follow the physics of marketing. I’ve found that every time the physics are right, the results are amazing, and every time I try to shortcut the physics, I fail.


Here is the formula.


Massive Frequency + Great Creative + Targeted Audience + Concentrated Audience + Time + A Ready Buyer + Stability


How big or how small an audience is really does not matter. It’s a trap we all fall into, but the reality is that a small audience could result in the sale of every painting you could possibly produce.


Though it seems logical to believe the odds are better because you are exposed to more people, more isn’t what you need.


The physics of advertising work very much the way friendships work, or the way business relationships work.

  • When you meet someone new at a cocktail party, it’s a quick hello.
  • If by chance there is some interest in getting to know the person, you may engage in a conversation.
  • Then maybe you run into them at another event, and remember you found them interesting.
  • That conversation may lead to a follow-up call or meeting.
  • Then maybe another call or meeting.
  • If, over time, the relationship gels, it can turn into a casual friendship.
  • Combined with time, that friendship might lead to a deep friendship, at which time trust happens.
  • The longer the time, the deeper the trust.
  • The deepest relationships tend to develop over long periods of time.


But there are also other factors to relationships, like chemistry and bonds through common interests.

In the early stages, you know you don’t dare abuse the relationship with a big ask, like a favor or an introduction. It’s just too soon to ask for anything, and doing so could result in the end of the budding friendship. If you ask for too much, too soon, or inappropriately, trust is lost. But the deeper the relationship, the bigger the possible ask.


Let’s examine the elements of the formula, the “magic lamp”:


Advertising and marketing is about frequency. The more they see you, the closer you get to a point of awareness, then deeper awareness, then the early stages of interest, then deeper stages of interest, then finally trust and its deeper stages as well.  


Frequency is different from repetition. Frequency is the number of impressions a single individual receives within a certain amount of time. For instance, you could repeat an ad in a publication, but if a person didn’t see or notice that instance of the ad, that repetition doesn’t count toward their frequency.


Marketers have known for decades that a person needs to have a frequency of seven before they will be ready to buy something. If you can get seven impressions — repetitions that are seen — within a shorter window, the process can, in theory, be sped up.


But if you’re selling art, the message has to get someone’s attention and appeal to their interest and the buyer has to be in the right mood and the timing right to buy.


Great Creative:

The problem is that most advertising is competing for the attention of the buyer. We are all exposed to thousands of ad messages every day. Which ones are going to get you to sit up and take notice?


The creative is the content of your ad, made up of your design, your headline, the art featured, the story or message you’re communicating, and the call to action.


In the art world, most ads tend to look alike.


I was once in a meeting with an advertising agency and the CEO of a company who wanted them to help him sell aluminum siding. His instructions to the agency: Don’t do a before-and-after picture. Why? That’s what all the other aluminum siding companies did.

What are you going to do to stand out? If you’re in a 100-page magazine with 40 pages of ads, why will someone stop and read your ad instead of the other 39?

The answer is in powerful creative concepts. Frankly, the most important part of any ad is the headline. Ninety-five percent of the results from an ad will come from a powerful headline that stops the reader in her tracks.


Once you have a great headline, the other elements come into play, like a great opening line, a real emotional connection through your story or message, and a call to take a specific action. Plus information on how to get in touch with you, and an incentive to do so right now.


Concentrated Audience:

Perhaps the biggest mistake people make, and one of the most common, is assuming that the people who read one art magazine read another. Though there is some overlap, it’s not all that large. So an advertiser will run an ad or two, not see results, and jump ship to a different publication. A couple of ads there and they jump ship to another, then another, and so on. It is imperative to concentrate your advertising in a single place. Otherwise you lose momentum and the opportunity to build awareness and trust.


Though using multiple publications or mediums is fine, you should only do it if you can afford to dominate and build the necessary frequency over long periods of time.


Targeted Audience:

Big audiences alone are not enough. You could go into Reader’s Digest, with millions of readers, but the chances of selling art would be slim. You could even go into an art publication with a big audience and still have a slim chance of selling. You need a publication or website or mail list that has a proven track record of selling paintings in the price range of the paintings you’re selling.

Many publications sell wholesale copies for a few dollars to build their audience numbers. Their subscribers love art, but they may not have two dimes to rub together. If they’re not buyers, the audience numbers might be good for your ego, but ego strokes won’t pay your rent.



Like friendship, it takes time to build awareness, interest, and trust before anyone will take action. People want to watch you, see if you consistently produce good results, see indicators that you are becoming successful or collectable. They might discover you, love your work and be keeping an eye on you, but are not responding because, in their mind, it’s not time yet. About the time you’re getting frustrated that you’re not getting any results is about the time people are just starting to pay attention. Marketing is a commitment of time — an ongoing commitment. As long as you’re in the art business, you’re in art marketing.


How much time? You’ll need to assume that as long as you are in business, you’ll need to keep a constant presence with the audience you have chosen. It takes about one year to start seeing results, but the second year makes up for the lack of sales in the first, and it builds on itself over time. The more your brand grows, the more trust, prominence, and collectability grow. Old Masters are famous both because they were, in fact, masters, but also because of the passage of time — their names have been known for generations. The good news is that there are many ways you can speed up time, with some good strategic thinking.


A Ready Buyer:

Art purchases are unpredictable. Sometimes the buyer sees a painting and buys it on impulse. Other times it’s because they have a need to fill — a home or office to decorate, a gift to buy. Just because someone sees your ad does not mean they are ready to buy right now. Everyone has their own timing. Maybe they get a bonus at work, they sell a business, their kids are no longer in college and they feel flush with cash. There is no way to predict this, and that is why the next point is so important.



Imagine this. Someone looks at an art magazine, and has been seeing your paintings for a few months in a row. They’ve grown to like the work, but don’t always remember the artist’s name yet. Then a new issue comes in, and they see THE painting and decide they want to buy it. They mark the page and put the magazine in a pile, fully intending to go online or inquire about the price. But they get distracted, they forget, life goes on, and you fall off their radar. Then the next issue of the magazine comes in and they suddenly remember, “Last month there was an artist in here I was interested in. Who was it?” So they flip through looking for an ad that reminds them of your name or your painting. It’s not there. They move on, and you miss a sale.


Stability means a constant presence. Understanding that people won’t remember your name and that it takes a long time to get them to remember it, so you need to be there at all times. They may have a birthday gift to buy and know their spouse liked your work, but neither can remember your name. If you’re not always present, you’re not there when they come into the market to buy.


We discovered that this is true of articles, too. If someone views your work in an article, not only do you need to be present in that issue so they know how to find you, you need to remind them of yourself for at least one or two issues after. People get busy and forget to take action, and your presence in the issue acts as a reminder.


It took me decades of mistakes and experimentation in the advertising and magazine publishing business to understand how this all really works. It really is counter-intuitive.


If you want to build an overnight success, just know that physics still apply. Though there are strategies you can employ to speed the process, it still requires all the key elements of the physics of marketing. This is the closest thing I have found to the magic lamp, and if followed, it will grant you all your wishes.

About the author:
Eric Rhoads has been a publisher of ad-based magazines for over 25 years and is the publisher of Fine Art Connoisseur, PleinAir, and Artists on Art magazines. He writes a regular blog on art marketing at and has produced five videos in the Art Marketing Boot Camp series on art marketing techniques and strategy, available at

By | August 3rd, 2016|Branding|0 Comments

How You Can Sell More Artwork by Becoming a Celebrity Artist



Artists are always asking me how to sell more artwork, how to get their prices up, and how to become more successful. Usually they assume that they will improve their income if they improve their painting skills, but after a certain point, that’s simply not true. It’s no more true than a great restaurant’s improving its recipes a little bit more and thinking that means it can raise prices and sell more food.  


I learned a critically important lesson at a young age, when I started writing a column for the radio magazine I had just founded. I went from being a complete unknown to being somewhat well-known within a year, and each year, as my exposure grew, I saw my business grow in proportion to the awareness created. Then when I released my first book, awareness grew even more, expanding beyond the industry to some small level of consumer awareness because I’d been on national network TV and the Home Shopping Network for my book, and on hundreds of radio shows and in over 400 newspapers. It grew even further when the TV show Newsradio wrote an episode about me and my radio magazine (you can see it here). The more my perceived importance grew, the more my business grew.


If I were to ask most Americans to name a famous artist, they would probably say Monet or maybe Norman Rockwell, or even Thomas Kincade. If I asked them to name a famous living artist, I’m not sure what names I would hear. Unless they are tuned in to the art world like we are, they probably wouldn’t mention people we consider icons today. Those artists are famous within the circle of artists, but are not famous to most Americans.


Consumers are drawn to importance and celebrity, not necessarily because celebrities are better at a particular skill than someone else (other than PR). I still cannot tell you what Kim Kardashian is all about, but her fame is making her extremely wealthy. Money is drawn to celebrity and importance. People will wait in line to spend money at the restaurant of a celebrity chef like Wolfgang Puck, when the food next door may be equally good at half the price. It’s true of all things. Celebrity sells.


Most art dealers will tell you that sales in the art world are frequently driven by perceived importance. Either a consumer will visit a gallery because that gallery handles a name they already perceive as important, or they will be swayed to purchase based on statements like “This artist is hot.” “This artist is getting critical acclaim.” “This artist’s prices are soaring.”


Though most artists want to believe that quality will outshine brand name, that is very rarely true. Brands outsell non-brands. And brands are built by constant exposure over decades, usually intentionally and with non-stop advertising, but occasionally simply due to “showing up,” being frequently seen over a long period of time.


Importance and celebrity not only help sell artwork and increase pricing, they operate like a perpetual-motion machine. The more you are perceived as important, the more you sell and the more you’ll be invited to the right events. And, of course, the more that happens, the more your celebrity increases.


The process of branding is somewhat complicated, and there are a lot of elements to doing it well, but it is indeed a process, and it can be achieved through advertising and publicity. I’ve watched unknowns become well-knowns in a few short years because of it. Most collectors won’t think of what you’re doing as paid brand-building because in art magazines, the ads tend to be perceived as part of the content.


The strength of your sales and collectability are directly tied to the strength of your brand and your perceived importance or celebrity. Brand in art is really about trust (“Is it good?” “Is there critical acclaim?” “Do other collectors like it, and are they buying it?” “Are prices going up?” “Is it a good investment?”) Trust is built in branding much as it is built with new friends. It requires a lot of time together for people to come to know and trust someone new. The more you are seen, the more comfortable they become with you, and the more you gain their trust. That is the essence of celebrity-building.


There are four kinds of celebrity: local, niche (e.g., art collectors) national, and worldwide. For some, being the best-known artist in their town is enough to fuel their sales. For others, it’s about being nationally known, either by a niche group like art collectors or by all consumers — something that, of course, is harder and more expensive to achieve. And of course there is worldwide awareness as well. All are possible, based on the amount of effort you are willing to expend, but few artists become important without making an intentional effort. All the celebrities I know started with orchestrated PR efforts, advertising, and by doing something that got them a lot of attention fast. Stunts are a powerful way to get people talking about you. Do you think the feuds between Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell just happened? Probably not. It was invented by some great PR expert.

Consider what you can do to build your brand, your celebrity, and your importance. It rarely happens overnight, and it is a beast that dies if it’s not constantly fed. That’s why celebrities always want the press writing about them. Out of sight is out of mind. Building your perceived importance, and therefore your brand, will have a huge impact on your career.

By | September 17th, 2015|Branding|2 Comments