Most of us who find ourselves faced with marketing a product or a brand are not schooled in marketing. Instead we have learned by trail and error. Marketing has been my passion for many years and I have had the opportunity to coach many companies in their marketing, including the opportunity to work with some national brands. Today I advise many companies on advertising and I also love to help galleries and artists craft their advertising strategy.

Years ago I learned about the Lure of Personal Preference. When I owned radio stations I had a station in the West which had a huge audience of teens and young adults. It was either #1 or #2 in its category at any given rating period. Advertisers who wanted to reach this audience were overwhelmed with results.

One day I was listening to the local “elevator music” station. (An Elevator Music station was the kind that played all instrumentals, very soft and slow background music. Few exist today in that form. The audience of Elevator Music stations were people age fifty and above. ). On the station I heard an ad for a local shop which sold hip clothes to teens. I was puzzled about why they were advertising on a station which reached the grandparents of teens, so I went and met with the owner to find out. Of course I wanted him to advertise on my station, which owned the teen market.

The eye opening experience of that conversation was one I have never forgotten. The owner advertised on that station because it was his personal favorite. When I asked him if he was getting any results from the campaign he said that he did not see any results. Why then did he continue advertising? “I play the station in the store and I like hearing my ads. Plus it’s the station my friends at the Country Club listen to and I like them to hear my ads.” The store owner was not advertising to get results (though he told himself he was). He was advertising to be visible to his friends. It was a status thing.

No matter what I said about how my audience reached the kids who should be buying clothing in his store I was unable to convince him. He was only going to advertise on that one station because it was his personal favorite and he listened to no other stations. So in his world there was only one radio station. I have no idea if he is still in business today, and if he is it’s because of his location in the mall, not because of his effective advertising.

How does this apply to the art world? I’ve encountered people who are doing the same thing. They advertise in places which appeal to them personally even though those places are not always where the buyers spend their time. They are lured by personal preferences, by the promise of articles or by what their friends are reading. (Status)

Status advertising has its place. People who want to elevate their position in society by being seen by their prominent friends should advertise to be seen. But if building business is a goal than advertising is about going where audiences will be reached: Audiences who buy art (not just look at it); New Audiences you are not presently reaching in places you’ve been seen for years (and therefore might receive a diminishing return).

Ask yourself about your personal preferences and if they conflict with your goals. If so, you may want to explore places, which reach people who purchase paintings.