Location, location, location!
This adage is as true in marketing as it is in real estate. Your marketing campaign is only as good as where as you place your product. In the September 2009 issue of Art Calendar magazine, I discussed placement in Back to Basics: Tried and True Marketing Principles, but let’s take a look at placement in the context of luxury brands. Which places work for luxe products?
Place must match the marketing mix.
As we have mentioned repeatedly in this series, luxury is about selectivity, specialty and exclusivity. Placement has to make sense within this milieu. The place has to harmonize with the brand identity (Read Luxury Marketing Part 4: Creating a Luxury Brand). The product needs to be placed where your target market can access it (Read Luxury Marketing Part 2: Studying Your Target Market) and where there is a willingness — an expectation, even — among consumers to buck up for high-priced goods.
There is no one right answer for where your artwork should be placed because the marketing mix is different for every artist. However, for a bit of direction on the physical placement of your work, I propose that you find a place where visitors feel a connection with your artwork and where the venue delivers an emotional experience.
Think of the locations where viewers can forge an emotional tie with your art. This might be a geographic link. For instance, do you paint landscapes of mountains, oceans, rivers or some other setting? You could seek representation at a gallery where the topography of the region matches the art that you make. Let’s say you paint mountainous compositions; then think placement at luxury ski resorts at Lake Tahoe or Vail, Colorado. Can’t get representation? Find a partner — at a frame shop, wall décor store or other applicable retail shop — in one of these wealthy communities that can be a distribution channel.
Another solution is to partner with a venue that delivers an emotional experience. This month, New York Times travel writer Jamie Gross wrote about the fine art scene surfacing in galleries at Napa Valley wineries. (Read Gross’ article.) Visitors can sip on an estate’s award-winning pinot noir or cabernet, then view high-caliber artwork onsite and, in some cases, even watch an artist in the creative process. The winery-gallery alliance generates an ultra-sensory experience for guests. Luxury real estate is another industry where artists can attempt a partnership. This year Carolyn Miles, owner of Atrium Gallery in St. Louis, was approached by a design firm to loan artwork to a nearby luxury hotel that offers private residences for sale. The 54 pieces Miles selected were displayed in a model condo that the hotel sales team used to give tours to prospective buyers.
“It’s a different thing from hanging artwork in a gallery,” explains Miles. “In a gallery, we’re focused on showing an artist.” The condo staging, however was “like you are making an art collection for someone who would live there and with that kind of furniture.”
Staging the works in the opulent setting gave Miles’ artists more exposure to affluent buyers. Although the commercial property staging has ended, Miles has retained photos and a video of the display that she can show to prospective collectors in the future. “You have to do these things and try to get the most out of it. It’s a constant evaluation of our marketing.”
Think members only.
I revel in unique dining experiences. One of my edible luxury indulgences is the underground dinner. These are not openly publicized; rather, a chef sends an invite to a select group. Sometimes, the menu and location are undisclosed until the last minute and the reservation is completed online using a special password. These multi-course dinners are not cheap, but chefs can command a pretty penny because, apart from the promise of excellent food, they make arrangements with businesses and homeowners to hold the dinner parties at hip destinations (underground wine cellars, private elegant houses and lodges, rooftop patios) and the secrecy stamp tantalizes fine dining devotees.
The idea of a special club is not new and can be duplicated in the open house art show scenario easily enough. You’ve just got to come up with the right formula to attract high-end collectors: great art plus great ambiance; a carefully-planned event that delivers an over-the-top, memorable experience that entices people to spend. It’s a matter of creating pleasure waves like art fair organizer David Lester has done with SeaFair, his glamorous megayacht art venue. (Read Luxury Marketing 3: Do You Make the Luxe List?)
The members-only marketing strategy can be duplicated online as well. Rob Walker recently examined in his consumer behavior column “Confused” in the New York Times Magazine how some luxe goods purveyors are pushing inventory. (Read Walker’s article.) Two online vendors that Walker discusses, Gilt.com and RueLaLa.com, sell high-end apparel at discounted prices. Both sites employ a by-invite-only gimmick. Although it’s not that hard to become a member, the feeling of being a part of this surreptitious society is enough to make shoppers feel special and willing to whip out their credit cards. Plus, features like countdown clocks further stimulate visitors to buy. (Have you ever gotten in one of those last-minute eBay frenzies? The tick-tock of the clock most definitely adds to the entertainment.)
Everything in its place.
Luxury marketing requires making sophisticated decisions. Placement has to make sense for your target market. You must be selective because luxe products are not randomly placed. Luxe does not belong just anywhere and everywhere.
Where does high-end artwork not belong? Any place that does not promise an ethereal purchasing experience. Visitors to five-and-dime strip mall stores are carrying five and ten-spots. Do you think they are willing to shell out a few grand for fine art? What about art fairs? Yes, but try for shows that have earned a reputation for selectivity and credibility because these are the ones that attract high-end buyers.
Placement is hardly the only decision you need to make. Remember that it’s a combination of knowing your market, and examining your product, pricing, placement and promotion (advertising, sales, marketing, PR, publicity and brand) through which you create any marketing plan.
During the course of this article series, I have received many e-mails from readers asking questions related to luxury marketing and marketing in general. For those who want to forge ahead on the DIY route, I encourage you to stay abreast of trends in the luxury marketplace. The articles and books I’ve cited in this series are easily accessible. Stay on top of consumer buying habits; arm yourself with data. The more educated you are about who’s buying and what’s driving consumer choice, the smarter you’ll be at developing your business stratagem and driving art-lovers to you. AC
Contributing writer and communications consultant Ligaya Figueras specializes in business writing, marketing and media relations for visual and performance artists, writers, nonprofit organizations and specialty service providers. Follow Ligaya on Twitter at twitter.com/LigayaFigueras, or friend her on Facebook at facebook.com/ligaya.figueras.