TITLE: The Post-It Model
DATE: 8/23/2004 07:36:00 AM
Last week’s theme was in the form of the all-mighty quote. This week’s theme is brought to us (unofficially) by the 3M Corporation.
We pull ideas this week from something better than sliced bread...
Clearly the best invention since the paperclip...
I give you….The Post-It Note®!
I could live without Post-Its. I could. But I would be a more scattered version of myself. I wouldn’t remember as much. I wouldn’t brainstorm as many creative ideas. I wouldn’t be able to organize my life quite as well.
What in the world does my love of Post-Its have to do with YOU?
IF you are an artist who is trying to make a living off selling your work, a craftsperson trying to keep a studio afloat, or a wannabe business owner who is about to quit your day job… you have one priority: your consumer. Artists have a tendency to think they don't have a consumer, but who do you think your buyer is? Craft collectors, art appreciators, and gallery owners "consume" art by buying it, living with it, placing it in their homes, and enjoying it with others over time.
True to the big business model, 3M corporation knew who their consumer was. They invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in research that proved business people would be better at business if they could remember more. Post-It notes literally flew off the shelves in the 1980’s. People like me still buy them by the "Economy Pak" to have them at the ready in the office, in the purse, in the glove box, and in the kitchen junk drawer.
Now, I’m not asking you to do something as absurd as view your artwork as a mass commodity like 3M did with their products. BUT, I will ask you to consider how 3M took into account the needs of their consumer. Then, ask yourself… Who is my customer? How am I meeting them halfway?
Many times I meet artists whose work is:
(a) Too overpriced to be obtainable to even wealthy of buyers
(b) Self-absorbed in the artist’s intention
(c) In an outdated color or style that limits the work’s appeal
If I review your slides personally and see that the work is overpriced I will remind you that even rich art collectors understand the concept of value. Overpriced work doesn’t leave room to question if the work itself is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. A wall comes up once you see that the work is priced through the roof. It is unobtainable.
The Post-It pricing lesson? Post-Its, for what they are, are priced fairly well. The knock-off is cheaper in price and quality. 3M doesn’t take advantage of this monopoly. They could. Look at how much you are willing to pay for a good Starbucks Frappuccino®! But 3M doesn't erect pricing walls in front of consumers for any of their products.
Were I to see your work and think it was self-absorbed I would likely let you go on… and on… talking about the work for a bit. When I got a word in edgewise I would tell you that the work was either scary, functional for few people, or too ‘academic’. Look—If you make functional work, it must be functional to people other than you. I can’t count the number of chairs I have sat on that were for tiny people with tiny derrieres, mugs I couldn't hold by the handle without wincing with pain, or necklaces that poked my neck or weighted be back down into a seated position. Even abstract painters must keep their customers in mind. Artistic integrity cannot be your crutch, especially if you aim to SELL work but haven't yet successfully done so.
How can sel-absorbed artistes learn from the Post-It? Well, for goodness sakes! There are 400 different varieties of Post-It notes. You don’t need to offer this many options in your line, but certainly this demonstrates that if you move from being self-absorbed to being buyer-absorbed it could affect your outlook with pleasing results. 3M’s outlook was so dramatically changed that they have designs for colorful types, animal lovers, men, even people that like flowery fragranced memos!
Finally, if your work is outdated you might not be selling well at shows any longer. It’s possible that you used to sell well. Brown pots didn’t sell so well several years back. Large blown glass eight years ago was a very tough sell. Handmade greeting cards at $4.50 per card were very difficult to push in the 80’s. If your designs aren’t rolling with the times, you will either be left behind or forced to wait for years until the trend wave catches up to you. Don’t design according to trends, but do keep them in the forefront and allow them in occasionally as inspiration for a new direction in your work.
The Post-It lesson here? Post-Its are all about function
and how their function relates to the person who buys them. When the PDA
revolution hit and everyone wanted a pocketPC, 3M even responded with a
virtual Post-It program that allows you to create stickies in your PDA,
laptop, or desktop computer. They kept moving with the changing needs of their consumer.
Thank you, 3M Corporation! Where would our business plans be without your divine inspiration?