My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

My name's Joel Kelly and I live in Halifax, NS.

I'm a 20something guy doing digital and social media strategy for a Halifax-based marketing agency.

I'm a vegan nerd and marketing asshole.

You should follow me on Twitter.

Contact me about whatever (like, say, your marketing questions) at

Friday, August 28, 2009

What does your work *say*?

What does your art say about the people who buy it?

If you want people to buy your art and hang it in their apartments, houses, office reception areas, corner offices, and so on, you should be able to explain what owning that piece of art says about the person who bought it.

If someone has a party and pulls out some organic, locally brewed beer from their fridge to serve to guests, that says something about that host.

If people arrive and the host is playing 30s jazz on the stereo, that says something about her.

If she has your art hanging on her wall, what does it say about her?

Hugh Macleod
calls the statements that these things make about the person who purchased them and what they reveal "social markers." He says that if you can't identify how your product (or your art) is a social marker, you should give up.

I'm saying that you should be able to articulate, if you intend to sell your work, why it's unique, what it says about the purchaser, and why anyone should care in less than three sentences.

Once you can identify what your work says about the people who buy it, you can figure out how you should write your blog, who your audience should be, and how you can connect with them.

This is pretty much step number one.

It's not just about what your work means to you, it's what your work says about the people willing to give you money for it.

By describing what it says about you in your blog or marketing pieces, it adds meaning to the work that someone else can take and have it mean something to them.

Basically, art is like a child. The artist, or parent, has all these deep personal feelings about the child. Why they love them, why they want the best for them, and there's a rich and important history behind the creation of that child.

Now imagine you had to write a resume for that child so that she could get a job. Suddenly all that history, all those feelings have to be distilled, and in some cases dismissed, in favour of figuring out why anyone else should care.


Ben said...

That question is a great extension on the general understanding of the relationship between you and your consumer!

Joel Kelly said...


Amy said...

great post's interesting how an artist needs to consider this so carefully, versus the way a corporation or bigger organization would need to think about what their product says about *their* consumers. Very cool topic!

Joel Kelly said...

Thanks Amy! I think Hugh would definitely suggest that every person selling something should really be thinking about how their products are "social markers," and if they're not... Well, be worried.

I find it a very fascinating thing to consider.

Anonymous said...

Good question Joel and a refreshing approach to solving the problem of marketing one's art work. As an artist, I am going to have to really think about that one.

P.S. You're not *really* an asshole are you?

Joel Kelly said...

So glad you liked the post! It's a very interesting thing to consider one's work through the eyes of the person who purchases it. And tough to do sometimes too :)

P.S. It depends on who you ask.