What a fantastic phenomenon One Thousand Paintings has become in the last 24 hours for the Zürich-based artist Sala. In case you haven’t checked it out yet, Sala is selling 1,000 paintings of the numbers 1-1,000. The selling price of each painting is calculated like this:
- Value = 1000 – number.
- Initial discount: 90%.
- Current discount: 60%.
- The discount will decrease by an absolute 10% for every 100 paintings sold.
- Min. price: $40.
The project launched in February of this year. After several months of incremental sales, Sala had sold 105 paintings as of May 29. Yesterday he hit the tipping point, and as of this writing the tally is 413. Not a bad day and a half, thanks to a flood of viral linkage prompted by a mention in BoingBoing.
When I blogged about this yesterday, one commenter wondered what this had to do with copywriting. The answer is simple.
Just about everything.
One Thousand Paintings is a wonderful example of an irresistible offer. In other words, one or more fundamental elements of the offering is so compelling that it gets people talking, linking, and buying en masse — simply by the very nature of the offer itself.
It’s not the 1,000 pieces of canvass with simple blue numbers painted on them that means anything. That’s not what made it go viral; that’s not why the paintings are selling at an extraordinary rate; that’s not even what makes the paintings art.
It’s the offer. More than simply words, copywriting is all about presenting the best, most compelling offer you can.
And in this case, the offer makes the art.
Let’s take a look at the psychological elements of the offer that make it irresistible to its target audience:
- Uniqueness – If this isn’t remarkable, I don’t know what is. It just about goes without saying that an extremely unique idea must be present in order for the concept to have any chance of going viral.
- Scarcity – The limited number of authenticated paintings creates scarcity, along with the fact that only one of each number is sold. Scarcity is a fundamental attribute of all original art that increases in value, and also helps increase the buzz that is already in motion.
- Urgency – The pricing scheme prompts people to buy the initial paintings, which increases the buzz even more, until the proverbial tipping point when others are prompted to buy even more paintings before the next incremental price increase, and so on.
- Value – Beyond the story behind each painting that provides its aesthetic value, the above elements are likely perceived by buyers as creating a valuable secondary market for the paintings that can lead to later financial gain.
- Exclusivity – All of the above combined results in the Holy Grail for art, collectibles, luxury and performance products to name a few — exclusivity. Not everyone can have one, and that’s why the offer becomes irresistible.
What’s that you say? You don’t consider this art, and would never spend a dime on a simple painting of a numeral?
That’s ok. Sala doesn’t need everyone to think its art, or even that it has value.
He only needs 1,000 people to find his offer (and therefore his art) irresistible. My guess is he’ll get those 1,000, because there are plenty of people out there who “get” this cool intersection between marketing, media, technology and art. And I’ll further wager that those original 1,000 paintings will increase in value, thereby providing an economic advantage to all involved.
Many people are comparing One Thousand Paintings to the Million Dollar Homepage. Although the value propositions are different, the concepts are similar because they are both irresistible offers. Both concepts involve a viral “win-win.”
Alex Tew succeeded with the Million Dollar Home Page because the more people bought pixels, the more buzz was generated . . . until the tipping point when people realized that buying pixels allowed them to share in that massive attention. It was a brilliant idea that became a self-propagating irresistible offer based on publicity and exposure alone.
Same thing with One Thousand Paintings. The buzz creates value to buyers at the same time it benefits the artist, by creating an instant secondary market for the paintings, even before they are all sold.
Or maybe it’s just a great story you can hang on your wall.
What’s your story?
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