Tips for entrepreneurs: Rockefeller’s Rothko

One of the tricks of the trade in the jewelry business: If you want a chance to have your jewelry successfully delivered, you need to send two bracelets, not one.

Shekel money bills (photo credit: REUTERS)
Shekel money bills
(photo credit: REUTERS)
White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) the 1950 abstract painting by Mark Rothko was sold in May 2007 by Sotheby’s for $72.84 million, setting a record for the most expensive post-war work of art sold at auction.
While the art world considers it a masterpiece, if you’d see this painting with no background information, you’d be skeptical if it was worth $72, let alone $72m.
And yet, it went for $72m. and change – to a wealthy buyer from the royal family of Qatar. To be specific, it was purchased by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
But wait. The painting itself is only part of the story. It’s the origin of the painting that makes it so tremendously valuable.
It is the provenance, or prior owner history, that is so important, because the previous owner was none other than David Rockefeller. In fact, the painting is informally referred to as “Rockefeller’s Rothko.”
It’s the BIRGing, or basking in reflected glory, the affiliation of another’s success that is enough to stimulate self glory, making this painting so intrinsically valuable in the art world. It’s the value affiliated with the previous owner’s success that no doubt motivated the sheikh to spend that kind of money on the acquisition. The affiliation of the American tycoon’s painting hanging in the Qatari oil magnate’s home, despite the lack of personal connection with the seller’s success, gives a sense of legitimacy and fellow financial titan being on a sort of equal footing – an heir of sorts.
In your business, art or otherwise, the same psychological factors are so much at play. If you are an artist, where else is your work seen? (Maybe you ought to send a sample as a gift to some world leaders. By virtue of your masterpiece hanging in their domain, you may have just increased the value of your whole collection exponentially.) Exposure by association is why companies send free handbags and jewelry to personalities who they hope will be seen and photographed wearing them. It’s why Nike and Coca Cola pay so much to be sponsors at major sporting events. It’s what influences so many of our purchase decisions, consciously and subconsciously. It’s an ambitious objective. It’s the reason why a restaurant or hotel might purchase a very expensive painting: The value by association means that a $35 steak might become a $350 steak if there just happens to be a Monet or Picasso as a prop. And a $250/night suite might just be worth $25,000/night when the right painting hangs in the room.
Think about introducing this concept into your business.
Do you have (or should you start cultivating) clients that others would like to figuratively rub shoulders with? (Remember, the sheikh didn’t have to meet David Rockefeller to “rub shoulders and status” when buying his painting.) Has your business been written up in a prestigious newspaper? Whatever form of reflected glory your business features or can engineer, is something strongly worth utilizing for potential buyers to willingly pay a higher ticket-price.
One of the tricks of the trade in the jewelry business: If you want a chance to have your jewelry successfully delivered, you need to send two bracelets, not one.
Why? I’m so glad you asked. Because the mail opener/ assistant of the person you are trying to reach will often keep the “junk mail jewelry” for themselves, never giving it to the intended recipient. But when you send two, one thanking the assistant for their help and including one for him or her, at least the second piece has a good chance of accomplishing your goal. If it is worn at some point by the intended recipient it will give your brand the ability to toot your horn, by association. (It’s part of what made the ice bucket challenge go viral. Being “alongside” many famous people that took the challenge and poured a bucket of ice water over their heads, on video tape. Crazy, if you ask me.) When your team wins a game, you think “we won.”
When the other team wins, the brain tells you “they lost.” You didn’t lose, you weren’t even there. So why by the win did you applaud and pat yourself on the back? Aaaah – because you bask in reflected glory – and only when there is something good and positive do you associate yourself with the fact.
This is just one of the many psychological techniques that affects how we relate to services and the world at large. Stay tuned for more.
Yep. Saying “stay tuned” is another technique that keeps people hooked. Hey. I warned you, didn’t I?
[email protected] Issamar Ginzberg is a business adviser, marketer, professional speaker and rabbi.