Lend Him an Ear: Van Gogh on Content Marketing

Van GoghVincent Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime. Yes, one. This amazing little fact is one of several testaments to the integrity of Van Gogh as a creator and man of perseverance. But his lack of sales ability isn’t the only reason that he’s an interesting character for content marketers. Run through this super-short and patchy look at Van Gogh’s life with me, and we’ll pick out some content marketing lessons along the way.

2100+ Works of Art:  Create, Create, Create!

Van Gogh painted more than 2,100 works of art during his lifetime, which includes 860 oil paintings and 1,300+ watercolors, drawings, and sketches. Considering the fact that he didn’t start painting until his late twenties and died at the age of 37, I find this fact astonishing.

That’s roughly one piece of artwork every 1.7 days. Meanwhile, since he wasn’t earning any money from his artwork, he had to find other work to support himself.

When you read about prolific creators like Van Gogh, it kind of makes you wonder why you’re having such a hard time getting one or two blog posts published a week, right?

I imagine that Van Gogh was pushed to create by some kind of inexplicable inner-drive. For many of us in the content marketing industry, we have a good amount of “drive,” but not a Van Gogh serving. That’s why it’s key that you start using an editorial calendar to make sure your marketing strategy, blog, what-have-you is regular and consistent!

Keep Going When No One’s Listening.

As I’ve already pointed out, Van Gogh sold only one painting in his entire life. Even if you feel like it’s tough going for your business, I bet you’ve had more success in your life than Van Gogh could dream of in his.

Oftentimes, when I’m blogging, tweeting, and trying to promote my own work, it’s easy to get the (simultaneously uncanny and frustrating) feeling that no one’s listening. This feeling is familiar to anyone in a creative or business field. Don’t let it consume you. Instead, persevere.

And, if you run out of ideas, try these strategies to keep you going.

Explore Your Interests. All of Them.

While we know Van Gogh as a painter, he was much more than just a painter. At various points in his life, Van Gogh had an interest in being a pastor, being a teacher, studying color theory, and, of course, drinking absinthe.

We all have interests that go beyond our professional lives. Think of ways you can explore these interests while remaining relevant to your profession and your audience. (Here’s a recent personal example.) Having multiple interests is never a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great way to “humanize your brand.”

Van Gogh coupled his other interests with painting to produce some terrific work. For example, while working as a missionary/pastor in a Belgian mining community, he did a series of sketches that inspired some of his later work.

The Van Gogh/Content Marketing Lesson…

Keep creating, no matter what, and be yourself. Maybe it sounds kind of cliché, but it’s worth repeating for a reason. Great marketing strategies aren’t built overnight. It requires a good dose of perseverance and a willingness to keep going even when you don’t immediately see the results you want.

Any other favorite Van Gogh anecdotes? Post them here. Unlike Van Gogh, I’m all ears!


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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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