How to sell s#*t

An amazing story was brought to my attention (via Dave Trott) recently. I will paraphrase it for you:

In 1960, the Italian artist Piero Manzoni made an art work called “Merda d’Artiste” (The Artist’s Shit).

The artwork comprised several sealed cans containing 30 grams of the artist’s faeces. The idea was that the price of the artwork would always be directly linked to the price of gold and would rise as the price of gold rose.

Manzoni was poking fun at the art establishment by making a statement: “Look, the experts can’t tell shit from art.”

At the time Manzoni created that artwork, the price of gold was $1.12 a gram, translating to $33.60 for each can of his faeces. Only a lunatic or a moron would pay thirty dollars for a can of shit and Manzoni thought they were mad because they’d never be able to sell it.

But, the cost of Manzoni’s excrement rose faster than the price of gold.

In 2007 the price of gold was $28.94 per gram valuing, so thirty grams of gold was worth $870.

In that same year, a thirty gram can of Manzoni’s faeces sold in America for $80,000  - about hundred times the value of gold.

Now obviously the person who bought that can wasn’t actually paying eighty grand for a small tin of faeces.

So what were they buying?

What was worth a hundred times the cost of gold?

Were they buying proof of their status or showing they could throw away eighty grand on a joke? Were they buying proof of how cultured they were or did they show they possessed a daring, controversial artwork?

Whatever they were buying it wasn’t the physical object.

It was something the physical object represented to buyer; even something that was exactly the opposite of what the artist intended.

He made the artwork to prove how stupid they were. Then they paid a fortune for it to prove how cultured and intelligent they were.

They didn’t even try to understand anyone else’s reality. They just changed it to fit their reality instead.

Dave says it is something experts do. I reckon it is just what people do.


In some of my training sessions I want to demonstrate this reality and I show people these images.


What does the first image say? Can you make out the sentence?


Most people get that, and they complete the sentence




What the picture ACTUALLY says is this:


The point is this:


People really DO make their own meaning. In this example we take HALF the facts presented to us and we simply complete the picture in a way that is familiar to us.



Lotto understands this, so they sell the dream.


But when you sell dresses, hardware, stationery or washing machines- do you really understand what you are selling?


And more importantly, do you understand that customers are not buying what you may think you are selling?


It goes towards the idea of a core product. If you want to understand it in more detail, here is a post about it.


Just saying it like it is…