An Incredible Marketing Case Study, with Author-Illustrator Lori Richmond

“The most interesting marketing opportunities are those that are unconventional.” That is how author-illustrator Lori Richmond sums up the case study we are about to present here. In today’s episode of The Creative Shift podcast, we take you step by step as to how Lori discovered a way to get her work seen by more than a million people in the middle of New York City.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

You can find Lori at the following places:

Here are some highlights of our talk:

“The most interesting marketing opportunities are those that are unconventional.”

That is how author-illustrator Lori Richmond sums up the case study I’m about to present here. Lori and I sat down to discuss how she discovered a way to get her work seen by more than a million people in the middle of New York City.

You see, Lori is an author and illustrator. She’s had a whole bunch of kids books published in the past few years:
Lori Richmond Books

Plus she does illustration and design work for clients and private commissions. Recently, she started this little side-project that she calls View From My Run. She describes it like this:

“I combine my athletic and artistic practices by drawing something I see on each run, in the same amount of time as the run. This ongoing art series is a visual journal of my training—and my love letter to New York City.”

Here are some of those illustrations:
Lori Richmond Illustrations

So, a couple months back, she’s walking on the street in New York City, and she sees this:

It’s basically a kiosk that has replaced all of the old public pay phones that used to line the streets. It gives out free wi-fi, acts as a charging station for your phone, and gives you information about New York City.

Now, you and I see this and we think, “Meh, my phone is charged already.” Lori saw this and said:

“Why isn’t my stuff on there?”

Meaning, why isn’t her New York City-centered artwork being displayed on these kiosks? I asked her how she made that connection, and she said that in publishing so much work recently that, “I’ve developed a bit of fearlessness.”

There wasn’t a phone number on the side of the kiosk that said, “Artists! Display your work here! Call this number….” So she started working her network, reaching out to friends and colleagues to see if they knew anything about these kiosks, she searched online, and eventually she found some contact information.

Now two points I want to make here that you can use for your own marketing efforts whether you are an author, an illustrator, or do some other creative work:

  • Be an observer of the world around you. Look for interesting connections. In the photo of the kiosk above, do you know what I see? A thriving New York City intersection with lots of interesting people, stores, architecture, transportation, and food. Somehow, amidst this, Lori didn’t just see the kiosk (which I would have overlooked), but she connected it to her artwork. She saw the possibilities that thousands of other illustrators missed.
  • Be prepared. Lori was ready for this opportunity, having spent hundreds of hours creating the View From My Run idea. There are many version of the quote: “Luck favors those who are prepared,” and this is a good example. She had art ready to go that very minute. She didn’t see this kiosk and think, “Maybe I can pitch them on the idea of a series of illustrations I can create from scratch.” She had dozens of display-ready files ready to send them.

Lori did reach out to the people who manage the Kiosks, which are called LinkNYC, and pitched her idea, “Can you display my illustrations on your kiosks.”

They said yes!

Take a look:

And here is another:

Let’s talk about the results of this effort. I am sharing this as a marketing case study, so let’s talk about ROI — return on investment.

They agreed to display 8 of her illustrations on the 1,700 kiosks that are placed throughout the 5 boroughs of New York City. We did some back of napkin math:

  1. 8 pieces of art.
  2. Images on the kiosks rotate every 15 seconds or so with ads, messages, and artwork.
  3. Let’s say that 1 kiosk displays Lori’s work every minute.
  4. Her artwork was up on the kiosks for two weeks.
  5. New York City’s population is estimated to be 8,398,748, and in Manhattan alone, it is estimated that there is a weekday daytime population of 3.94 million people.

I feel like it’s possible to say that over two weeks, hundreds of thousands of people likely saw Lori’s artwork, perhaps more than a million. Lori’s illustrations appeared on every one of these 1,700 kiosks (each blue dot is a kiosk):

I mean, imagine this kind of exposure. Lori has a friend who put it best: “New York City is your museum.”

Another result is that Lori was able to take the photos I shared above (plus many others) of her illustrations being displayed on the streets of New York City. She can use that in all kinds of ways for marketing and branding purposes.

She had friends seeing her artwork on the kiosks and sharing it on social media.

More direct results from a business standpoint: a few people reached out to her about potential collaborations and commissions. She shares some details of that in the podcast of our chat.

I asked her why she didn’t consider asking for money from LinkNYC for this? I can easily see someone say, “they are displaying your artwork, you should get paid.” Lori’s reply: “If you don’t give your stuff away, who will see it?” Does that apply to everyone’s work all the time? Nope. You as a creator get to choose when and how you are okay with that. In this case, Lori’s motivation was different.

Perhaps this is the biggest “result.” When I asked why she wanted to have her art on the kiosks, she said that she wanted her kids to see her artwork featured in the streets of New York City.

Once it was, she said this: “I felt a lot of gratitude.”

I mean, isn’t that the best result?

Oh, okay, one more….

A week ago, Lori reached out to me and said, “I was just recognized in the bathroom at Whole Foods.” Meaning, someone noticed her like she was a celebrity.

She continued, “I saw this woman looking at me, and a minute later we wound up at the sinks at the same time. She looked again, and finally says, “Are you on Instagram?”

It turns out, the woman recognized Lori from a NYC Marathon group they are both a part of online, and this woman had previously bought a piece of Lori’s art!

Now, this is not a direct result of the Kiosks, but it is a great reminder that:

  • Marketing happens fluidly online and offline. There is no such thing as just a “Facebook strategy” for marketing.
  • The kiosks are just one part of the larger View From My Run project/brand that Lori has been developing. She has run workshops on it, done collaborations and so much else to support it. The results are often not seen at the micro level, “Did the kiosks give me ROI?”, but rather on the macro level. Over the course of a year or two, there is a cumulative result of all of her efforts. And one of those results is getting recognized by a stranger in a Whole Foods bathroom!

You can listen to Lori and I chat through all of this here.