Vincent Van Gogh took his own life at the age of 33, when his work was not yet known to the world. We would have to wait until 1901, 11 years after his death, to contemplate the first retrospective of his work, the year that ushered him into glory. A glory that extended first to modern art lovers, then, little by little, to the general public and finally to the whole world.  

Considered to be one of the most outstanding universal painters in history, his posthumous success serves as a useful reminder of the need to not only have a great product or service, but also to know how to suitably market it, so as to build a solid reputation.

Why didn't van Gogh succeed in life?

There are many examples of artists who achieved success only after their death. In some cases, their art was misunderstood; in others, they were regarded as crazy failures. But some of them had the hope, and even certainty, of future success, as Vincent van Gogh indicated in some of his letters. However, he did not succeed in life. 

What went wrong? The painter himself considered originality to be an underappreciated concept during the 19th century, to the point that it would "prevent you from making money from your work". Experts agree, however, that he wasn’t able to connect with his stakeholders in time. Shy and withdrawn as a child, Vincent van Gogh never found the common thread that would allow him to display his talent as a painter before his untimely demise.

The strategy of the wrapper and the candy

The lesson gleaned from this painter’s life may well be transferred to areas such as the corporate world, with companies that manage to develop great internal potential, do things well, and yet are unable to add value in terms of corporate reputation.

Communication and marketing strategists explain this with the wrapper and candy analogy. In this analogy, there are companies that achieve an excellent flavor and quality for their product, but fail to make customers fall in love with their product at first sight with a good wrapper. Without proper marketing, it will be very difficult to get your target market to flock to the product en masse and value it as a great product. 

A different problem, but not any less problematic, occurs in the opposite case. If the wrapper attracts attention, but the product or service doesn’t do what it promises, the customer will not buy it again. 

How to manage a company's reputation

Times have changed (a lot) since those years of the late 19th century when Van Gogh tried, but failed, to sell more paintings. Nowadays, companies understand that reputation management is a long and continuous process that increases a company’s value. 

To make sure we don’t repeat the painter’s mistakes, it is essential to learn about the latest trends and strategies, so as to properly manage the brand’s intangible legacy.

Technological revolution in reputation management

Reputation management is no longer just an area of corporate communications, but also requires the integration of technical and analytical knowledge.

With the help of new technologies, which provide algorithms for interpreting massive data, companies must use the right tools and metrics to analyze their impact, reach, and the feelings they arouse in their target markets. 

From CSR to Corporate Responsibility

Companies are expected to do something for the good of everyone in all levels of society, the environment, product development, and also as employers. 

However, it is no longer enough to focus on the social aspect, but rather on the bigger picture. Society doesn’t forgive companies that can do a great job environmentally, but on the other hand demonstrate inappropriate practices as employers.

Banking on 'glocalization'

More and more companies are internationally oriented. This leads to the need to study the customs, needs, and demands of the societies they wish to attract. However, thinking globally should not replace acting locally. Both perspectives contain powerful reasons for considering a 'glocalization' strategy. 

In conclusion

In short, the key to finding the perfect balance between internal strength and the ability to attract externally lies in a seemingly simple practice: doing what you said you’d do and saying what you’ve done. 

However, something that looks simple is often not, because companies and their leaders tend to lock themselves in and, generally speaking, are still reluctant to open themselves up to society, which in turn is now demanding more and more transparency to give them something as valuable as their trust. 

If you require professional advice, remember that at Thinking Heads, we help you chart the right strategy to grow your reputation as a leader.