brandingResponsible Marketing

Love it or hate it: The Thomas Kinkade marketing machine

By December 28, 2007August 19th, 20203 Comments


My partner, Bill Boyd, ABC, sent me an email I thought blogworthy. Here it is:


I spent time with two brands over the holidays. One carefully guards every aspect of its interactions with the public. This company can demand (and get) premium prices. There’s never any discounting, and no products that don’t convey an air of quality. That brand is Bose. Although Bose has detractors–especially those who feel its products are overpriced–the Bose brand has a long history and excellent reputation. Not to mention enviable margins in a tough industry.

The other “brand” was Thomas Kinkade. He has 1,000 times the artistic talent I’ll ever have–and I like many of his paintings. But I’m appalled by his marketing. Last week, I was in a gift shop that offered Thomas Kinkade refrigerator magnets. Add to those Thomas Kinkade nightlights, Christmas ornaments, illuminated nativity trees, candle holders, music boxes, cuckoo clocks, animated snowman figurines, necklaces, golf gear, bath and body products. . . and you have a brand that’s drowning in low-end kitsch.

There’s no doubt Kinkade is a huge commercial success. And he may well have maximized the amount of money he can wring from people who like his work. But in the process, he’s trashed his image as a serious artist . . . and he may well have damaged his historical reputation and the enduring value of his works. I think the Bose model would have served him better.

Love him or not, Thomas Kinkade is the most financially successful artist of our generation.

So, is he an irresponsible steward of his brand, or a master marketer that should be commended for bringing his work to the masses?

Comment below to share your opinion.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • not a Kinkade fan..... says:

    I agree with your friend, Kinkade is way over marketed, and his work has become too kitschy. There is nothing wrong with making a buck, and if that has been his goal all along, then he isn’t doing anything wrong, but no one can take him seriously as an artist. I can take him seriously as someone who knows how to provide for his family, but that’s about it. While his images are “pretty”, they are very commercial, and the over marketing of his images just makes me want to go “blech!”, but then again so do other “contrived collectibles” like beanie babies, Longaberger baskets, and collector’s plates. 20 years from now you won’t be able to give away any of that junk at a yard sale, but people shell out good money right now thinking they are buying something that will appreciate in value, when all they are really buying is the marketing. The ones that bought limited edition beanies are finding out about all that right now, when the one they bought for $100.00 five years ago is only worth 15.00 now, and only to another beanie collector, and anyone who was ever interested in collecting them already got them when the edition saturated the market in the first place… Just so long as Bose doesn’t put out a Thomas Kinkade edition radio, it’s all good….I’d sooner display a Bose as art than a Kinkade…

  • Anonymous says:

    Thom Kinkade first started out trying to break into the Western Art craze that saturated the market in the 80’s. He would ride his motorcycle, painting strapped to his back, then delivered and named his tepeed work at Many Horses Gallery on La Cienega Blvd, Hollywood. He signed his work then with a Christian Fish then also. But he found his niche in the sentimental Christian realm. He had many character flaws, but has marketed his personhood along side his Christianese vocabulary…a mistake as some courts would rule that he defrauded Gallery owners. While his work is better than many, and it filled a need in the christian world, his works hold a supperficialness reflective of his character. A facade. His over aggressive marketing is just that, not brilliant, just aggressive. He has over promoted, over saturated to a sickening tune. Reflective of his narcissistic need to reflect his own “greatness” to himself constantly. Fine Art is an individual, creative process, an outflow of one’s spirit. With TK we are told we can have more creative value with a personal touched up highlighted brushstroke…bullshit. He has sold himself out for the idealism, for the buck and that is what I believe we hate about him the most. People know, see and feel reality. While Thomas Kinkade does deliver “pretty” paintings, they are so purtanical and decorative…nothing is that perfect…like the classic perfect childhood described to a psychiatrist which ends with a story about molestation. He isn’t honest about himself, his view on life and his work reflects that unachievable idealism. Talented, oh yes, …prodigy, yes, but flawed and tainted, needing to project something else because that is what he happens to be selling since his Western Art days. Admirable-…no. Fine art is about the process, not the final product with no merrit other than a self promoted brand name shoved down our throats.

  • Jane says:

    Seriously…if God were to ask you what would you do with your talent? …provide for you family and have a successful business or be adored as being oh so talented in museums etc? …. which would you chose?

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