“Find a need and fill it,” the personal philosophy of Ruth Stafford Peale, has guided successful entrepreneurs for decades. But it can also be an effective advertising strategy. Jim Bachor, a Chicago-based mosaic artist, has taken this advice literally with his pothole mosaics and is finding success. In fact, he provides a case study for how to do it perfectly.
1. Apply your work to effectively fill a real, universal, and relatable public need.
In response to the constant and universal need to fill potholes and with a bit of dry humor, Jim Bachor began patching up potholes with mosaics in 2013. He describes his background and methodology:
Around 16 years ago I learned the ancient art of the mosaic in Ravenna, Italy. The permanence of the art form is what drew me to it first. Marble and glass do not fade. Mortar is mortar. An ancient mosaic looks exactly as intended by the artist who produced it over two millennia ago. What else can claim that kind of staying power? I find this idea simply amazing. Since then I’ve devoted myself to changing people’s perception of what a mosaic could be. Using the same materials, tools and methods of the archaic craftsmen, I create mosaics that speak of modern things in an ancient voice. From junk food to coffee to breakfast cereal, my work permanently locks into mortar unexpected concepts drawn from the present.
On May 20, 2013 I began to apply this thinking to the numerous potholes filling the streets of Chicago. Temporarily fixed over and over again by city street crews I began to apply this resilient artwork as a more permanent fix.
2. Modestly publicize your work
At some point during his first year of installing pothole mosaics he realized their advertising potential and began using them to his advantage. In October 2013, he posted a photo on Facebook of his first pothole mosaic with the following cryptic message:
RIDICULOUS! — The city of Chicago is wallowing in debt yet they still find money to fill potholes with city branded designs made up of imported Italian glass and marble???
SHARE if you agree!!!
Unfortunately, he only received 10 likes and no shares. A year later, however, in September 2014 he started using Instagram to post pictures of his pothole mosaics. His first picture is of the “Purple Iris” pothole mosaic prior to its installation, which received the comment: “I see this every time I go to work. Nice to know how it came about!”
3. Involve people in ways that match their level of engagement (both active and passive)
As his Instagram following grew, Bachor began involving them in his artistic process, making it an interactive endeavor. As the Chicago Tribune describes it, “He enlists his 7,000 Instagram followers for suggestions on which potholes to fill. When he finishes an installation, he posts a picture on social media, hints where it is located and leaves a goody bag nearby.”
In 2015, he ran his first Kickstarter campaign to fund his pothole mosaics, since “this artwork can never be purchased,” and raised $4,622 with the help of 109 backers. This campaign enabled him to install 7 pothole mosaics in Chicago and helped fund 3 installations in Finland. His recent 2016 Kickstarter campaign raised $15,122 with the help of 312 backers. That’s an impressive 227% financial increase and 186% backer increase! This campaign will enable him to install pothole mosaics in additional U.S. cities and in Italy.
4. Turn your following into a community
As a result of his pothole mosaics Bachor has not only built a following, but a community. By bringing them into the process, they are invested in the projects themselves. An impressive example of this is when one of his Instagram followers recently rescued one of his mosaics that had popped out of the ground. As Bachor tells it:
Gotta love the pothole art community! Erik, an IG follower, noticed that “Tulips,” part of the “Flower Pot Hole” series, had popped out of the ground after 1.5 years. He took it upon himself to take it home with him until I could stop by and pick it up. So for the first time i’ll be re-installing a piece of art somewhere in the city. Thanks again Erik!
5. Ride the wave to new opportunities
Ultimately, the buzz generated around his pothole mosaics has opened doors for him professionally, including several commissions from throughout Chicago.
Time will tell where Jim Bachor’s pothole mosaics and community will take him, but it will likely increase the popularity of mosaics as an art form and it could lead to May 20th — the anniversary of his first pothole mosaic — becoming Pothole Mosaic Day in Chicago. Here’s hoping, anyway.
As you apply the “Find a Need and Fill it” advertising strategy to your business remember that it needs to be (or at least appear) natural rather than forced or gimmicky, and you need to be approachable throughout, via social media and in person. Follow the example of Jim Bachor, whose pothole mosaic movement started spontaneously as a funny way to fill a pothole in front of his house. Only as it has grown and people have bought into the idea, has he been able to appropriately expand into offering merchandise. Additionally, in seeking to fill a public need, Jim Bachor is sharing a bit of himself and, as his movement grows, is maintaining his neighborliness — even going out of his way to personally pick up a rescued pothole mosaic that needed replanting!