Cliché Wrap Up

Here’s a concise summary of the Deadly Arts Marketing Clichés we’ve been talking about. These are just ten clichés I selected for fun or to make a particular point. If you think of others, send them along and we’ll add them to the list.

1. “Celebrate!” Perhaps the most beloved and widely overused word in the arts marketing lexicon, “celebrate” is what we say when we want to say, “Hey, we’re really excited about this and we want you to be, too.” Unfortunately, telling new audiences to be excited and giving them reasons to come to our events are two entirely different things. Better to know what excites new audiences and talk about that instead.

2. Insider Images. A picture – speaking of clichés – is worth a thousand words. To pick the right image, describe in a thousand words how your product satisfies the desires of new audiences and then choose an image that says the exact same thing. If you do it right, it probably won’t be a tutu or a tuxedo.

3. “We’re Wonderful!” Self-congratulatory boasting worked when everyone agreed about how wonderful we were. But in a world where our wonderfulness is no longer a given, every boast has to be accompanied by language that says, “And this is what that means for you.” Doing it right means talking as much about the customer as we do about ourselves.

4. “…set against the backdrop…” If you can’t find an original way to describe your event, sit down with some young person you’d like to see there and tell her in honest, direct conversational English what the show’s about and why you think she’ll enjoy it. In all likelihood, the fresh, naturally persuasive language you speak will be the best possible language for the brochure.

5. Travel Metaphors. Our job as marketers is to know what new audiences want and then describe how our products will satisfy those desires. Our job is not to assume what they want or conjure up things we think they should want or suggest imaginative things they probably would want if we mentioned them. So, if they never said they wanted to take a “journey of the imagination,” it’s best not to put it in the copy.

6. Culture. Go back up to Number 2 and look at the thousand words you wrote to describe how your product satisfies the desires of new audiences. If the word “culture” wasn’t one of the words, it probably doesn’t belong in your promotional copy.

7. Shakespeare Quotes. Strategic messaging means choosing words and images that motivate new audiences to buy tickets. If it’s impossible to describe a causal connection between the message choice and the customer’s impetus to get up off the couch and order tickets, it’s probably not the right choice – even if Shakespeare himself wrote it.

8. Fill-in-the-blank templates. Marketing is all about knowing what new audiences _____ and describing how our products will make them _____. Chances are that last fill-in-the-blank blurb you wrote was all about _____ and says nothing about your new audiences’ _____s or how your product will make them _____. (want, happy, you, want, happy)

9. Artsy Wordplay. Artsy wordplay happens when elite insiders sit in conference rooms dreaming up what we want to say to the world outside about our next event or season. If we want to avoid artsy wordplay, we have to leave our conference rooms, go out into the world, find our new audiences and learn what must be said to motivate them to buy tickets.

10. Anniversaries. The ironic thing about anniversaries is that people are more likely to buy tickets to our events to celebrate their own anniversaries than they are to celebrate ours. If you must ‘celebrate’ a special occasion, make it one that means something to new audiences, and for heaven’s sake if they show up give them some cake and ice cream.

That’s it. I’m tired of talking about clichés and I hope the point has been made. Now go find those younger, more diverse audiences you keep talking about, ask them what they want, and if you can make a reasonable case for your product being what they’re looking for, speak that language in your promotional messages instead of falling back on all those tired, old “that’s the way we’ve always done it” arts marketing methods.

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3 thoughts on “Cliché Wrap Up

  1. Another cliche that gets under my skin is when you are told that the play will “leave you _______” (in tears, breathless, wanting to stand up and cheer). Don’t tell me what I’m going to feel, let me experience it for myself!

  2. Reading your book and the quiz related to these cliches was an a-ha moment. As a test, I picked up a local brochure for an arts center and found “celebrate” a half dozen times, “something for everyone” twice, multiple anniversaries, and many travel references (“departure”, “explore”, “journey”). OUCH! Truly enjoying your book and believe it will impact my work. Thank you.

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