I’ve been a bit tough on San Diego Opera in the past. Especially here, here and here.
But the other day I got a brochure that contained a miracle. San Diego Opera actually published photos of audience members enjoying one another’s company at the show!
I was shocked. It is astonishingly rare to find arts organizations depicting customers having a good time with one another at the venue. Research consistently demonstrates that people choose arts events for social reasons, but arts organizations remain stubbornly resistant to the idea of focusing on their customers’ motivating impulses. Arts organizations use marketing materials to promote what they think their customers should want, not what the customers actually do want, so it was a thrill to see San Diego Opera giving priority to their customers’ social experiences for a change.
Arts leaders want to see themselves reflected in their marketing materials, not their customers, so I know this was probably a tough sell. But I think San Diego Opera deserves to be recognized for stepping outside the self-centered, tradition-bound, nonprofit bubble and doing some customer-centered marketing for a change.
If customer-centered marketing is common practice in professional marketing, it should be common practice in the arts as well.
Great work, SDO. I hope it’s the beginning of a very productive new direction.