In my last post, I said that arts marketing is always about the product when, to be effective, it should be more about the customers.
Older arts leaders still cling to a self-centered, self-important style of mid-20th century promotional marketing that places the art, artists and organization in a position of preeminence, while paying only perfunctory heed to what audiences are looking for.
If your organization still uses “it’s-all-about-us” marketing content, here’s a quiz that can help you determine if you should back off the self-congratulatory boasting for a while and start focusing on what your new customers are looking for instead.
Keeping new audiences in mind, answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to these ten questions:
- Is there abundant pent up demand for your product? (i.e. Hamilton)
- Are you an aspirational luxury product? (i.e. Bentley)
- Do people think you brand will elevate their social status? (i.e. Coachella)
- Can you afford to be exclusive? (i.e. Mar-a-Lago)
- Do you occupy a trendy niche? (i.e. Yeezy)
- Are you perceived as being on the cutting edge? (i.e. Tesla)
- Is your brand universally familiar and well established? (i.e. Coke)
- Is it plainly obvious why an average person would buy? (i.e. McDonald’s)
- Are you a huge corporation that can influence public perception? (i.e. Anheuser-Busch)
- Do you have access to marketing resources that would enable you to change the answers to 1-9?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, go out into your community, talk to several hundred young, culturally diverse people about your organization, then take the quiz again.
The marketers in the examples above don’t have to be audience centered. Companies that sell popular products can afford to boast about themselves. So can companies that enjoy universal brand recognition or that sell highly desirable luxury products. You might be tempted to compare yourself to these marketers, but if you’re struggling to find new customers for increasingly unpopular arts products, you don’t belong in the same category.
The key to attracting customers for products that are not popular lies in convincing buyers that the product will satisfy their unfulfilled desires. And this means making the content of your communications about their desires and how your product will satisfy them. Or in other words, making it about them.
If new audiences are telling you they want opportunities to do interesting/entertaining things with peers, for example, the content of your marketing should feature people who look like your new audiences having a good time together in your venue. Not all of it, but enough that new audiences can see themselves being made happy as a result of having purchased what you’re trying to sell.
Look at all the marketing content you’ve disseminated in the last three years. How much of it is about you and how much is about them? If you’re like most nonprofit arts organizations, it’s about 95% you and 5% them.
Your goal should be about 50%-50%.
Fifty years ago the answers to the quiz above would have been different. Fifty years ago, arts marketing was all about the art, the artists and the organization. If you’re still using fifty-year-old marketing content to attract new audiences, you have to stop.