In professional business settings, marketers typically show customers being made happy by their products. They do this because it’s an incredibly effective way to sell things.
If you’re a consumer who sees someone very much like you (or a person you’d like to be) being made happy by a particular product, you are likely to want that product. This isn’t just a truism; it’s a time-tested formula that’s backed by decades of theory, research, testing and practical application. If you’re a marketer who wants to sell something in a competitive marketplace, show your customers being made happy by your product and they’ll beat a path to your door.
In the amateur world of arts marketing, meanwhile, marketers never show customers being made happy by their products. Instead, arts marketers focus exclusively on the superior attributes of their events, artists and organizations while presupposing an audience of avid consumers.
Focusing on consumers isn’t part of our arts marketing traditions – most of which were formed at a time when the arts were popular aspirational luxury products. Emphasizing customer satisfaction back then was a non-issue because, if customers were eager to buy our products, and they already knew our products would make them happy, we didn’t need to focus on them.
Today of course the arts are increasingly marginalized niche products struggling to survive in a competitive marketplace. The demand for theatre, opera, dance, classical music and fine art is diminishing steadily, and potential new customers – if they bother to consider traditional art forms at all – don’t necessarily assume these products will make them happy.
The arts aren’t popular anymore, few consumers consider them aspirational, and the only reason we’d call them luxury products is the prohibitive price of admission.
If you’re a marketer who’s trying to sell unpopular products and you want to persuade indifferent consumers to become first-time buyers, you might want to start showing customers how your products will make them happy, which will mean showing people like them being made happy by your products.
If you’re not quite sure how to do do this, start by cutting 50% of the photos you plan to use in your next marketing campaign and replacing them with pictures of consumers enjoying one another’s company at your venue. Let’s say, for example, that you’re an orchestra marketer preparing to design your next season brochure and you’ve selected twenty shots of your conductor (yes, orchestra marketers actually do this). Cut ten of them and replace them with pictures of people who look like the people you’d like to see buying tickets. Show them arriving eagerly together, enjoying pre-show dining, running into friends, gazing in anticipation as the lights dim, chatting over drinks at intermission, etc. Make it as much about your customers’ experience with your product as it is about your product. And make sure to make it about their experience with one another, because sharing the experience is why they’re there.
NOTE: Those photos of actual audiences that you shot from the side aisles don’t count. If you can afford professional photo shoots of your artists, you can afford professional photo shoots of model audiences, too.
New audiences don’t buy art; they buy worthwhile experiences they can share with other people. If you want to attract new audiences who don’t know why they should come, show them pictures of people like them having a good time together in your venue.
Or, you could just keep publishing absurdly insular, painfully stereotypical, impersonal, stuffy and embarrassingly self-congratulatory images that are all about you and that have nothing whatsoever to do with the experiences your new audiences are likely to have with your art form.
Making marketing more about our customers is cheap and easy, and it sells more tickets.
Why not give it a try?