Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why simplicity is key to marketing success

As our world and technology have become increasingly complex, people gravitate toward simple, easily recognizable messages and calls-for-action.


Let's agree: The time of complex visual messaging in marketing and advertising is over. Collages are dead.

A simple image that conveys a single core idea are favoured by marketers and brand managers because they work. In essence, today anything that is not necessary to get to “yes” merely gets in the way. 

It is the difference between the completely uncluttered Google search website with its legendary a single function, and Yahoo search where myriad content has come to obscure its (former) main function. 

The challenge is that arriving at simplicity is hard work. It requires a focused purpose and a great deal of clarity. It requires knowing who exactly your message needs to speak to and convince to pay attention and a deep understanding of what breakthrough communications are about, what they must over come. 

Our brains are designed to edit out information, to ignore clutter, to disregard anything that doesn't look immediately pertinent. 

Great marketing gets past those hardwired gatekeepers. And great marketing has to be singular, direct and address an important target market motivation. 

Hallmarks of effective communications

  1. Purpose
  2. Specific target audience
  3. Relevance to audience
  4. Clarity
  5. Consistency
  6. Suitable medium
  7. Repetition
  8. Multi-channel
  9. Conversation
  10. Evaluate and Learn

Components of effective messaging
  • Message (what you want to say)
  • Redundancy (used to emphasize the message – can be image and text working together)
  • Decoration (Embellishing to increase attractiveness and get attention)

Noise is all the things that interfere with the intended message.  In the arts, as in other sectors, an important issue remains learning to reduce the noise in our marketing and to focus on the single most important audience motivation to connect an experience with that audience. Because, ineffective marketing - the kind that has no clear message which means there is no redundancy or useful embellishment, and therefore there is no noise reduction and results simply in information overload which humans are designed to simply dismiss -leads to "No." 

Embracing the challenge of simplicity means honing a more rigorous process to arrive at effective communications that have the power to connect with your intended audience.






Saturday, September 13, 2014

Marketing Trends - New Media as The Media

Marketing has changed irrevocably over the last 10 to 15 years. While the harbingers of consumer power were evident in the late 1990s, with the advent of the Internet and mobile and then smart phones, the changes have now solidified and they continue to accelerate.

The web is no longer a new media. The body of knowledge and practice of integrated marketing has grown up.

Integration of websites with social networks and mobile apps

Youtube was launched in 2005, Facebook and Twitter came into the public view in 2006. Barely approaching a decade old they have an unprecedented reach ranging from 500 million to 1+ billion users.

Recently, smart phones with touch screens, tablets and e-readers with web access have become ubiquitous.

Great websites have evolved from early "brochure-sites", UseNet groups and List Serves to well functioning hubs of branded transactions with considerable social media integration and mobile connectivity.

Seemingly limitless access to information, easy consumption of entertainment, and creation and sharing of content and experiences have transformed how we behave, what we expect and what we want.

Contemporary marketing more than ever is about compelling stories, co-creating meaning, and making research and purchases easy and immediate. The increasing integration of services like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and many more – with both desktops and mobile devices and within websites – creates new dynamics between organizations and their customers.

Today, website pages can be shared with a push of a button to a user’s social media universe. They can be used to amplify a use's own brand and they can be used to ridicule or support an organization or a product. It can raise awareness, start conversations or elicit sales through these wider social networks. Similarly, organizations are cross-linking their web sites and social media presence to provide a seamless user experience, going where users are.

Do-it-yourself

Websites used to be expensive custom installations, with the best requiring substantial user research and expert programmers.

Today, WordPress and similar services have become robust DIY web tools that work well, have extensive plug-in options for customization and keep costs low.

Many of these off-the-shelf options also have an embedded option to create a mobile-friendly version of a websites. This is important as more and more users visit websites using their mobile devices and their much smaller screens.

Mobile applications

The ‘appification’ of the online experience has advanced rapidly in the last five years to the point, where man of us retain little awareness that apps use online content, i.e. content that resides on a server elsewhere. The best apps are content and feature rich, while super simply to use.  

Festivals have embraced them to deliver a variety of information and on-site experiences. Here again, there is a build it once and sell it many times philosophy, enabling affordable, ready-made solutions to almost any size event. 

Today, apps live on non-standard operating systems, i.e. apps are developed for the various platforms of smart phones. That means, if resources require development for just one platform, considerable thought has to go into who the target market is and the dominant platforms in use.

The power of accessing rich content through tiny devices that one carries everywhere creates a brand new dynamic of relationship to and expectation of brands. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New marketing mind set in performing arts


Here are three vital elements to performing arts marketing and by extension a thriving arts scene:

1. Arts and cultural research has confirmed time and again that the performing arts sector is not a zero-sum field. Rather, Canadians become ever more likely to attend based on prior attendance at cultural events and performances. These behaviours are strong predictors of attendance while basic demographic factors are much weaker. That means, competition in the performing arts is not other performing arts organizations but rather all the other ways people spent their leisure and entertainment funds. Community-wide, true partnerships should become the rule not the exception in the performing arts.

2. I have a growing body of work that recognizes that performing arts are not only a show on a stage, but that all surrounding aspects contribute to the audience experience either positively or negatively. It is about full experience design.

This graphic represents key elements of the audience's arts experience that can and should be fully designed. All have the power to make or break the audience experience, put up barriers to it or enhance it. 
It means applying end-to-end design thinking including all the ways in which audience members can amplify the arts organization’s message and reach among their own networks.

Pricing and packaging are aspects that are often taken for granted due to a persistent belief that the arts do not suffer from sticker shock; that if someone really wants to see a show they make it happen. Well, price elasticity is real in the arts, too. The higher the price the fewer people will consider attending. Therefore, considerations should be given to how to price shows that are not expected to sell out at a given price point or that are not selling out despite seemingly well-founded expectations of that. Each of these aspects merits full consideration in your planning and in your evaluations afterwards.
3. Another important idea is that marketing materials are designed for specific purposes to address where a member of the target audience is at in the purchase decision process. Arts marketers need to use the full array of tools in research and evaluation to see how their marketing programs are creating the desired response or not.

An arts marketer's job is not merely to sell the workhorses of the performing arts - anything by Beethoven and Mozart, Nutcracker and Swan Lake, Shakespeare -  but indeed to lead larger and larger audiences to contemporary, current live professional performing arts experiences that they don't already know.

To do this requires the integrated use of contemporary marketing strategies and tactics. It is about compelling storytelling, co-creating meaning, and making research on events and purchase of tickets easy and immediate. The increasing integration of services like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter with both desktops and mobile devices and within websites creates new dynamics between organizations and their audiences. this is a good thing.
Today, website pages can be shared with a push of a single button to a user’s social media universe (Brookside’s site does this well) and it can raise awareness, start conversations or elicit sales through their social networks. Similarly, organizations are cross-linking their web sites and social media presence to provide a seamless user experience, going where users are.

This mind-set approach makes clear that an organization’s brand is more than a logo applied consistently. it is how it behaves and interacts with current and potential customers. Or perhaps it reaches even further: it is an entire eco-system's way of being and interacting in the world - and how the sector (and the communities it inhabits) thrives will depend on this concerted action.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Why live performance is awesome



In case you have ever wondered why live music is awesome --- even if yo have a better sound system in your living room... or how to express it. Watch this!

#THISISLIVE | Molson Canadian

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Exploring year-over-year membership / subscription

At a recent board workshop for a professional association we discussed membership and different ways to look at membership in order to help us understand how to grow it. Remembering some work I had done a few years back with a performing arts client I proposed that it is worth looking at the cumulative number of members over several years. Typically, we look at the total number of members - or subscribers - as an annual figure and then we pay some attention to churn (new members acquired minus non-renewing members). Growth occurs when this churn figure is positive, so that more people join than drop out in a given year. Churn rates also make clear why the first task in a mature, established organization is usually retention, keeping members/subscribers year after year. High rates of retention mean that growth can be achieved more readily (as long as you have not captured your entire market that is);  they also mean that your marketing efforts should become more cost-effective as retention should cost less than acquisition. .

When we look at a wider time span, for instance 5 years or 10 years, we gain a different understanding of the degree to which an organization has reached and engaged its market. Is the annual figure and the cumulative 5-year figure very close or is it much larger?

If it is very close then you are basically stable, without worrisome loss or solid growth year-over-year. If you wish to grow in this scenario then you need to focus on acquisition strategies to accelerate growth.

If the 5-year cumulative figure is much larger, then you might need to think not only about acquisition but re-acquisition. Re-acquisition means re-engaging with people who have made up their mind already about the value you provide by rejecting it for some reason. Re-acquisition is quite a different task, requiring different strategies, tactics, messages and channels. Because these people are not a blank slate relative to your organization, and because they have developed firm beliefs about your organization and have perceptions founded in their personal experience, I tend to think that re-acquisition is fundamentally more difficult than gaining a brand new member, subscriber, customer.

Strategically this dynamic, however, is well worth considering in light of your total market potential.

Re-acquisition may indeed be a critical effort to ensure an organization's sustainability in the long-run. IGiven the nature of re-acquisition, strategies and tactics designed to re-engage likely run their course over 3 to 4 years. The focus would have to shift back to true acquisition at that time because those you wish to re-engaged either have or really are not going to have their minds changed unless something else happens in their world.

In both cases, retention driven by creating value and a mutually beneficial and meaningful relationship with members remains paramount.