Marketing the Arts Experience
Marketing the arts, by its very nature, is selling an experience. When an individual books a ticket to a show or purchases admission to an exhibition, they are investing in something entirely intangible.
The good news is that an increasing body of behavioural science tells us that money spent on experiences makes us much more happy than money spent on material things.
Despite this, arts marketers often spend countless hours treating shows/events like products – marketing only what happens on stage, rather than the entire act of attending live performance.
By showcasing the experience beyond the performance itself, you can foster expectation and excitement among potential attendees. Here are a few ideas for demonstrating the joy of arts-going with audiences:
Show, don’t tell.
The rise of image-based social media (Instagram has had more users than Twitter since 2014) means it is easier than ever to share all of the action happening off stage. Just look to the lobbies and you’ll see ample opportunities to snap & share – from mingling masses, to mixed cocktails, to beautiful areas surrounding the museum or theatre (we have a lot here in Vancouver).
One organization who has done an excellent job of showcasing the overall experience of attending live performance is Vancouver Opera. At every show they have a camera ready at the front door to snap photos of excited opera-goers. It’s fun for those in attendance – and demonstrates the diversity of audience to those at home (as well as proves you don’t need a tux or evening gown to take in exceptional opera!)
Sharing is caring.
While sharing the audience experience is brilliant on your own social feeds, what’s even more valuable is having your patrons express it in their own words. At the most basic level, setting a show hashtag is crucial for this – as it will allow you monitor conversations taking place online, as well as propel the great word of mouth forward through your network.
More advanced set-ups can mean creating playful, interactive opportunities for audiences to take and share photos of their experience on-site. Vancouver’s outdoor summer theatre companies have made great use of type of engagement, utilizing character cut outs at Bard on the Beach and prop & costume-filled tickle trunks at Theatre Under the Stars.
Enhance the experience.
One of the best ways to ensure audiences are engaged by their show-going is to find ways of enhancing the total experience in smart, unexpected, and out-of-the-box ways. The only limit to such on-site enhancements is imagination – and the impact should not be underestimated. A few examples of companies in Vancouver ‘enhancing the experience’ for their patrons, include:
Early Music Vancouver hosting deeply informative discussions before every concert that lead to greater connectivity and appreciation for the music.
PuSh Festival creating a post-performance club where patrons can dance & discuss the shows nearly every night.
Firehall Arts Centre offering limited-time cocktails themed to the shows taking place on stage.
ITSAZOO’s site-specificity spilling from the play into ever aspect. At the trailer park-set for their work Killer Joe, beers were served in brown paper bags and hot dogs could be ordered from a nearby camper van.
Theatre Under the Stars creating a Village Fair for Oliver! Audiences were transported back in time, and enjoyed a slew of games, races, and sing-a-longs pre-show.
These are in no way just “gimmicks”. When carefully and cleverly matched to the art itself, such enhancements can greatly inform the audience experience. Doing so creates a more memorable occasion and makes art-goers more likely to tell their family and friends about your enjoyable event – generating the all-important word of mouth that is key to success in arts marketing.