How to make your (cultural) customers commit?

Commitment… The term is trendy, but what exactly does it cover? Some techniques or the ability to measure online discussions and conversion rates of its audience? And why talking of cultural customers? I’m already feeling your irritation … This expression is simply that which has been chosen by Quebec Arts professionals invited by HEC Montréal to answer this quite ambitious question.

Let it be said, in North America, there are no more public(s) or public services, but consumers and clients. The language shift may appear subtle, but it is indicative of both the relationship that institutions have with their audience but also how they see themselves.

Thus Fanny Mooijekind, director digital platforms and customer relationship at Cirque du Soleil, Guillaume Therrien, director of marketing and sales at Opera de Montréal and Mathieu Stréliski, digital marketing director at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) had to comment on the various digital marketing strategies that can be implemented to enhance the experience of the cultural consumer.

What is the role of marketing in the creative process?

It is rather a complex issue, since in theory the creative process is – in most of the institutions – regardless of the results of opinion polls or detection of trends. That is why Cirque du Soleil says to prefer addressing markets by putting forward the right product in front of the right customer (a show = a product, Cirque du Soleil will present no less than 13 shows in 2014) to counter the competition that faces the audience. Customer data management (Big Data and Customer Relationship Management tools) makes therefore a lot of sense, because in an ideal world, an organization would be able to send an individual the information he/she needs at the right time.

Guillaume Therrien, Mathieu Strelinkski et Fanny Moijekind credits : HEC Montréal

Guillaume Therrien, Mathieu Strelinkski et Fanny Moijekind credits : HEC Montréal

As for the National Film Board and the Opéra de Montreal, the answer is more nuanced. Guillaume Therrien admits he has frequent conversations (not always successful) with the Opera creative director. According to me, These discussions are necessary because of the fragility of the financial structure that draws the Opera to pay more attention to the needs and expectations of its audience. He also points out that creatives also need to consolidate their own artistic choices with data. Discussions between marketing and creation are this case the result of a need for both sides of the institution.

As for the NFB, the operation of the marketing department is still very patterned after the structure of film marketing; by project. The institution has realized several times that she might lose the connection with the audience; the NFB offering mostly art films and animated shorts, movies that traditionally enjoy low marketing and media coverage vs the American blockbusters. (I remind you, we are in North America). For the institution, marketing not very involved in the creative process, but needs to reach out to different audiences, highly fragmented.

Does the digital marketing involves the death of traditional media plan?

According to Guillaume Therrien; “Digital has arrived with something different, we did not know when using the traditional media plan.”

Digital marketing now involves feedback. Professionals constantly need to ask in order to understand the needs of their audiences.
William Therrien, director of marketing and sales of the Opéra de Montréal

Matthieu Strélinski confirms: “The new behavior due to digital marketing requires us to be flexible enough. We must capture this feedback.”. Some films, in the case of the NFB, would not necessarily need much marketing efforts since even if they address a small audience, this one might be a very active niche audience. Fanny Mooijekind, from Cirque du Soleil, adds that the professionals must be able to quickly detect and isolate the niches and get in “constant optimization mode rather than planning mode as they usually did before.”

Finally, the power of digital marketing is, according to Guillaume Therrien, that it can leverage word-of-mouth and that in case of positive benefits, it is imperative to think about equipping the public who spoke positively of the institution in order to make its own ambassadors. “We must ensure that people feel privileged to be there,” he adds.

However, according to Matthieu Strélinski, digital marketing does not mean the end of the formal and structured work nor the traditional media plan, always necessary, though less by now. It is essential to stay focused.

What return on investment?

For those who are not familiar with marketing, return on investment (or ROI) is one of the most widely used campaign measurement tools (how the institution relates to a client / consumer / individual who has purchased tickets over the investment time / money supplied).

The Opéra de Montréal has recently introduced dynamic pricing (based on demand) to give value to seats which enables the institution to stop offering discounts. The Opera communicates several weeks prior to the show with his audience so that its public (or customers) can benefit both from the best rates and the best seats. Cirque du Soleil, too, uses the evolution of prices based on demand. However, in its message, it focuses more on the experience that will live the audience during his shows.

Digital Marketing element in doodle style,Online Business concept <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/fr/pic-264311219/stock-vector-vector-digital-marketing-element-in-doodle-style-online-business-concept.html?src=zj2_eUmqrJ3IH2GkOHLX-A-1-6">weedezign</a>

Digital Marketing element in doodle style,Online Business concept weedezign / Shutterstock

The problem of the NFB is nevertheless different. The free offer is predominant on the site and the work of Matthieu Strélinski is to ensure that the paying offer appears on the site while maintaining a consistent NFB brand experience (which is present on many third-party platforms, such as in schools, libraries, Rendez-vous de la Francophonie, etc.). Content curation is also evolving. The NFB is indeed working on an editorial grid, much like a magazine, to update the content continuously and to retain its audience. Content can be highlighted on the site according on trending topics. Thus, when the phenomenon Grumpy Cat (the rather ugly cat) applied to the canvas, the NFB has put forward movies with cats on the home page (yes, yes) .

What then?

The advantage of this type of conference, especially in North America, is to be very uninhibited (except when the three panelists apologized at the very beginning of being “marketing guys”). The style can somewhat surprise but it is interesting to understand how three organizations, two of which in the performing arts, manage their relationships with their audience, relationships that are still found occasionally in France under the banner of the public development or public policy. Public vision as a customer is also very specific to North America, since cultural organizations have seen for decades public subsidies lower drastically. Cirque du Soleil also communicates quite proudly on the fact that it does not receive any public subsidy.

Regarding the dynamic evolution of prices, it is a subject that had already been discussed at the Culture Business Conference in the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris in 2013. This problem is not new. On the acceptance of this development by the public and the cultural environment, it is a different story. More information to come…

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