My background is in the arts- both for-profit and not-for-profit. I have a research interest in the planning and implementation of technology for arts organizations- since the not-for-profit arts sector lags behind most industries in technology planning and advancement. Two predominate external forces have disrupted and challenged the strategic planning and consequently, the sustainability of organizations in the not-for-profit arts sector: the Millennial generation and Web 2.0. These external, demographic and technological factors have forced organizations to reevaluate their marketing and development strategies in order to remain viable and to secure a place in the sector’s future.
A recent report commissioned by the Steppenwolf Theater Company in 2011, Tipping the Culture: How Engaging Millennials Will Change Things, theorized how companies like Google, Ford Motors, and J. Crew, successfully capture the attention/money/loyalty and interest of Millennials. The author, Patricia Martin, uncovered the techniques these large, for-profit firms use to advance their brand and secure their position in the future marketplace. Using these case studies, Martin provides insight on marketing to this powerful group of young-adults, divulging what attracts them, how to include them, what they are thinking, what they want and how to engage them. She then offers the not-for-profit arts sector strategies based on the strategies of the for-profit sector to successfully adapt to the changing external environment-and to remain viable in an increasing competitive and evolving “leisure time activities” market.
I was reminded of the analysis the report provided while reading about the second crucible, “The Productivity Imperative.” One adjustment Martin suggests for not-for-profit organizations is a complete reinvention, redesign, paradigm shift and approach to fostering audience relationships (which would be “productivity” for the arts sector). The traditional cold calls, telemarketing, and subscription mail-ins are worthless to the Millennial generation, not to mention costly when you consider the return. What Martin suggests is a new strategic approach to branding- one that increases the organization’s productivity by better engaging and encouraging participation from Millennials. Increasing the organization’s productivity by embracing Web 2.0 technologies and communicating effectively with Millennials has proved and continues to prove successful. Not only will this paradigm shift/change in managerial approach attract more Millennial viewers and patrons, but will also dramatically increase brand awareness and improve PR, at a minimal cost. Just as the authors of, Clouds, big data, and smart assets, wrote,
“Exploiting technology’s full potential in the public sphere means reimagining the way public goods are created, delivered, and managed.”
Though increasing attendance for a matinée or a photography exhibition is not quite what the authors where referring to, the idea still applies. The proper application of technology can improve the “delivery and effectiveness” of a good or service- and in this case, attendance and participation in the arts. Millennials, once attracted to the brand (for-profit or not-for-profit), will talk and share and market for you.
The report can be downloaded for free: http://patricia-martin.com/tipping.htm
I also shared the report on the Technology in the Arts blog: www.technologyinthearts.org