Today was my first day at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Houston. I opted to come in a day early to participate in the pricing institute, and although they presented some interesting information, I feel like they condensed their overall presentation down so far to fit into one day that it lost some of its value.
I did have one insight and a good reminder today. The insight: at the pricing institute, we discussed values based pricing. What value do you bring to your customer, and the importance of comprehending, creating and communicating your value. However, Tim Baker (one of the presenters) said something that really resonated with me about organizations that do a lot of new work. He said "if the customer doesn't know the play they are going to see, it is extremely difficult for them to evaluate value, so the value equation must rest on the reputation of the institution." I took that sentence to read that if you want to do a substantial amount of new work, you must increase your institutional marketing to brand the institution because the customer cannot make a values based decision on a product that is unknown to them. This coincides with a main argument that Michael Kaiser makes in his new book The Art of the Turnaround. Mr. Kaiser's main mantra: good art, marketed well. And he says one of the major mistakes we make as arts marketers is concentrating too much on product marketing and not enough on institutional marketing.
I had dinner this evening with several respected colleagues, one of which being Kory Kelly, the new Director of Marketing and Communications at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Actors Theatre does quite a bit of new work, especially when it comes time for their Humana Festival of New American Plays. As a consumer, I don't have to know anything about the titles or the specific products because that festival is so well branded. I feel like I could buy tickets to any of the Humana Festival productions and see a high quality production. In this instance, Actors Theatre has done a great job of institutional marketing around the festival to boost sales for individual products.
I was also reminded today that you have to sell the experience. People don't buy the product in many cases, they buy the experience, and for many different reasons. At the pricing institute, we discussed the many "types" of values that one could assign to an arts experience including educational, spiritual, therapeutic, ritual, social interaction, and relationship enhancement values. The guy who purchases tickets to the opera for his girlfriend for a special night on the town purchases for relationship enhancement and ritual value (getting dressed up, heading out for a night on the town, etc). The parent who brings his teenager to see Death of a Salesman is probably looking for an educational value. I remember while living in London that if I was having a bad day, I would pop on over to RENT and purchase a 10 pound ticket to escape life. Even though I had seen the show numerous times, it provided me an escape from everyday life. We have to communicate the intrinsic and extrinsic values of our product by selling the experience.
Tomorrow I give my first of two presentations. So off to bed to get a good night's sleep...