- Product. Of the four Ps of marketing, most will agree that product is the most important. So why then is it the least considered when looking at ways in which to attract younger audiences? If your core artistic product is not appealing to younger audiences, then you will almost assuredly fail to get them to fully engage with your organization. Throwing an after hours party, turning a performing space into a disco or hosting themed young professional events might get targeted demographics into the door, but what we really want is for them to engage with the mission of the organization. If the mission precludes the organization from programming attractive art or an artistic leader isn't sensitive to the programming desires of young adults, you might be able to get them in the door, but they will never be a stakeholder of your institution. Just as location is king in real estate, in the arts, nothing is as powerful as the programming.
- Price. News Flash -- many younger audience members have money, and are not as price sensitive as some of us assume. Consider this study that reports that the 37 million young adults from 25 to 34 years of age in the U.S. have an aggregate income of more than $1.1 trillion. In an attempt to explain the absences of young people, I think we have jumped to price as the primary issue because it is much easier to change than product. However, I would argue that those who have to adjust tickets to bargain basement prices to attract younger audiences primarily have a problem with the product. Consider that in 2008, Ticketmaster reported that the average price for a ticket to a Coldplay concert was $217. For those lucky enough to have seen Coldplay, you know their events are filled with Gen X'ers.
- Place. Secondary to product, we should be asking ourselves if our institutions are welcoming to younger audiences. Churches and theaters are both struggling to attract younger members, and I believe are failing for many of the same reasons. Things to ponder: 1) what is the average age of your ushers? if they are the first people to welcome your audience, would someone in their 20s be welcomed by a peer or by someone that could be their grandparent? 2) Gen X'ers can barely remember a life without computers. Millenials have never been without the Internet. Yet we expect audiences to disconnect and remain in a dome of silence when they are at our institutions. Why not provide free wifi? configure our websites to work on handheld devices? 3) Is your organization's virtual presence as inviting as your real world location? can I purchase tickets, get answers to my questions, and engage with you on my schedule?
- Promotion. Secondary to price, this is the area that most institutions focus on. Video + Facebook + Podcasts does not automatically = younger audiences. You should think of new media tools as just a means of communicating. Nothing more, nothing less. Like any other tool, you have to know how to properly use it, and then use it to put the right message in front of the right audience. Most new media initiatives require two separate, but crucial steps to properly execute a campaign: the building of a communications infrastructure and the creation of content. You can have amazing content, but no friends to connect with. Or you can build a network of thousands of friends, and lose them quickly with the mediocre content. But for new media tools to work, you must have a product, place and price which are all conducive to younger audiences, and then you can concentrate on perfecting your new media skills.
As marketing directors, we have the least amount of control over product and place, and the most amount of control over price and promotion. Therefore we concentrate our efforts in the areas that we can affect, but if you don't get the first two right, you are wasting your time with the last two.