Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Biggest Marketing Challenge of the Next 10 Years (Part 4)

The final response in this series of posts belongs to Julie Peeler, a close friend and expert arts marketer. Prior to her current position at Americans for the Arts, Julie headed the National Arts Marketing Project, which was where I met her in 2004. She is a wealth of knowledge, and someone that I look to for advice when I am navigating particularly difficult marketing decisions. I hope you enjoy her insight below.

Julie Peeler
Vice President, Private Sector Initiatives
Americans for the Arts

I would be happy if I could figure out what’s going to happen in the next 6 months. After all, very few people could have predicted in 2008 that we would be in the shape we’re in right now, facing the issues we are facing. But if we’re to learn anything from the current conditions, we know that we cannot be as insular as we have been as an industry and a profession. The arts are as bruised by this recession as any other business, and we are positively and negatively affected by the same social, economic and demographic factors as any other business. The recently published National Arts Index by Americans for the Arts points to just that thing.

And we need to become more nimble as organizations and managers than ever before. Shrinking funding and a fracturing of the American demographic mean less behemoth organizations and smaller, service oriented groups. No one department holds the crown for Nimbleness. I have worked with as many arts groups where the executive director was nimble but the staff was rooted in “this is how we always do it” as is the opposite case. There is no room for tradition any more. Not in the art on the stage or the wall or in the classroom, not in the management of our organizations and especially not in the way we reach new audiences.

And speaking of audiences, they are more and more becoming customers, and co-creators, rather than a passive body of viewers. They don’t need us to curate and direct but to facilitate their own personal arts experiences. Organizations must continually look for new ways to connect people to the arts: virtually, by being embedded in the community, by working though community issues, etc. We will be seeing more virtual organizations in nontraditional spaces, a greater blurring lines between professional and avocational, and less of a quest for a building where the building manages us rather than us managing the building.

The big challenge for marketers will be to think outside of marketing and consider how shifts affecting the world at large will translate into how their organization is run, how it connects to audiences and how they in turn, market.

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