Category Archives: marketing

Where’s the Blue Ocean for Live Performing Arts?

The past is not the best way to predict the future; especially when the context is highly dynamic, change is rapid, consumer behaviours, values and beliefs have shifted and commonly held internal beliefs (like the one about price elasticity) no longer apply (if they ever did: like the one about price elasticity).

I see the live performing arts in general at a crossroads in these changing circumstances: Which parts of the sector will adapt, which ones will become obsolete, which ones will grow, which ones shrink? What will success for the performing arts look like in the near- and mid-term? I hear about the dominant concerns being “audience development” and stability of direct government funding. As a strategist and marketer I think the dominant focus on these two concerns has not been producing the requisite breakthroughs in most cases.

In essence, I plan to think out loud about the value innovation that the performing arts sector in Canada could undertake to reap awesome rewards through creating uncontested – and valuable – market spaces. There are already examples of Blue Ocean creators in the performing arts: most notable may be billion dollar empires Cirque du Soleil and Apple. Yes, that Apple: Music has already been revolutionized by digital music distribution and most of that is revenue that goes to Apple. That may well speak to the power of owning the de facto ‘operating system.’

A Blue Ocean is a strategic construct reverse engineered by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. It’s a strategy frame to make your present-day competition irrelevant, often by redefining what business you are in and the attendant changes that follow that understanding. Those don’t have to be thought of as global – they can be local or apply to a sector for that matter.

To play with these ideas relating to the performing arts, I’ll draw on my experiences and perspectives from the arenas of research, strategy and marketing. This no doubt will be a non-linear exploration; it will simply evolve as it goes … I hope it will become a conversation.

(first posted November 2011)

Many of these thoughts originated here during 2010 and 2011. They are as interesting to me today as they were then.

Value of Performing Arts Presentation – So, what?

Since the release of the final report of 2 years worth of study, consultation and research to shed new light on the individual, community and societal values, benefits and impacts of performing arts in the lives of Canadians and Canada, I have had many opportunities to turn toward the So, what? and the Now, what?

The Value of Presenting is living research that I apply in my consulting practice every day, spanning from brand strategy and audience development with Magnetic North: Canada’s Theatre Festival to strategic planning with Alianait Arts Festival to ongoing consulting with the National Arts Centre.

A large part is giving public presentations and leading workshops. This winter is rich with travel to help presenters and the whole presenting ecosystem contemplate a few ideas – and share my perspectives based on this extensive research and my strategy and marketing practice:

  • Audience development: A roadmap to engaged audiences and vibrant communities
  • Performing arts for all: Utopia or Destiny?
  • The opportunities and challenges that the rapid evolution of communications technologies hold
  • How to lead audiences to new artistic experiences

Here is a list of 2014 workshops and conferences, that are being organized this winter. As event webpages appear I will add links to session and registration information:

In all of this work, I am discussion a vision of vibrant communities fueled by performing arts and its community-engaged partnerships.

Strategic move lies at heart of value innovation

In Blue Ocean Strategy W. ChanKim and Renee Mauborgne posit that, “the strategic move, and not the company or the industry, is the right unit of analysis for explaining the creation of blue oceans and sustained high performance.” They then define a strategic move as “a set of managerial actions and decisions involved in making a major market-creating business offering.”

I have started an exploration in the performing arts on this blog this month. I have begun to contemplate the landscape, or as they say the “strategy canvas”,  to learn about the skills, expertise, assets of the performing arts that can be leveraged to create new wide-open spaces for high performance. And to explore what elements might need to be added or increased in order to create a new kind of success.

A bold, new arts brand: Ottawa Storytellers

We recently did some research and strategy work with Ottawa Storytellers (OST). Their goal was to further build on their existing audience with a focus on cultivating a younger, more culturally diverse audience.

With storytelling the challenge is two-fold: 1) many people do not think of storytelling as a professional, adult performing art; and 2) event promotion has not built broad-based trust and credibility in organizations producing or presenting storytelling events.

The challenge we faced was that OST needed to build much greater recognition for itself as a credible and trustworthy source of quality performing arts/ storytelling events and for storytelling as a bona fide professional art form with every communication touch point. At the same time, it needed to “sell” storytelling series or individual performances, without being encumbered by organization-level messaging.

Often in event-based marketing – and when marketing budgets are relatively small – there is little leverage or recognition accruing back to the arts presenter, except among the most committed audiences. That in turn creates long-term liabilities like needing to continually invest in one-off marketing of events, rather than being able to benefit over time from a mother brand approach where recognition, trust and credibility reside with the presenter, not only a specific artist/event. Such an approach creates all kinds of benefits such as more easily presenting new artists through reducing box office risk and more effective marketing. It was also important to understand that when growing an audience is the central goal then the strategy cannot rely on largely list-based marketing efforts alone.

Central Strategy: Mother Brand

That is why a central part of our strategy called for a new branding approach that would be cohesive, bold, contemporary, intelligent, easily structured and flexible in application, welcoming and inviting to audiences, and give weight to OST (this is where the relationship with the audience gets built) while also giving strong presence to show-specific information (which is where OST fulfills its artistic mission).

In short, OST needed to take its place at the heart of its marketing. It would be the mother brand from which all series and events would flow.

In our analysis, we had found the OST logo and tagline were already strong and we recommended keeping both. We found that many of their marketing and communications tactics including much of their online efforts were well conceived and executed. The visual branding, on the other hand, was less effective, too complex and hard to adapt. Similarly, there was, at times, no clear hierarchy of messages evident in marketing materials and the oft-observed “too much text, which ends up saying very little to anyone” was also sometimes an issue.

Creative Brief: Define Audience Using Psychographics

By defining the audience, we were able to create a target that felt real. We used a psychographic composite (values, beliefs, generation-based experiences), rather than just relying on demographic elements (age, income, etc) which are less meaningful, and certainly much less so in terms of creative direction.

OST has just launched its new web site which features its new branding approach. I think they did an excellent job translating the strategic direction into an effective brand architecture.

What do you think?

Thank you to OST for agreeing to share the back story on its new strategy initiatives.

What are they thinking at BlackBerry?

Just last week I used the Canadian edition of the BlackBerry website. It gave me all the information I needed quickly and efficiently in a pleasing, professional interface and I was happy.

This evening I went to the site and saw this as the homepage: a rather static screen trying hard – and failing  in my books – at a lifestyle branding for BlackBerry.

Today BlackBerry is the leader in the smartphone market, but it’s obvious that the Android platform and iPhone are growing faster than BlackBerry. To protect their position and keep growing they have to do something.

But static and boring web interface? All I get to do is go left to right or right to left and click on user types like “The Shy Girl” or “The Power Couple” to see what BlackBerry device they should be using.

Apparently if you are The Shy Girl you use the BlackBerry Pearl. I wonder how all the BlackBerry Pearl users out there feel about that. “Hey, you have a BB Pearl, you must be the shy girl who texts a lot.” I mean how does that help someone gain status in their social circle? I was looking at getting the BlackBerry Torch, except now I am told that I am apparently broadcasting that I am part of The Power Couple! The truly powerful usually have little need to broadcast such things, they simply are and they act, so where does that leave me?

What are they thinking at BlackBerry? What’s the insight at work here?
Have they heard of video and all the really cool things they could do by integrating video into their site – or better yet, why not just keep it clean and professional until you have a great lifestyle brand idea that you can make work online? So many ways to advance a lifestyle brand, so much to learn!

NB: We just saw anther number 1, Nokia, do something about the threats to their leadership position: announcing a strategic partnership with Microsoft, for better or worse. Hope they will open up that platform widely so they can garner the creativity and imaginations of apps developers everywhere.

Logo evolutions

I enjoyed this brief, visual survey of global brand logos. It’s fun to see both what has changed radically and what has merely evolved, sometimes subtly, over the decades. The biggest changes in logo design in these examples are driven by shifts in the business or in its context. In that sense branding cuts both ways: brand designs do lead and they do follow trends.

Corporate brands are much more than the corporate name, even as wordmarks remain crucial for many brands and are likely more important the more local a business is. In any case, you will see several logos in that list that have become powerful enough to omit their company names entirely. Few do so because the image is the name, as is the case for Apple or Shell. With others you might wonder about the thinking or the research that led that decision.

This restaurant logo works

Many restaurants take a less than stellar approach to branding. From so-so logos to hard to understand web sites using way too much Flash to the super cool interior design overpowering what the kitchen actually delivers.

This restaurant does a great job putting it all together. Ceviche is a dish – raw fish to be clear – that comes in many forms and is very popular in various South American cuisines. Hot peppers are a feature of many ceviche dishes. The Peruvian version is particularly famous in part because the Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine has been making an international name for itself.

The logo expresses this core offer without any ambiguity and the typography and application are both fun and slightly out of the ordinary.

This restaurant is one of many we have seen that offer awesome Japanese-Peruvian dishes. The commonalities between the two styles of cooking centre on raw fish and the many artful and save ways to prepare it. I never had sushi that was as delicious as this. The service was great, the night was lovely and we sat outside ’til late.

Causa peruana sampler
Warm and cold rolls. Delicious fusion.