ARF RE:THINK 2005. The Extension of The Concept of Brand to Cultural Event Marketing


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Paper presented at the ARF RE:THINK 2005 conference in NYC.

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ARF RE:THINK 2005. The Extension of The Concept of Brand to Cultural Event Marketing

  1. 1. The Extension of The Concept of Brand to Cultural Event Marketing By Professor Neal M. Burns Director, Center for Brand Research And Esteban Ribero Planner/ TBWA/Colombo Suiza/M.A.Candidate Department of Advertising The University of Texas at Austin ABSTRACTThe work to be presented stems from a consideration of the ways in which aclassical or traditional musical performing group may be described in terms of itsattributes and the value of employing the concept of ”brand” in such messagedevelopment. The primary target market is considered to be occasionalattendees or those not opposed to such exposure. The research effortculminates in the development of a message strategy that is both descriptive ofthe offering as well as one that resonates with the intended audience. Equallyimportant is promoting the concept of “brand”. The suggestion is made that forthe classical music performing entity their brand reflect a business strategy that isrelevant to the audiences for whom the message is intended and represents aconsideration of the positive and restraining influences that impact the targetmarket’s desire to participate.1. IntroductionThere is evidence today to support a resurgence and renewed interest inclassical performance art forms – as well as contrary evidence and examplesthat strongly suggest that symphonies, ballets, operas and chamber musicconcert attendance is declining. For example, a survey of public participation inthe arts, conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts in association withthe Bureau of the Census reported that the audience for opera has grown by 25percent over the past two decades and has attracted younger audiences (1). Onthe other hand, in January 2003 the Tulsa Philharmonic in Oklahoma, facing $1million debt, cancelled its remaining concerts for the season. Many U.S. non-profit performing arts groups face an uncertain future, according to a study ofmore than 850 arts organizations conducted by AMS Planning & Research Corpduring early October of 2004 (3). Boards and marketing managers report
  2. 2. immediate deterioration in ticket sales compared to last year, lower revenuesfrom corporate sponsorships, and the expectation of mid-term declines inphilanthropic and government support. “We have not heard from our funders yet,but we are preparing for the worst,” said one dance company executive.In all likelihood both points of view may be supported and evidence for eitherposition readily provided. This paper seeks to explore the relationship that theperception of a brand has to the perception of the cultural event or performanceand the likelihood of attendance.Our focus in this study has been on opera, although the authors believe that theanalysis holds for other “classical” music performances, cultural entertainmentevents and the venues in which they are held. In an advertising context “opera”can be considered to represent a category – or better perhaps a sub-category ofthe class of entertainment events known as music performances. Operacompanies and performance venues may then be seen and understood as“brands”; in that context the questions of attendance and audience becomeamenable to quantitative and qualitative research techniques.2. Research ObjectivesWe have chosen to approach the issues of entertainment, and Opera inparticular, as a branding issue. Brands are the superstars of the performance,product and service worlds. In performance the brands may range from YoYo Mato Kobe Bryant – in the service category from Nordstrom’s to Montgomery Ward -- and in products from Nike to Vioxx. Brands have shown themselves to be moreenduring than patents and copyrights and need no translation in worldwidecommerce. Brands do, however, require development and investment and aredifferent than merely attaching a name to the item or activity being introduced orsold. Names become Brands with the intervention of a period of time and theoccurrence of a series of events between the introduction of the name and thearrival of comprehension that the Brand exists. Brands, in this enlarged context,bring three dynamics into play. First, there is the implicit promise of a Brand. A Brand does something for its adherents—and the perception of the opera Brand must be seen by its users as being desirable and delivering value. Entertainment is an anticipated deliverable of a cultural event. • Secondly, a Brand by definition has a set of loyal customers that have used/frequented it repeatedly or for a period of time. That audience is an important part of the opera or cultural event Brand’s equity – targeted cohorts must identify with the loyal supporters of opera, frequently identified as season subscribers. • Third, Brands have a position – they mean something not only to those who use them but to those others in society who see them being used. Brands have the ability to ‘speak’ and the resulting “conversation” tells
  3. 3. us something about the user. In examining the general position of opera in the entertainment domain of people’s lives, we will measure the attributes or equities of the “opera concept” to both generate premises for re-positioning the Brand and reorganize the perceptual framework of the targets of interest. In summary, our strategic focus is to better understand the ways in which messaging and brand advertising can be constructed to improve the promise of entertainment as well as awareness and attendance at cultural events. The results of this study will assist the discovery of the existing image of opera in comparison to other competitive options and also suggest new themes and imagery that can build the Brand.3. Methodology for Entertainment Brand Study The questions we sought to answer were selected from the wide range of variables that impact the development of an entertainment brand. We wanted to know – • Why do they come to the opera or, conversely, why do they not come? • What is their expectancy of value delivered and their general perception of the category of entertainment event? • What other out-of-home entertainment do they select? How frequently do they attend and how are their favorite choices perceived?In the earliest phase of our research we conducted a survey of Austin residents,to determine their interest and participation in the arts. The survey wasadministered both on-line and in person; the person-to-person interviews wereconducted at University of Texas at Austin events. Our interest was in theentertainment events they tended to frequent. The slide that follows illustratesthose results.In this small sample it was clear that or respondents go to the symphony morefrequently than the opera or the ballet. Their attendance of the symphony isapproximately twice as much as either the ballet or the opera.The most frequent entertainment choices described by this sample were outdooractivities, bars/clubs/dance halls and movies, in that order. The subjects’ rankingof entertainment activities (between symphony, opera, ballet and plays/musicals)was as expected. Plays/musicals was the top choice, and ballet was the leastfavored. Most people ranked opera #3, with a rank of 1 representing most likelyto attend, and a rank of 4 meaning least likely. (It is interesting, however, thatalmost all respondents indicated an interest in attending opera if the tickets were“complimentary”.)These findings were than augmented with a series of focus groups to betteridentify the associations and decision making processes involved in choosingcultural events as entertainment options (Play Tape). Net, net the respondentswere open to the arts and generally were positive about opera when asked – butdid not see it as an entertainment option.
  4. 4. To understand and compare the strength of several cultural entertainmentoptions the brand board game was presented to the respondents. The “brandgame” that has been by the TBWA/Colombo Suiza advertising agency and oneof the authors of this study used his familiarity with the technique to adapt it toour on-line process. The full description and representation of this tool ispresented in the next section.Our survey next sought to use concept mapping (4,5) to understand therelationship between the terms “entertainment” and “opera”. In exploring theassociations of the terms “entertainment” and “Opera” the cognitive structure ofthe respondent may help suggest more effective messages that will assist inbrand building. The architecture of associative networks resembles a Mind Mapin that it diagrams the association among the evoked attributes of the concepts.Generally speaking, when the maps are drawn there is a visual pattern wherecognitive distance is represented. Thus, the layout has "flow", spatialawareness, and a representation of the entirety of the category – in this caseentertainment. While mind maps often tend to be artistic the map we present ismore symbolic and “mathematical”. Its organization is intended to help thereader/investigator conceptualize and integrate the category’s meaning and theways in which behavior may be operationalized.The main data collection portion of the study was launched on line with therespondents asked to perform variety of tasks. (The length of the survey didresult in some (seven percent) respondents terminating the session. The partialdata received was used however and the median responses described in theresults reflect those respondents as well as those completely finishing thesurvey.4. ResultsThe initial task of the respondents was to indicate their preference for a variety ofentertainment options. Table 2 shows that data.
  5. 5. Table 2. First Choices in EntertainmentThe respondents were then asked to describe the associations they had with thefirst choice they selected from the entertainment options. Table 3 describesthose findings: Table 3. First Choice Association Choices It was also important to understand the degree of familiarity and the frequency of participation the respondents had with the entertainment choices. The data are shown in Table 4 and generally are representative of national statistics on this topic.
  6. 6. Table 4. Frequency of Attendance Table 5: Opera AssociationsThe relatively low level of participation with the respondents concerning opera –with almost a third of our sample never attending (in fact somewhat better thannational statistics) helps explain the nature of the positive and negativeassociations for the opera event (Table 5). The contrast between the OperaAssociations and those for the First Choice (Table 3) are striking; there are – asone might expect – few if any negative associations for First Choice but severalof significance for Opera. Interestingly enough, in a related survey on operaseason subscribers completed as part of this effort, 11% of 3000 responsesindicated that the cost of the tickets and preference for other forms ofentertainment “kept them from attending.”
  7. 7. The methodology next employed a “brand game” that has been used withconsiderable success by the TBWA/Colombo Suiza advertising agency inBogota, Colombia. Essentially the respondent’s task is to place or position wellknown brands on a numbered “checkerboard” with 100 spaces. The extremepositions – Space 1 and Space 100 are adjacent to contrasting statements thatcan be applied to the brands being presented. Three brand game boards werepresented to the on-line respondents. The opposing statement sets follow. Blue Board: I generally know what they’re going to tell me <-> I would be surprised every time I meet them. Green Board: It would be boring to meet them <-> I would have a great time with them. Yellow Board: I would forget them easily <-> I would remember them after meeting them.There is a high degree of correspondence among the three boards that follow.The consistent strength of the Apple (Mac) brand is apparent. It is notunexpected (particularly given the huge I-pod success) and consistent with ourhypotheses that the well known venues will be rated highly.
  8. 8. Figure 1: Brand Excitement LevelThe brand identified as the Metropolitan Opera on all boards fares much betterthan several other brands and clearly surpasses The Dallas Opera. In the caseof “the Met” the investigators intended it to refer to the opera company but thephysical structure of the Lincoln Center is also often called the Met. In any casethe equity of the Metropolitan Opera brand is clear in the results of this exercise.In all three boards one of the most well-known and highly recognizable logos,apparently leaves little new to be discovered or understood. The brand Coca-Cola generally well understood (Fig. 1), is only surpassed in the lack of interest itevokes by The Dallas Opera (Fig. 2) and, of course, is memorable and one ofwhich our respondents were well aware Fig. 3).
  9. 9. Figure 2: Brand Interest Level
  10. 10. Figure 3: Brand Memorability/Awareness
  11. 11. It was from these observations and our survey described earlier in this sectionthat the mind maps and associative networks were constructed. Figure 4: Associative Network: Entertainment
  12. 12. Figure 5: Associative Network: Opera
  13. 13. Figure 6: Associative Network: Preferred Entertainment and Opera Figure 7: Associative Network: Entertainment and Opera
  14. 14. Figure 8: Associative Network: Strategic Option4. Summary and ConclusionsOpera has become infused into and reflects popular culture. Groups like TheThree Tenors, composed of Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carrera and PlacidoDomingo, have sold millions of records and taken opera to totally new venues.Yet, while the superstars have tremendous appeal and the classic reputation ofthe Met continues its public perception as an entity of interest, memorability andexcitement other opera companies and classical performing groups languish in astate of public non-involvement.An Opera company can be perceived and presented as a Brand. Just as astrong brand identification is developed for beer or running shoes – the authorsbelieve Opera companies deserve no less. In our studies we find that each ofthe market segments of interest currently has a generalized perception of theOpera and the experience such performances deliver. This perception andanticipation functions as a definition for Opera. While those generalizedperceptions may not be the Brand definition or set of equities the management ofan Opera company might have chosen – it is the Brand definition their targetaudience currently embraces. We believe that there are three major componentsto the “opera” concept; the content, the venue and the company. In theaggregate these three components generate the response to the “opera” or
  15. 15. classical performance concept. The following discussion addresses each ofthese classical performance components. Equally important as the brand of“opera” is redefined is to increase the association with “opera” and other classicalperformance events with the considered set of activities generally known as“entertainment”. A major finding here is that such is not the case currently.The associative network results just shown describe the disconnect that existsbetween the concept of entertainment and Opera. The presence of negativeassociations with the “opera” concept represents barriers that need to beunderstood and then overcome. The positive evoked activities that areassociated with “entertainment” clearly illustrate the views that correspond withattendance figures and the conventional wisdom. In examining “opera” and itsassociations however, in addition to the obstacles that need to be overcomesome significant personal and relevant message possibilities emerge. The sensethat “opera” delivers emotional content and insight that may serve as metaphorsfor the listener’s contemporary life is a strong direction for message direction.The promise of an “enriching experience” (Figure 7) is a strong promise for anybrand. Jealousy, desperation, joy, hope and the other associations mentioned infigures 5,6 and 7 are frequent themes in classic opera as well as the work oftoday’s composers (e.g., Dead Man Walking, Nixon in China). Brands developfollowings because what they deliver is considered relevant to theiraudience/adherents. The message building suggested from this study is thataudience increase will occur as those members of their public somewhat curiousregarding opera – or persuadable – realize that opera is about their world. Earlyin our study we reported that those respondents that had never gone to the operawere interested in seeing a performance – albeit with a free ticket. Yet, such aresponse may be interpreted as a willingness to explore this aspect ofentertainment.Finances for brand development are critical and sustaining the brand and theaddition of a contemporary marketing and advertising program will help producewell attended seasons and also help attract funding from enterprises previouslyun-approached. Strengthening community involvement and visibility helps buildand maintain the brand’s presence. Clearly the education and communityprograms initiated by many operatic and symphonic companies have addressedthe “hard to understand” association “opera” frequently elicited in our study aswell as helping to build an appreciation for the art form and increase audiences.In this fashion opera and classical performing groups address the “content”aspect of their “brand”.The “dark’ non-performing periods associated with an opera “season” need to beaugmented and used to give exposure to the Hall (performance venue) and theperforming entity. The development of the Internet offers a new opportunity toreach young and adult audiences with educational material that helps them toenjoy opera, regardless of their level of experience.
  16. 16. Finally, not only does the existence of a brand means something to theenterprise itself, but it can, under some circumstances, serve to revitalize theenterprise’s volunteers and staff. Re-positioning the entertainment value andbreadth of appeal of Opera in a visible and exciting fashion will serve to energizeall those who administer and help deliver the product. The sense that “things aredifferent” will call for new and energetic attitudes from those working with Opera.Their sense of pride and accomplishment and the increased public appreciationand respect they will receive are important components of the success of theproposed program. That staff pride is also one of the benefits of branddevelopment.In conclusion, the brand – Opera – in all aspects must be perceived asentertainment. A “good time” is integral to the entertainment experience – theevent and its anticipation are to be evocative of enjoyment – from valet parking(an amenity to be considered when possible) to the program itself. It is, as ourdata shows, part of the definition of entertainment – and, a good time is not inconflict with the intellectual and emotional connections and rewards Operadelivers. It is all part of entertainment..
  17. 17. Bibliography1. American Participation in Opera and Musical Theater. National Endowment for the Arts, Research Division, 32. Seven Locks Press, 1995.2. American Participation In Theater National Endowment For The Arts, AMS Planning & Research Corp., Seven Locks Press, 1996.3. 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. AMS /National Endowment For The Arts, Research Division, 46. 2004.4. Buzan, T. The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brains Untapped Potential, Penguin Books, New York.
  18. 18. APPENDIX 1 On –line Survey Instrument1. Please rank [place the number of your choice, 1=first choice, etc in the box] thethree (please select only three) out of home cultural activities that you consider themost entertaining from the list below. Going to hear a band Attending a classic music concert Attending a ballet Going to watch a movie Going to a party Going to an art exposition Going to a play Attending an opera Going to a good restaurant Dancing Going to a bar Traveling Shopping Attending a sports event2. Now, please rank from the following list the three (again, please select only three)attributes that you consider are most descriptive of your first choice from the list ofcultural activities above. Envy Hard to understand Enjoyable Complex Stimulating An enriching experience Distant Emotive
  19. 19. Joy Excitement Rage Boring Love/Passion Hope For older people Desperation Jealousy Terribly expensive3. Now, please select from the following list the three (again, please select only three)attributes that you consider are most descriptive of your experience - or anticipatedexperience – in going to the Opera. Envy Hard to understand Enjoyable Complex Stimulating An enriching experience Distant Emotive Joy Excitement Rage Boring Love/Passion Hope For older people Desperation Jealousy Terribly expensive