“Our reservations team spoke with a potential customer asking about the age restrictions for the zipline… She was 92 and wanted to bring her children with her for her birthday. It took a few seconds to realise her children would be seniors too, but they came and had a fantastic time! For us, it really opened our eyes to a whole new world of customers we hadn’t previously engaged with”.
Christchurch Adventure Park
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Many organisations are audience focused and want to offer what is relevant to audiences. A question I often get is how to ask audiences what they want.
Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as that. People find it really hard to express what they want or even know what they want. A popular quote is Steve Jobs (in turn quoting Henry Ford):
“Some people say give the customers what they want, but that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d ask customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.“
So how do we figure out what people want? Well, we have to do the hard work of understanding them, their life, what is relevant to them and how we fit in their lives. Put the focus on “understanding what people want to accomplish, not necessarily how they want to accomplish it”. Often conversations can reveal more than just looking at data (Harvard Business Review). This sets the basis for developing ideas and offers, which can then be shown to audiences for their reaction.
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With Auckland currently going in and out of lockdowns and inspired by a blog post by Christina Lister Comms in the UK (thank you Christina) I thought it might be helpful to list the research that’s available about audiences and Covid.
Thank you to all the organisations that are so generously making their data available for free.
Most relevant (not just in a New Zealand context) I found:
Culture Segments and Covid Audience Mindsets: Useful for those working with Culture Segments and Audience Atlas, MHM have looked into how the segments engaged during lockdowns and their attitudes to re-engaging after openings. Attitudes to re-engaging seem to be roughly in line with the segments’ general attitude to taking risk with culture. If you are new to Culture Segments, check them out here.
Secondary reopening trends for visitor attractions: In a live video on 24 Feb 2021, Dexibit shared trends in 2021 for visitor attractions who are reopening: the latest on visitation recovery, visitor behaviour like attrition and spend and what to expect for the rest of the year. Dexibit also offer the Recovery Index, a free dashboard that allows you to compare your visitation to the equivalent time last year and rate of recovery and put it into context globally and locally.
COVID-19 Audience Outlook Monitor Australia: This is a three-phase study by Patternmakers in partnership with international research partner WolfBrown. It tracks how audiences feel about returning to events in the context of the pandemic and was conducted in May, July and September 2020, with three more phases planned for 2021. It includes data about audience attitudes and behaviours, and how they are changing over time with indicators like attendance, ticket buying and spending, and measures things like comfort at different types of venues and confidence in different safety measures. It includes an interesting fact sheet on disability.
Interesting data from other parts of the world – UK:
Culture Restart is a national tracker of cultural audiences and visitors during Covid-19 by the Insights Alliance, a collaboration by Indigo Ltd, Baker Richards and One Further. With several surveys since October 2020, it supports cultural organisations in planning for reopening, including the appeal of digital content and willingness to pay for it, both before and after re-opening.
Indigo’s recent After the Interval and Act 2 surveys asked UK audience members about their attitudes to missing live events during Covid-19, how they were engaging with culture during lockdown and when they anticipated returning to live events in the future.
The Family Arts Campaign and Indigo have worked together to look specifically at family audiences. There are a few key areas in which families differ significantly, these are price sensitivity, social distancing, digital content, outdoors and Christmas.
Indigo also released a special report on disabled audiences. The headline finding is that “77% of disabled audiences consider themselves to be ‘vulnerable to Coronavirus’ whilst only 28% of non-disabled audiences do”.
LaPlaca Cohen shares Culture + Community in a Time of Crisis: A Special Edition of Culture Track, a national research and strategy initiative for US cultural organisations with Key Findings documents, raw data tables and an interactive tool.
And Colleen Dilenschneider shares data from Impact’s research with US visitor attractions in a Covid-19 section on her Know Your Own Bone blog.
Lastly, you might want to conduct your own research. But what if there is no budget to outsource research? Well, with some careful planning it can also be done in-house. MHM helpfully shared their 5 tips to get the most from in-house evaluation:
Starting thinking about evaluation early
Start by asking — what are you trying to achieve?
Take an audience-focused approach
Mix your methods to cover a range of outcomes
Push for objectivity – challenge your assumptions
Have you come across other useful data? I’d love to expand the list and share what you found useful. Please get in touch.
How do these changes impact expectations on brands?
New research shows how the pandemic impacts core human needs – and what this means for brands.
The study has been conducted by Firefish, an insight agency I know from my time at Tate in the past. The research gives some relevant and interesting insights into what people across different generations are looking for in this time and how brands can help meet some of those needs. While done in the US, I think a lot of this is relevant here and applicable to cultural organisations.
Unsurprisingly the research reflects how dramatically life has changed across most aspects and for all generations. The basic human need of safety dominates currently, followed by Wellbeing.
The re-priorisation of needs leads to expectations people have from brands and these might influence a company’s reputation in the longterm. People see through marketing and how organisations act in a crisis can reveal how much they actually live up to their values.
People have expectations of brands, the research shows that in the main, people expect brands to:
step up and do something – this can be either helping directly or, if that’s not possible, providing a platform for help
show compassion, starting with staff
contribute to lightening the conversation
The report finishes with a more detailed and practical summary of ‘where brands can help to meet evolving needs’. It seems to me that most of these findings can easily be interpreted for arts organisations (and many organisations have already provided activities in some of these areas).
What do you think? Does your experience in recent weeks correspond with these findings?
Bring everyone to the same level of understanding;
Incorporate data into all planning processes (not just marketing);
Develop measurable objectives and metrics for success;
Continuously gather market data and update plans accordingly;
Take advantage of the predictive power of data;
Look at market research as an investment rather than a cost; and
Are actively shifting the organization’s culture
For me no7 is bringing it all together – a culture change. This is about attitudes to data, but I think behind this needs to be a positive attitude and approach to people – eventually it is not about data, but about our visitors, audience, customers, whatever we choose to call them, and about understanding them and showing empathy.
BTW, I realise I didn’t post Colleen’s third blog, here it is if you want to complete the series and hear about common cognitive biases to data: Accepting Data Can Be Hard
2/4 of Colleen Dilenschneider’s steps to a data informed cultural organisation
Here is step 2 of Colleen Dilenschneider’s path to becoming a data informed cultural organisation: Data interpretation.
From my experience working at Tate, I support the suggested need for data advocates 100%. Research and data alone are not enough to become data informed, you need to bring the data to life. It requires a lot activation to get people to understand, embrace and eventually act on research findings.
Investing in insight is great, but investing in its activation will get you the return.
As Colleen suggests, data needs:
an insider, who knows what the findings mean
a storyteller, who shares the story that the data tells
Museums Aotearoa released a new report that brings together academic research with data collected from New Zealand museums and their visitors to answer the question “What value do museums, art galleries and heritage properties contribute to Aotearoa New Zealand?”.
Drawing on draws on a decade of visitor surveys at New Zealand’s museums and referencing international research, it shows how cultural institutions are making an active contribution to cultural well-being, social cohesion and the economy in addition to their vital role as kaitiaki of knowledge and tāonga.
A diverse audience is a much proclaimed goal for many cultural organisations, and rightly so. Public arts organisations need to be relevant to a broad population in order to be sustainable and funded long term. This means striving for an audience that is representative of the population.
The upcoming NZ census will tell us more about the ever-increasing diversity of the NZ population and with the update of the Audience Atlas by MHM and Creative NZ due in a few months, we will be able to compare cultural audiences with the population and understand the opportunities and challenges.