We have become very good at marketing.
We have a grasp on social media, some more than others. We know how to buy ads. We know how to maintain websites. We know how to do promotion via email.
In fact, we have become so good at those things that we have gotten the max out of them. We all feel the diminished returns. It's so hard to break through the clutter. All the arts marketing out there is so clean. So competent.
In fact, our arts marketing has become so good that it's damn invisible.
The issue, of course, is that the needs that created marketing in the first place still remain. Tickets still need to be sold. Exhibitions still need spectators. The market still awaits.
To go from invisible to visible we have to go to the future.
The future of marketing is storytelling.
Wait. Did you just roll your eyes?
Can't blame you if you did. I know you've heard that marketing is storytelling stuff before. Now every product you see is inviting you to "join our journey" and "hear our story".
That's because we are still learning the difference between storytelling and spin.
Let me tell you a story.
Those are powerful words because they make you want to know what happens next. If you already think you know what's going to happen next, you aren't interested in the story.
So if your story is about how great every show is, how wonderful all your artists are and how beautiful life in the arts is . . . that's not a story. That's spin.
For a story to work, the storyteller has to have some credibility. I think the way to get that credible space is by adding a journalistic element to your marketing.
As an example, let's look at what Coca Cola (!) has planned. Check out this article in the NY Times. They are revamp their web site and restructuring their digital marketing team to look "more like the editorial team at a long lead magazine". They have even expressed a willingness to publish content which may not look upon the brand favorably, i.e. an article by NYC Mayor Bloomberg talking about his size ban on cola.
They are hiring 40 freelance writers and journalist and telling them to act as "newshounds".
Now maybe this will not all pan out. Maybe they will not gain the credibility they need to pull this off, but we should all look carefully at what they are saying. It goes back to the point at the beginning of this post.
Coke is great at marketing. Hell, they damn near invented modern marketing. And they are saying that it isn't enough.
They need journalism, storytelling and credibility to sell sugar water.
Maybe we need more of it in the arts.