Monday, December 7, 2009

December 6, 2009


Hello everyone.

"And the beat goes on................"


Christmas is the retail holy grail. Manufacturers and retailers gear up for a hefty percentage of their annual sales during the post Thanksgiving through Christmas sell-a-thon. No matter what you are selling in America – cars or clothes, electronics or candy, movies or books – the Holiday period is critical to your annual sales projections. Everybody is in the game. For some, like the toy industry, the November / December sales account for over half the total annual volume. Why then don’t the arts have more of a holiday strategy? I don't get it. Why have the arts essentially abdicated even vying for what might be its rightful piece of this lucrative marketplace?

Except for maybe ballet companies with their Nutcracker performances (which may, in fact, account for a sizable percentage of their annual performance revenues), and perhaps some symphonies or other music groups that do count on holiday performances, for most of the arts, Christmas is just another time of the year. More emphasis is likely put on trying to solicit end of the year philanthropic gifts than trying to market goods and services as part of the holiday crush.

Shouldn’t we be thinking more outside the box on this and perhaps consider positioning the arts (visual or performance based) as more of a “gift” item and a thus a perfect holiday product? We talk so much about collaboration, why then aren’t there slick catalogs (sponsored and paid for by a consortium of local arts groups) sent direct mail that attractively tantalize gift givers with a menu of local based dance, theater, music and other arts performances (single or ‘series’) as well as museum and other exhibition options? Why isn't there a local Holiday Arts Website offering arts gifts online?

Why isn’t there a “sampler” arts gift card that would give the purchaser a choice of one or more performance across discipline lines during the winter and spring period – perhaps one dance, one theater and one music performance? Or a Dance Gift Card Sampler - with a choice of one ballet, one modern / jazz and one ethnic dance company performance? Why don’t we do more to position the arts as a very good children's gift option for the holidays? Why don't we package different and varied arts performances into appealing bundles? Why aren’t there cross promotions between the arts and say the credit cards (American Express, Visa etc.) or even certain large retailers (Macy’s Walmart)? Why don’t the arts rent some cheap available space during the holidays (much as retailers now do for Halloween) and aggregate local arts organizations and artists for one stop Holiday shopping? We see more “green choices”, more social justice donating options – all kinds of sectors getting into the holiday competition. Why then do we remain so on the sidelines during this key retail period?

There is yet another new online retailing website that is seemingly doing well this year – This site employs local based social networking with retailing, and takes the discount “coupon” idea a step further (hence the name). The idea is simple, it offers local “deals” with substantial discounts and if a threshold floor number of site visitors (it has a huge email list and site visits already) accept the offer then the deal is a go. Actually a site called has been doing a version of this kind of retailing for awhile. So a Symphony might offer 250 tickets at a 30% discount, and if 250 purchasers accept -- then the deal is done. I assume the site gets a percentage or fee. The customer gets a deep discount. The Symphony sells tickets it might otherwise not (and not just for current performances – but perhaps for performances scheduled in the near term future), and perhaps gets new first time audience members. Win – win. The arts should not only be jumping on this opportunity, we should be exploring what other kinds of social networking retailing opportunities we might create for ourselves - including such things as corporate sponsored subsidy of free or discounted admissions - e.g., Target Stores' Free Tuesday Museum Days.

Last year I asked why there was no arts “gift” card available in my local supermarket along with the now scores of other cards – from restaurants and movie theaters to department and specialty stores. A couple of you pointed out that there are, at least, versions of such cards in some of our markets. I still don’t see any individual (or consortium type) symphony, opera, theater or dance company gift card in my area. And again this year, if there were one I would certainly give it as a Christmas gift.

So why don’t we do more of this? Why haven’t we positioned the arts as a key Holiday retail product and built on that premise each year? The only reason I can think of is that no one organization thinks it has the time or other resources to develop effective entry and participation into this highly competitive market, and there are no national organizations or funders that see it as their role to either take this on or help facilitate local efforts. Will no one even try? Do we really need huge investment research studies about how consumers perceive arts experiences to take a gamble on basic level entry into this market? If we will not even take a shot here, that is a shame, because I think we have a highly competitive product, and that if we just spent more of an effort to position that product and market it effectively as part of the Holiday retail game, we could make this retail period work for us. Consumers are looking for other gifting options – and we are actually relatively affordable. “Give the gift of the experience of art” could be a very marketable strategy if we just worked on it in groups. We already have networks (mailing and email lists, newsletters and blogs, and point of purchase audiences) that we could effectively exploit to build a retail customer base target group. We have the product. I think we have the market too.

Too late this year of course, but come February it would be a very good idea for local area marketing people across all the arts disciplines to sit down for a meeting and talk and brainstorm about how they might work together to position their products for the 2010 Holiday Season. Perhaps local arts agencies could help facilitate that kind of gathering. What do we have to lose – other than huge sales?

NOTE: In mid-January Westaf is switching this blog to a new platform that we hope will allow greater options in the layout and look as well as tracking of the number of people who read the blog.

Because of spamming regulations, when we switch over, all current subscribers will be asked to re-subscribe. You will be sent a notification with an easy click button so that re-subscribing to the blog platform switchover will be very simple and easy.

I hope all of you will do that. I want to keep you as subscribers. In blogs coming before the end of the year, I will also put on a link so that you might subscribe to the new site before January. Thank you. I appreciate your support very much.

Have a nice week.

Don’t Quit!