Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dealing with the Data

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on..................."
Some research that raises questions for our strategies:
According to the Pew Research Center, households headed by older adults have made dramatic gains in economic well-being relative to those headed by younger adults over the last 25 years.

"The typical household headed by adults over 65 had 47 times as much net wealth as one headed by adults under 35 -- $170,494 versus $3,662 (all figures expressed in 2010 dollars). Back in 1984, this ratio had been less lopsided, at ten-to-one. In absolute terms, the oldest households in 1984 had a median net wealth $108,936 higher than that of the youngest households. In 2009, the gap had widened to $166,832.
The median net worth of older and younger households moved in opposite directions between 1984 and 2009. Older households gained 42% in median net worth while net worth for younger households fell by 68%. These age-based divergences widened substantially with the housing market collapse of 2006, the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and the ensuing jobless recovery. But this gap began appearing decades earlier, suggesting that it is linked to long-term demographic and social changes as much as it is to recent economic stagnation.
Housing has been the main driver of the household wealth gap. Compared with their counterparts in 1984, rising home equity has been the linchpin of the higher wealth of older households in 2009. Declining home equity has had the opposite effect on younger households."

This raises several questions:  
1) In terms of financial support, are older Americans then the best likely prime target for the foreseeable future?  Is the same true for audience development or are the two apples and oranges?
2) Though I don't think we can automatically conclude that younger cohorts will not be generous in their giving patterns nor that we should not cultivate them for both the short and long term, given their economic situation, how do we adjust our strategies?  
3) Is pricing (more than other considerations) more of an issue for younger households as they struggle economically ?  (and thus do we need to ramp up our thinking in terms of alternate delivery systems for our products)? 

In short, what precisely are the priorities of each generation in terms of our offerings?  Do we have sufficient data on different generational concerns - including different geographical and demographic differences with same set generational cohorts?  And does our marketing take these variables into consideration?

II.  This also from Pew - research on the precipitous decline in marriage:
"In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are. If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years. Other adult living arrangements-including cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood-have all grown more prevalent in recent decades.
The Pew Research analysis also finds that the number of new marriages in the U.S. declined by 5% between 2009 and 2010, a sharp one-year drop that may or may not be related to the sour economy."

While we continue the inquiry into the motivation of why our audiences do or do not attend our events (including the intangibles of depth and breadth of experience etc.), are we ignoring the more basic issue of knowing more about who are audience really is?  Do we assume (perhaps erroneously) the most of the seats at our performances are occupied by "couples"? Is our marketing premised on that assumption?  What percentage of our audiences are singles - alone or in groups?  Is there any difference, quantifiable or otherwise, between the attendance / spending patterns of married couples v. co-habitators or other living arrangement couples or singles (recognizing that younger singles act socially in packs)?  Does our marketing take any of this into consideration?  Does the trend towards accessing art via technology reflect the growing singles market - as perhaps it is less appealing for singles to attend performances by themselves (and it would be interesting to know how attendance at movies relates to this issue)? Is the philanthropic giving of couples (irrespective of how defined) and singles vastly different?  

I suppose the problem with research is there is too much to study, too many variables to take into consideration, and (especially because our resources are limited) that it is very difficult to fit all the pieces into a coherent whole, but the base of all the research we do must ultimately start with building on our knowledge base of precisely who are audiences are, and the data that most directly impacts how we might expand that group.  Are the current audiences who we think they are?  

Shifts in marriage and generational income are but two of probably scores of markers that may impact the success of our strategies.  Within each of just those two threads, there are doubtless questions of differences in patterns based on ethnicity, geography, education level, gender and more.  What don't we know?

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays.

Don't Quit.