Embracing Brand Disloyalty

April 06, 2018

With the exception of, perhaps, Cheez-It’s, I don’t think I have been loyal to any one brand throughout my life and this is due to a variety of factors:

  • In college I wore Chuck Taylors exclusively but as I grew up my tastes in footwear have, thankfully, expanded.
  • While I prefer to fly American to rack up points, if there is a more convenient option, I’m usually going to choose that.
  • I will buy my coffee at whichever Dunkin’, Starbucks, etc. is the closest in vicinity to wherever I am.
  • The price point of Ikea used to mean it was the only way I could furnish my apartment, but as my income has grown, I’ve been able to add some nicer pieces from places like West Elm and Crate & Barrel.

I would suspect that many of you have very similar sorts of experiences and relationships with brands. Tastes, preferences, convenience, budget, etc. all factor into why on some days you may prefer one product or experience over another. Unsurprisingly, performing arts patrons are continually dealing with these same feelings and reactions about the organizations in their neighborhoods.

Building an audience base that attends frequently and continually is important. This piece isn’t to convince you to stop caring about loyalty. However, I wonder if a shift in perspective about arts organizations as a whole would be a benefit to the industry. Rather than viewing the theatre company, performance venue, or concert series across town as competition for time and money, what if those organizations were viewed as partners in building a community of brand disloyal arts patrons?

Just because I’m going to whichever coffee shop saves me the most time, it doesn’t mean I don’t love coffee, or just because I can afford a nice new couch doesn’t mean I now don’t need and love my $40 coffee table. Is it possible to find arts patrons who think similarly? People who love live performances but are going to select their art based on what works with their schedule, budget, or tastes at any given moment; rather than the art produced or presented by branded organization? If a person can be cultivated to be a lover of the arts in your community, and possibly even other communities, they become an asset to every organization in the community–in terms of not only their financial contribution but also their ambassadorship for the arts as a whole. Rising tides raise all ships.

With this idea in mind, why not invest in creative ideas to encourage crossover between your organizations? Sharing lists, exchanging promo materials/ads in the lobby or programs, and offering to share the occasional discount are common practices, but they are only a start. Could your artistic teams meet to discuss similarities in the season and, through those conversations, create cross-organization ticket packages? For example, this is the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein and many organizations are celebrating that by programming his work.

Events like this could be a stimulus to encourage cross-organizational attendance. Could you collaborate with the service organizations, chamber of commerce, or tourism boards in your community to develop experiences around attendance at many organizations? Perhaps this turns into regular “open house” events designed to get people visiting (but not necessarily attending performances at) various organizations over a week or weekend. You could even steal some retail ideas and re-purpose them for the arts, such as a “disloyalty” card where after a certain number of visits to a variety of organizations, there is a reward.

This sort of work feels different and innovative and, as with all innovation, it takes a shift in thinking and lot of hard work.  However, I believe there are limitless possibilities for positioning not just your organization but also your community as a place where the arts are celebrated. Even if the audiences are attending your organization irregularly, they are still deeply in love and fiercely loyal to the cultural opportunities your area provides them, and you should embrace this passion. In the end, your organization will benefit by having to do less work to find new audiences members.

JCA Arts Marketing collaborates with cultural organizations to increase revenue, boost attendance and membership, and grow patron loyalty. We provide consulting and software services to hundreds of cultural institutions across multiple genres, including dance, museums, opera, performing arts centers, symphony, and theatre. We can help you achieve your marketing goals.