The Fat Lady Singing

I connected with Kate at The Audience Business on LinkedIn today. That isn’t her singing by the way.

“Hi, Kate,

Many thanks for connecting on LinkedIn.

I’m a former freelance orchestral percussionist and classical concert promoter, now immersed in digital marketing, some of it for Arts organizations. I have one foot on the stage and another in the marketing department.

I’ve attended and spoken at AMA conferences and events in the past and I retain a passion for understanding the influences and influencers that affect arts event attendance.

I once shared a platform with Owen Pringle (formerly of the South Bank Centre and now at Amnesty). He told me that the average age of concert-goers at the Royal Festival Hall hasn’t changed since 1953. (it’s 49 apparently). Sadly, this suggests that all attempts since, to change this, have failed.

I also attended an ABO conference at which Joseph Kluger (Former Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra) said that he had given up on trying to attract new people between the ages of 20 and 35. He said that the return on marketing investment was just not viable compared to attracting other age groups. There were too many more attractive leisure alternatives and limited leisure time (young children, long working hours etc) “We’ll get them later” he said … presumably when they are 49!

It highlighted to me the broad and untapped range of 49 year old culturally-aware non-attenders. (There are apparently only 30,000 regular concert goers in the whole of London). Sadly this untapped audience often comes up against inaccessible, daunting modern art that may well be ‘challenging’ to the cognoscenti but which is a foreign language from a faraway land for most. The Eroica Symphony will be ‘challenging’ to a 50 year old Londoner who has never before set foot in a concert hall. So it’s a programming issue as well as an awareness and engagement one.

Today, digital communications, the heady possibilities of social media and social influence marketing make reaching and engaging this hidden audience much easier. You just need to identify your super peers and get them to do your marketing for you.

It worked for AquaFresh. They learned that their super peers were women aged between 16 and 25. They trust and share more than most apparently. So they created a website that attracted those women and contacted those they already had details for. They then sent them bucket loads of sample product, invited those women to share the product with friends and then ask those friends to provide feedback on a dedicated website. 1.4 million did just that, spending an average of 6 minutes on the site doing so. 95% also asked to be involved in future trials directly.

I’m currently capitalizing on my unusual stance between the Arts and the social media phenomenon to help organizations who need new audiences and who are understandably failing to attract the least interested down the line of most resistance.

I did a talk on this recently which you can find here:

If this is a subject or area that has relevance for you at The Audience Business I’d be happy to chat futher.

Kind regards,


I’m looking forward to both her reply and to your comments here

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Leon Benjamin reminded me recently that we are now in Business 3.0 and it’s all about you and me.

Leon defined Business 1.0 as the stage during which countries started to colonize and expand globally.

Business 2.0 was the stage during which companies and organizations started doing this. An international industrial revolution.

Business 3.0 marks a significant shift to C2C. It’s an environment in which organizations have ceded control to consumers and their brands’ success is increasingly dependent on the opinion of consumers and their propensity to share their good opinion.

Word of Mouth is nothing new of course but the comparative ease with which we can now share our ideas and opinions has had the effect of moving control away from brands to their consumers. It is now possible to wreck the reputation of a brand in less than an hour. I’m surprised we don’t see more attempts at Twitter Terrorism.

The numbers underline the trend:

94% of consumers trust word of mouth expressed over social networks (Forrester)

84% of B2B buyers say that word of mouth over social networks is the #1 purchase influencer.

According to the Harvard Business Review, generating positive sentiment in social networks is 15 times more cost-effective than traditional forms of marketing.

77% of marketers plan to increase levels of invest in social influence marketing. (eMarketer)


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I’ve only recently become aware of the story that broke in July about United Airlines, a broken guitar, a YouTube hit. (Thanks James)

If you missed the story, United Airlines passenger Dave Carroll had his $3,500 Taylor guitar destroyed by the airline’s baggage handlers during a flight last year. After United repeatedly declined to reimburse him for the damage, he wrote a now-famous song decrying their customer service and their brand. It was very funny, clever and completely justified.

Within 4 days of the song going live, millions of people had watched the brand-bashing video and United’s stock price has dropped 10%: It’s unlikely that the video caused the drop. It had been dropping along with other airline stock for many months.

However, as I write, over 5.7m people have watched the original video on YouTube and it has spawned 686 copycat videos … all derogatory. If you search Google for “United Airlines” the damaging video is in the first page of results and top of the video results.

It’s difficult to agree with Chris Ayres’ suggestion that the video alone cost United $180m (10% of its market cap) but it’s clearly not an outcome that United would have wished for.

Flip this over and look at the Sony Bravia TV commercial that showed 250,000 coloured balls bouncing down the streets of San Francisco. Over 4m people have “chosen” to watch it on YouTube over the last 3 years and 500,000 have watched the “making” of the commercial. For a while back there it was the most “remembered” TV commercial in the US. But it was never broadcast in the States. Everyone was watching it on YouTube. It was a viral success and free of charge.

What a difference. Equally impactful, both positively and negatively. Do you have any other illuminating case studies?


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