The blank white page. The blinking cursor. The email/text/Facebook pings constantly distracting you, along with the thousand other projects looming that keep zipping through your mind. Time is ticking! You’ll tackle those things later. Back to the white page and taunting cursor you go. You’re immersed in your arts organization, you know every nuance in-and-out. Yet, you’re struggling to write content without your mind wandering. If you can’t focus, how are you going to capture the attention of a current or potential patron?
That wasn’t autobiographical at all (cough, cough.) The Art League is a busy, multi-faceted organization. 60+ years since our inception, our fine art school enrolls over 7,000 students annually, filling over 10,000 class seats in 1,000+ classes and workshops with 100+ instructors and guest artists. Our gallery installs 35+ exhibits annually, engages 1,000+ exhibiting artists, and attracts 72,000+ visitors. I won’t even go into the countless events, special exhibits, and amazing outreach programs we offer. We accomplish all of this with a small staff, and a tiny communications and marketing team of two.
Everyone’s time is at a premium. It’s more important than ever to catch the attention of current and prospective patrons with strong images and compelling content. When scrolling through an endless sea of posts on Facebook, what makes you pause, click, or share?
You know it when you see it, but how do you articulate it? Experts say to create content that’s engaging. But, what does that even mean?
Watch these two commercials. The first is a Tide commercial from the 1950s:
Now, watch this recent P&G commercial (watch till the end. It’s worth it):
These clips perfectly demonstrate the difference between interruption marketing and emotional permission marketing, past and present. The 1950s Tide commercial is straight up selling to the viewer (think of an OxyClean commercial as the modern day equivalent). There were only a handful of channels in the ‘50s, so channel surfing wasn’t a thing. Without a DVR, or second (or third) screen to distract the viewer, companies could to sell to you unapologetically, and you had to watch.
Now it’s a whole new ball game. Organizations have to be creative if they want a fighting chance at grabbing your attention. This P&G commercial tells a story. There’s some very subtle product placement, but they aren’t selling us Tide, or telling us how it will make our whites whiter. They don’t verbally tell us anything, actually. They show us that P&G products (and more importantly, the amazing moms around the world) are the supporting cast to our busy lives – there day-to-day, aiding us in our pursuit of excellence. If you got a little teary eyed by the end and reached for the phone to call your mom, know that you aren’t alone.
This kind of emotional marketing is inherently riveting and what we seek to achieve in all our campaigns at The Art League.
Sure, people come to us because they want to learn to paint, draw, sculpt, or refine their already strong skills. But, what else are they looking for? In the communications department, we want to tap into the psyche of those who are drawn to the visual arts. What are they seeking in an Art League experience, aside from the obvious? What is it beyond the tangible that they want to gain? Is it an experience, achievement, or feeling? Or are they looking to escape something? They may not even be consciously aware of what it is that they’re looking for.
Here’s an example from our Fall 2015 campaign, “endless summer”:
Those who know me know that I adore summer and dread the arrival of fall. To me, summer is light and carefree. Going on vacation and taking personal time comes along with the season. Our bodies and souls are restored by sun and surf. Life is a little slower. Fall signals the end of all of that. Back to routine, back to work. Fun is off the menu. I’ve always wondered: why are we only allotted one season to really enjoy ourselves? This is silly. I can’t be alone in feeling this way.
Turns out I wasn’t.
By the end of four weeks, our endless summer Facebook campaign yielded 188 conversions with a ROI of 1,662%.
Our display campaign had a ROI of over 2,000%.
These hugely successful results weren’t attained by incessant, aggressive calls-to-action. They were achieved by thoughtfully connecting to our audience’s desire to bring the creative energy of summer into their daily lives.
With each campaign, we strive to tap into how people are feeling, or what's going on in their lives at that given time, while capturing the soul and personality of our organization through copy and imagery. Whenever I feel stuck when coming up with a concept or copy for a campaign, and I’m staring at the blank white screen and blinking cursor, I watch that P&G commercial. It reminds me to connect through emotions and create a story.
We’ve discovered that “thing” people are searching for, and I bet it’s what your patrons are searching for, too – something to feed their soul.
Erica presented Digital Marketing Boot Camp for the Arts in 2016. Learn more about her presentation: It's An Art: How Digital Marketing Increased Sales by 7%.