Transparency Rules OK


It’s not going to be an astounding revelation to any of us but Nielsen’s latest Global Online Consumer Survey shows that word of mouth is the most powerful form of communication when it comes to getting people to trust your brand. No fanfares there.

What I think is interesting is the second highest result in this league table of “trusted sources” – ‘Consumer opinions posted online’. The opinions of strangers posted on online forums and review sites are now incredibly powerful portals for gaining consumer trust, and there’s not a thing the brands can do about it! Although I do wonder if this will provoke some corporations into trying to infiltrate the message boards… My advice? Focus on good CRM and values that you believe in and stick to and let the quality of your product shine through, and this fits perfectly well with cultural organisations too. The consumer (audience) is king!

Changing consumer behaviour in recessionary times

That great monitor of our spending behaviour – Experian (of credit checking and geo-demographic profiling Mosaic) has been investigating impacts of the recession on consumer behaviour:

Check out their report here.

The watchwords are value and customer service – if you don’t provide it then your lovely loyal consumers may shop elsewhere!

Research thinkings from the AMA conference

copright Hal Mayforth

copyright Hal Mayforth

I attended the AMA conference for the first time this year.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but was looking forward to hearing some new ideas which I might be able to bring to AL’s research team, and getting a better understanding of how arts organisations market their wares (even if it meant missing Eastenders for two days).  So, here’s my take on the AMA conference with my Research Officer hat on (and it turns out not a lot happened in Albert Square in my absence anyway).

One of the many areas Diane Ragsdale spoke about was the audience’s potential role as co-producers rather than consumers;  but to what extent does your audience want to co-produce?  Understanding them should help ensure any projects based around audience co-production meet the expectations of that audience.  This relates to the idea that it’s core to have clarity about who you’re serving and why – then you can think about how to reach them.  And how do you understand your audience?  Research!  So that covered the importance of good research, leading on to…

Leo and Rachel from Audiences South gave a handy rundown of the tools available to help understand your audience.  Some were better known (such as ACE’s new(ish) segmentation, ACORN and Mosaic) than others (PSPP, a freeware SPSS-type data analysis program), but in all an interesting starting point for seeing what useful research you can do with limited time and £.  I’m going to be exploring PSPP, so if anyone has any tips let me know!

According to Andy Ryans (via Stelios of easyjet fame), excellence is created by exceeding expectations.  So, in order to be able to know how excellent our event/service/production/offer is we need to measure the audience’s expectations compared to their actual experience.  This is something we’ve been doing for some time at AL as one way of measuring the success of an event/service etc, but using it to measure excellence isn’t something I’d considered before, and am definitely going to investigate.

The theme of value kept coming up at the conference, which made me think about how to measure it, and how we at AL might build this into surveys we design.  John Holden and Tim Baker spoke about the difference between value and benefit – benefit being objective, value being subjective, which I think takes us to a similar place to measuring excellence – if the benefit earned from taking part in or attending the arts is perceived by an audience member as having greater impact on them than the time or money required to do it, value has been created.  So there’s a lot going on when you ask people about what they value, and why.

Finally, Dan Germain from Innocent smoothies (I prefer a nice Irn Bru myself, but there you go) encouraged organisations to “listen and keep listening” – good advice, especially if through listening you actually make changes, which is what research should be all about!

Conquering checkout fatigue

abandonedshoppingtrolleyDo you make a note of your online visitors that start to fill up their baskets with all manner of fantastic shows but then abandon their purchases before handing over their credit card details? Have you ever asked why? Is it the site navigation? Did they get bored? Simply change their minds? This might be a process that’s a little tricky for us not-for-profits having less technical expertise (or at least the budget to pay for the expertise) than the commercial sector, but if we can, we should be tracking it.

We’re not alone though, as detailed in this recent Econsultancy blog post: Retailers should be emailing checkout dropouts. Good advice as usual! Why not have a read?

Measuring and defining ‘fun’ visitor experience

Just stumbled across this paper on measuring and defining ‘fun’ visitor experiences – which sounds like a contradiction in terms, but is actually very interesting.

The Art of With – The impact of open source on the arts

Charles Leadbeater is back with a new essay, commissioned by Cornerhouse in Manchester.


The Art of With looks at the way in which communication, participation and engagement has shifted dramatically due to the power of the internet age, specifically web 2.0 – where we are empowered to give as well as take from the digital world. What does this mean for the arts? How can artists, audiences and stakeholders now make an impact on cultural provision? And how should they? What does it mean for the traditional model of programming and producing?

Rather cleverly, as well as publishing the document (under a creative commons licence – give and gain!) they’ve created an Art of With Wiki – to allow readers to comment on the document and have their voices heard. Very “with”.

This essay is being followed up by a seminar about the issues raised in the paper, at Cornerhouse on the 24th of June. To book your place visit the Cornerhouse website. If you do go, be sure to say hello to Sarah, our Strategic Projects Director.

After the Crunch

A bleak budget just announced and with the only certainty that cuts to public spending will be made – what do those working in the creative economies really think?

‘After The Crunch, is a collaborative response to the global recession from those operating in the creative economy featuring contributions from prominent UK and international creative leaders and economists including Charles Leadbeater, Richard Florida, Iwona Blazwick, Edna dos Santos-Duisenberg, Stuart Cunningham, Will Hutton, Martin Bright and many more…’

You can download it free from Creative Choices website and also blog your responses too.