In order to gain the interest of a new demographic, our team designed interactive applications that both entertain and educate patrons young and old of the Richmond Symphony.
As the Creative Brand Manager and Strategist for our 4-member cross-disciplinary team, I lead out in project management, client relations, research, strategy, and presenting.
4 Weeks, Nov 2016
HOW CAN THE SYMPHONY CONNECT WITH YOUNGER AUDIENCES?
In recent years the number of loyal symphony goers has significantly dropped, causing dips in ticket sales and donations. The reason for this is two-fold; many loyal patrons are aging out and general interest amongst younger generations is on the wane. Many of the efforts initiated by the Richmond Symphony and other classical music institutions aimed at recapturing lost revenue and connecting with younger audiences have shown promise. These efforts have opened the door for more experimentation and a willingness to try something new. In this spirit, the Richmond Symphony came to us with the challenge of helping the symphony stay relevant in the community for years to come.
PROJECT CASE STUDY VIDEO - MAN ON THE STREET
We knew the symphony experience would need to resonate with younger audiences, so we hit the streets to ask young people their thoughts about the symphony. Through unplanned street interviews that I conducted with local residents of Richmond, I compiled a case study video which we presented to the client. These respondents were asked the following questions:
After sifting through the various comments and answers it was clear that a big hurdle for younger audiences is their perceptions of the symphony. Those that had been to a symphony, enjoyed it and had a genuine appreciation for the experience.
We needed to dig deeper to better understand what bigger forces were in play. The next phase of our research began as we looked at the classic leisure industry as a whole. Through secondary research like literature reviews, making parallels with other industries, and reading about classic leisure past-times on Mintel, we learned that many organizations were findings ways to reach younger audiences by enhancing the experience.
While classical music tickets sales and recordings are on the decline, many institutions have found success by expanding offerings and programming. Examples of this are music institutions expanding offerings to other genres of music and having outdoor concerts. One innovation that stuck out to us was The Boston Lyric Opera's introduction of "Tweet Seats". These "Tweet Seats" refer to a digitally-enabled section of the concert hall where audience members are actively encouraged to tweet throughout the performance. According to the article, the opera saw increased numbers of younger audience members when it tried out the initiative during a series of Carmen performances.
The second trend came to light as we read up on classic American sports, namely Golf and Baseball. As participation and engagement in these sports are on the decline many organizations are finding ways to innovate by speeding up the game and making it more socially approachable. For example, in the post-Tiger Woods era Golf has struggled to stay relevant amongst 18-34 year-olds. Participation amongst this age range has fallen 13% since 2009 and left many wondering what can be done. TopGolf, a relatively new company has created a driving range like golf experience that is resonating with younger audiences by offering a fast, inclusive, and social approach to the game. Baseball, having earned the reputation of being a boring slow-paced sport announced it is contemplating everything from "altering the strike zone to limiting the number of pitching changes in a game, to curtailing the number of shifts, to even installing 20-second time clocks for pitchers."
In summary, what we found is that these challenges aren't unique to the Richmond Symphony, and that in order to stay relevant the best practices as illustrated in our research is to find a way to enhance the experience.
CREATING A FRAMEWORK FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF ATTENDEES - iGEN
We broke down the age ranges for all the potential targets and carefully looked at the relationships between each. We discovered vulnerabilities amongst Millennials and Gen X customers. Whether they have attended the symphony or not, there is a strong perception amongst these groups that the symphony is either overpriced, too complicated, or not worth their time. The good news is that we found an opportunity to create interest amongst the youngest segment of these groups, iGen.
The symphony is highly involved in the community. Through their many outreach programs we have the potential to reach 42K kids with strategic marketing initiatives. When children are younger they are more malleable and open to positive influence.
MILLENIALLS + GENX
Current parenting trends allow for kids to have significant influence on household decisions—including purchases for the child individually as well as those for the whole family. The traditional hierarchy of the family has become more horizontal in nature with children having more say in family decisions.
BOOMERS + SENIORS
As one of our largest attending demographics, these avid patrons can be our biggest help. They fear the symphony is going away and can be our partners in crime to help bring in the next generation of attendees.
DIGITAL NATIVES - iGEN
Today's kids are the true digital natives. They do not remember a time without smartphones and constant connectivity. The fast-paced, high-tech world they were born into means that kids have little patience for slow, unresponsive, or impersonalized service and that they expect access to everything, at all times, and in all places. Modern kids can be difficult to impress and even more difficult to captivate. For example, their top activities - while being sedentary - like homework, TV, video games, listening to music, or reading are almost always augmented via some form of digital interaction. Technology allows them to sift through information with ease.
Because kids use tech all the time they’ve become accustomed to a higher degree of interaction. They don’t want to be passive observers, they want to interact.
USING TECHNOLOGY TO ENGAGE YOUNGER AUDIENCES
Consider the habits of kids. For instance, the amount of time they spend on electronic devices and their dependance on these devices as a primary source of information. If we cannot connect with them digitally, how else will we connect with them? It naturally follows that in order to engage younger audiences technology is not only a practical tool, but smart.
As we synthesized our research we were able to refine the problem for the Richmond Symphony as not being an advertising problem, but rather an experience problem. This got us thinking about how we could enhance the experience through technology.
BASSOON HERO GAME APP
Kids expect to to have a high level of interaction. Examples of this are popular video games on the Nintendo Wii like DDR, or Guitar Hero on Xbox. What makes these games so successful is that they've introduced new ways for participants to interact, thus enhancing the experience.
To get the conversation started and launch our campaign we created a new app called Bassoon Hero . This app will serve as both an advertising piece and game application. It helps introduce younger audiences to the symphony using a language they're familiar with. It will also be a key conversion tool. We can leverage the symphonies music ambassador program efforts to encourage kids and parents to download the app. This is an easy way to get the symphony at their fingertips and create a framework to send more marketing communications.
The app functions similar to the traditional Guitar Hero game with participants playing notes in rhythm. Throughout the app there will be opportunities for participants to learn more about the symphony.
PRODIGY DIGITAL PLAYBILL APP
PRODIGY — a digital companion for your live symphony experience. Prodigy is divided into two main features that work together in one collaborative dashboard. These features will only be available during live performances at the concert hall. These features make for a premium experience for newcomers and veterans alike.
This information is accessed through a one page accordion structure. As you move deeper into the content, you move to the right, matching the feeling of moving through a book.
This app will arm newcomers to the symphony with all the information they'll need to enjoy the experience. Similar to a digital playbill it will contain bios of the performers, but will go so much deeper with historical information and a follow along feature that points out sections to listen for. Imagine being connected to all of the evening's events without fumbling through a glossy pamphlet in the middle of a performance.
HAVE A SEAT IN THE BACK? NOT A PROBLEM.
WANT TO FOCUS ON A BASSOON PLAYER DURING A DIFFICULT SOLO? SWITCH TO POV MODE.
The Richmond Symphony has looked for ways to make the orchestra more accessible to children. For instance, they periodically have an instrument petting zoo where children can approach instruments and meet the players. Likewise, we wanted to narrow that distance between the players and the audience members during a live performance. Doing this gives the audience a personal perspective, perhaps adding more meaning to their attendance.
A concern to the symphony was the use of photography in the concert hall. Loyal symphony goers found that when younger audience members took pictures it was very distracting. Within the app we've created an additional POV feature to mitigate this concern. Multiple cameras will be set up within the hall broadcasting live feeds from various angles. Discretely, from their laps audience members can click on a screenshot button to take a picture. This removes altogether the concern while also enhancing the experience by giving front-row quality visuals that previously were only accessible to high-paying patrons.
BASSOON HERO AND PRODIGY ADVERTISEMENTS
These Bassoon Hero and Prodigy interactive apps will be the focal point of our advertising campaign.
DIGITAL BRANDING FOR THE RICHMOND SYMPHONY
The small real estate of the digital world necessitated that we re-evaluate the Richmond Symphony logo.
We presented our findings and creative work to the Richmond Symphony, specifically the Board of Directors, including the president of the Richmond Symphony, and additional staff members. Knowing that using technology in a symphony hall could cause some concern, we carefully prepared ourselves to answer any questions regarding how the symphony might go about implementation. We were pleased to hear that our rational was effective in helping the client mitigate some of their concerns and that they were very receptive to our message. Our vision of an interactive music experience had been captured. We have since heard that the symphony is looking for ways to implement our recommendations.
Everyone loved the technology. Very thoughtful approach to meeting younger audiences where they are. Two words: Bassoon Hero. Prodigy app is smart and practical. Simplification of logo to improve functionality with social and digital makes sense. You came to make the point that the music doesn’t need to be updated but the level of interaction does and technology is the answer. Point taken."
I had the idea for the symphony POV three years ago, but we didn't do anything with it. Great to see it in real life."
Alex Robinson, Brand Manager/Strategist
Billy Reano, Experience Designer
Jeff Dunn, Copywriter
John Worthington, Art Director