Really Don’t Want To Think Of Post-Covid Marketing As Online Dating

Back in March Harvard Business Review (HBR) had a piece on how marketing will change post-Covid.  It is definitely geared toward commercial business and often oriented toward business to business sales rather than individuals, but there were some interesting observations, some of which have long been points of discussion in non-profit arts.

4. Old truth: Courting customers is just like dating.
New truth: Courting customers is just like online dating.

I mainly include this one because of the imagery this evokes. The article notes that marketing used to be a numbers game. Like dating, you would present yourself broadly in public at parties, bars, and other public places, using your best lines, seeing who might be interested. These days where people make split second decisions before swiping, they say the numbers game is algorithms and not chance and broad exposure. Essentially they say data driven decision making is going to be more valuable than trying to increase the frequency people see your face.

5. Old truth: Customers must sit at the heart of your marketing strategy.
New truth: Customers must sit at the heart of your customer journey.

…We have all called customer service and spoken to a call center rep or chatbot that was not operating with the same information as a retail location — and vice versa.

…Marketing must be viewed in the context of the full end-to-end journey and, where possible, work to connect the dots.

The idea that people would go from being first time attendees to subscribers to donors and perhaps volunteers or board members, across a span of years is a frequent subject discussed in the arts so this concept is not new.

What caught my attention was that they said the answer to making sure everyone in your organization was operating with the same information is not to consolidate all operations and communications through one location. Rather it is ensuring everything is aligned around the customer’s need. This certainly makes sense because you often have different types of customers. There aren’t only ticket buyers, subscribers, donors and groups, you might have operations that include renters, students, and other constituencies. The best point of contact for each of these is different, but it is definitely to your benefit if each area is aware of how the others interact with their specific group.

In other words, as I have said over the years–marketing is everybody’s job. The organization can’t run effectively by taking a siloed view as to what their role and interests are.

8. Old truth: Your brand should stand behind great products.
New truth: Your brand should stand behind great values.


In fact, key themes from EY research show that while quality, convenience, and price still very much matter to consumer choice, factors like sustainability, trust, ethical sourcing, and social responsibility are increasingly important to how consumers select their products and services. Marketing has an opportunity to educate the broader C-suite (and even the board) on the importance of brand values when it comes to differentiating in a post-pandemic marketplace where brand preferences have been upended.

If you have been working in the arts for any length of time, you know organizations have long espoused values about equity, inclusion and access, but it is no long sufficient to say these things, it is necessary to translate these values into action. The authors of the HBR article recognize that the impetus to change will not necessarily come from the top and it may require advocacy from staff to executives and board members to effect the change that is needed.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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