It’s The Mission, Not The Money That Keeps Them Coming Back

Earlier this month, Colleen Dilenschneider’s team at IMPACTS released some interesting insights about what features of memberships and subscriptions most appeal to different groups. (subscription required)

For instance, people born before 1980 prioritize: free admission, priority access, members only functions, advance notice of upcoming activities, and member subscriber discounts, in that order.

Those born after 1980 prioritize: free admission, belonging to the organization, supporting the organization, supporting the mission/program, and making a positive impact toward the mission.

I immediately jumped to a conclusion that Colleen and team cautioned against. They note that while it appears that younger groups might be focused on mission related benefits, that just may be a result of the fact they haven’t been marketed to for as long as the older generation.

However, consider that a person born before 1980 has a bit more experience being marketed to by cultural organizations. These folks have simply been around longer! Maybe they’ve been a member or subscriber to more cultural organizations!

Either way, when we ask a person who’s been in market longer about their top membership benefits, they may be more likely to think before responding, “What have I been told are the top benefits of membership?” These folks may have more opportunities for recall, while a younger Millennial or adult member of Generation Z may have fewer marketing data points to draw on. They may be better able to answer the question based on their own experiences and what they value rather than what they’ve been told to value as a top membership benefit.

This said, since a younger segment of the population seems drawn to mission related benefits, that is what marketing for them should be oriented toward. Later in the article they show why people motivated by mission related reasons tend to have stronger relationships with organizations than those motivated by transactional benefits.

They list a similar distinction between those identifying as BIPOC and those that don’t. However, they include a caveat that there are a lot of flaws inherent to the limitations of racial self-identification questions on surveys that blur nuance.

From the data they do have, membership benefit priorities for non-Hispanic whites are free admission, priority access, members only functions, supporting the organization, supporting the mission/program.

Priorities for BIPOC identifying are: free admission, belonging to the organization, support of organization, support of mission/program and priority access.

Similar to the generational comparison, they suggest there is a possibility that since many arts organizations have only recently begun to focus on marketing to BIPOC communities, the group has been predominantly getting messaging focused on belonging and other mission driven goals and not transactional benefits.

Colleen and team transition into talking about why mission driven members are better than members driven by transactional benefits. Among the charts they feature which breaks out responses for exhibit (museums, zoos, gardens) and performing arts based organizations, people who are mission driven tend on average to spend more on their membership/subscription than transactionally motivated members. (i.e. purchase a higher tier subscription/membership).

Those motivated by mission related benefits tend to perceive their membership as more valuable than those tranactionally motivated, even though they spent more money than the latter group. And the mission driven folks tend to renew memberships/subscriptions more reliably.

Excitingly, research shows that younger and more diverse members are generally more mission-motivated than members who fit the more traditional profile. The takeaway may be simple: Highlight supporting the organization and its mission as a primary benefit of membership. Not necessarily instead of transaction-based benefits, but alongside them.

At the very least, it may be helpful to stop underestimating the importance of your mission in securing attendance and cultivating supporters. Your mission need not be the kale hidden within the sugary fruit smoothie of discounts.

Who Remembers When There Were Shared Comedy Bits?

There is a lot of concern these days about intellectual property rights. Artists don’t want their work copied, sampled, superficially reproduced, etc., and have someone else profit off it.

But that wasn’t always the case, even within the last 100 years or so. A memory of old reruns I watched as a kid bubbled up this weekend where I recalled seeing an old vaudeville bit performed by a number of comedians. It is called by different names, but the line common to all the bits is “Slowly I turned,” as someone is set off into a homicidal rage upon hearing a key word.

I most clearly remember it from I Love Lucy, but I saw other comedians do it as well:

Abbott and Costello did it

The Three Stooges did it

According to Wikipedia, a lot of other folks did it or referenced it as well.

I started to wonder when the dynamic changed. I would guess it was when increasing mass media made entertainment more lucrative. When you go from having everyone making a passable living using a shared bit on the vaudeville circuit in front of a relatively limited audience to a limited number of people making a lot more money doing a bit that far larger audiences can view and go on to associate more exclusively with a single artist or comedy team, people may start to get a little protective.

I am not sure if that is actually the case of what happened. It is just a theory I had. I would be interested in learn more if anyone knows.

In the context of today where everyone is replicating the same dance or challenge for their Tiktok video, I wonder if there might be a shift back toward shared entertainment content. Though that is much more simple in theory than reality given that there have been controversies of white influencers getting credit and monetary rewards from copying the dance moves of black creators.

Champagne In The Ladies Church/Restroom

I was somewhat amused by the story of a museum in Tasmania that had a lawsuit brought against it because one of its exhibits was intentionally designed to exclude those who did not identify as women. The experience of being excluded or welcomed was part of the exhibition.

It was designed to take the concept of an old Australian pub – a space which largely excluded women until 1965 – and turn it on its head, offering champagne and five-star service to female attendees, while refusing men at the door.

[…]

The museum had responded by claiming the rejection Mr Lau had felt was part of the artwork, and that the law in Tasmania allowed for discrimination if it was “designed to promote equal opportunity” for a group of people who had been historically disadvantaged.

The person who brought the suit claiming it was a violation of Tasmania’s anti-discrimination law, won the case on that basis.

The exhibit had been closed since that ruling, but last week I saw a follow-up article stating the lounge is being turned into a restroom and a church in order to take advantage of a legal exemption to maintain the original exclusive intent. Envisioning the space operating as a restroom and church is the part that amused me most. And then I read the additional irreverent plans the artist has for the use of the room and I had a little cackle.

“There is a fabulous toilet coming to the Ladies Lounge, and so in that sense the Ladies Lounge will operate as a ladies’ room.

“It’s a toilet that is celebrated the world round. It is the greatest toilet, and men won’t be allowed to see it,” Ms Kaechele said in Australian media reports.

Some of the key artworks, like the ones by Picasso, will be moved into the museum’s existing ladies toilet to ensure “uninterrupted viewing” while she applies for other exemptions.

And only on Sundays, men would be allowed into the space – to learn ironing and laundry folding.

“Women can bring in all their clean laundry and the men can go through a series of graceful movements (designed by a Rinpoche and refined by tai chi masters) to fold them,” she said, in an interview published by the museum on Tuesday.

[…]

“Thanks to the ruling, we have no choice but to open ourselves to a whole range of enriching experiences – spiritual, educational… to discover fascinating new possibilities, and to become better,” she said.

Yeah It’s Hot, But Very Little Sustenance Consuming The Roiling Steam Of Culture

Seth Godin made a post today that advocates for the value of the journey over the destination:

TL;DR is defensive. Not simply because it defends our time, but because it defends us from change and from lived experience. A joke isn’t funny because it has a punchline. It’s funny because something happens to us as the joke unfolds, and the punch line is simply a punctuation of that experience.

“Orange you glad I didn’t say banana,” isn’t funny by itself.

Godin cites an article by Ted Gioia that I saw about a couple months ago in which Gioia uses the term “Dopamine Culture” to argue that people want to experience the hit rather than the journey.

In a chart from Gioia’s piece Godin includes in his post, Gioia charts the trend away from participating in an activity to spectating to essentially just consuming the short tail end of an experience.

Among Gioia’s examples which go from Slow Traditional Culture> Fast Modern Culture> Dopamine Culture:

Play A Sport> Watch A Sport> Gamble on A Sport
View in A Gallery > View On A Phone > Scroll on A Phone
Newspapers> Multimedia > Clickbait

Godin points out that what seems to be in demand is the metaphoric boiling water of all these short bits of experience we can consume, but that sort of diet doesn’t provide long term sustenance. Long time readers will know I approve of his sentiment that about not everything that can be measured matters:

Cavitation happens here. We’re at a rolling boil, and there’s a lot of pressure to turn our work and the work we consume to steam.

The steam analogy is worthwhile: a thirsty person can’t subsist on steam. And while there’s a lot of it, you’re unlikely to collect enough as a creator to produce much value.

[…]

And now we live in a time where the previously informal is easy to measure.

But just because it’s measured doesn’t mean it matters.

The creators and consumers that have the guts to ignore the steam still have a chance to make an impact.