Category Archives: research

Strategic move lies at heart of value innovation

In Blue Ocean Strategy W. ChanKim and Renee Mauborgne posit that, “the strategic move, and not the company or the industry, is the right unit of analysis for explaining the creation of blue oceans and sustained high performance.” They then define a strategic move as “a set of managerial actions and decisions involved in making a major market-creating business offering.”

I have started an exploration in the performing arts on this blog this month. I have begun to contemplate the landscape, or as they say the “strategy canvas”,  to learn about the skills, expertise, assets of the performing arts that can be leveraged to create new wide-open spaces for high performance. And to explore what elements might need to be added or increased in order to create a new kind of success.

In the face of uncertainty what’s your strategy?

The economic, financial, political and social pressures playing out the world over (Arab Spring, summer and fall, EU sovereign debt, US Congress debt failure) do not mean we all disappear from the face of the earth any time soon.

These massive disruptions simply have become normal.

You do not need to act globally to feel the effects of uncertainty on your business. This is the time for organizations and individuals to re-evaluate their specific situations and build new contingencies, develop new strategies, uncover opportunities for value innovation. Your capacity to analyze, understand and adapt will shape your outcomes.

This is the time for the kind of iterative 360 degree research and strategy process I use in my practice, and others use in theirs. It is by examining internal and external factors and helping people evaluate various dimensions rigorously that together we can shape a powerful direction forward. More than hope it provides pathways for decisive action, grounded in fact and using built-in measures to recognize when course corrections may be necessary.

A few questions

Are your customers particularly stressed due to the financial market turmoil? Which customer segments are more affected and how?

If you are in the B2B sector, are you aware of your business customers current concerns and how you can enhance their opportunities?

As a for-profit or not-for-profit corporation how are you taking account of changes in your environment, in your customer base, among stakeholders? Have you re-examined the assumptions in your 1-, 3- or 5-year business plans, yet?

Are you part of an industry / a sector that has been struggling already to maintain a resilient customer base? Have you accounted for and created strategic responses to the alternatives challenging your products or services in the market today? Have you examined how your products and services are essential – or hard to replace – to your customers?

How are you perceived in your community? How have you been managing your brand in order to create value and trust? How are you evaluating your impact on your community?

How have you responded to the massive changes in consumer behaviour due to the internet and now mobile technology? How have you leveraged the new opportunities that come with online and mobile communications and what are the next opportunities?

These are a few of the questions worth considering. It’s in part the impetus for the series of thought pieces I have been sharing on value innovation in the performing arts, a sector I care deeply about. The process is the same no matter the sector.

Election Polling Examined Intelligently

Last May, 12 polling companies were active during the federal election, using more methods to gauge the election intentions of Canadians than ever before. The poll closest to the actual election is the one that determines which pollster is the most accurate. Turns out, those who issued a final poll the weekend before the election were within the margin of error for most if not all parties: basically a tie.

The MRIA Ottawa Chapter organized a unique, intelligent post mortem for September 22 at the National Arts Centre: 8 pollsters are coming together to discuss lessons learned, from methodology questions relating to data gathering to question construction.  This is an important discussion the industry and Canadians need to have: only when election polling is done to the highest standards can it serve the public good. The May election was an awesome social research lab with the seismic shift (Orange Crush anyone?) taking place on the political landscape. Learning from these real-life events, and how researchers fared providing insight for citizens, is crucial in a democracy.

3 days ago, with the Ontario election on – and polling back in the spotlight, too – two staffers at IPSOS Reid,  the largest and most powerful research firm in Canada decided to lash out at everyone else in the entire industry; while it makes for fine pundit fodder the motivations haven’t been explained. Luckily, MRIA has issued a lucid response outlining the validity of various methods in polling and marketing research in general and affirming the integrity of Canadian marketing researchers.

MRIA Ottawa stands for intelligent discussion, insightful analysis and open discourse.

October 11, 2011 Update: View the panelists’ presentations.

A bold, new arts brand: Ottawa Storytellers

We recently did some research and strategy work with Ottawa Storytellers (OST). Their goal was to further build on their existing audience with a focus on cultivating a younger, more culturally diverse audience.

With storytelling the challenge is two-fold: 1) many people do not think of storytelling as a professional, adult performing art; and 2) event promotion has not built broad-based trust and credibility in organizations producing or presenting storytelling events.

The challenge we faced was that OST needed to build much greater recognition for itself as a credible and trustworthy source of quality performing arts/ storytelling events and for storytelling as a bona fide professional art form with every communication touch point. At the same time, it needed to “sell” storytelling series or individual performances, without being encumbered by organization-level messaging.

Often in event-based marketing – and when marketing budgets are relatively small – there is little leverage or recognition accruing back to the arts presenter, except among the most committed audiences. That in turn creates long-term liabilities like needing to continually invest in one-off marketing of events, rather than being able to benefit over time from a mother brand approach where recognition, trust and credibility reside with the presenter, not only a specific artist/event. Such an approach creates all kinds of benefits such as more easily presenting new artists through reducing box office risk and more effective marketing. It was also important to understand that when growing an audience is the central goal then the strategy cannot rely on largely list-based marketing efforts alone.

Central Strategy: Mother Brand

That is why a central part of our strategy called for a new branding approach that would be cohesive, bold, contemporary, intelligent, easily structured and flexible in application, welcoming and inviting to audiences, and give weight to OST (this is where the relationship with the audience gets built) while also giving strong presence to show-specific information (which is where OST fulfills its artistic mission).

In short, OST needed to take its place at the heart of its marketing. It would be the mother brand from which all series and events would flow.

In our analysis, we had found the OST logo and tagline were already strong and we recommended keeping both. We found that many of their marketing and communications tactics including much of their online efforts were well conceived and executed. The visual branding, on the other hand, was less effective, too complex and hard to adapt. Similarly, there was, at times, no clear hierarchy of messages evident in marketing materials and the oft-observed “too much text, which ends up saying very little to anyone” was also sometimes an issue.

Creative Brief: Define Audience Using Psychographics

By defining the audience, we were able to create a target that felt real. We used a psychographic composite (values, beliefs, generation-based experiences), rather than just relying on demographic elements (age, income, etc) which are less meaningful, and certainly much less so in terms of creative direction.

OST has just launched its new web site which features its new branding approach. I think they did an excellent job translating the strategic direction into an effective brand architecture.

What do you think?

Thank you to OST for agreeing to share the back story on its new strategy initiatives.

The Value of History

The Value of Presenting Study is  aimed at helping to shape the future for performing arts presentation. We could just look forward to establish that vision. It seems human nature to go from today to tomorrow; maybe that’s because we are best suited to use ourselves as the reference point from which to understand the world. However, in my view, a full understanding requires knowing something about the evolution that got us to today. It serves to avoid myopia and to build on where we have come from rather than inadvertently move backwards. (It’s possible!)

It’s good to understand the genesis of Canada’s very own cultural life to help it move forward in the next decade or so. Nation-building, international relations, identity-formation and export are all underlying Canadian cultural policy. Public funding of creative expression also holds all sorts of tension points, from discussions about “what is art” to establishing funding priorities.

One aspect of our team’s work has been to collect a historic overview, starting from the earliest times in Canada as we know it today. The document is a work in progress (if you have things to add, please add  comments on the project site); we will update this file over the next few weeks with some of the more recent evolution we have gained in interviews and contributions from people who have been part of the sector for many years.

Studying the Value of Presenting in Canada

Spring often marks new beginnings. This May has proven momentous for Strategic Moves: I am now leading a two-year long, ambitious project to shed new light on Arts Presenting and Presenters in Canada. (Full news release.)

To do this major initiative justice, I have formed a bilingual, bicultural consulting team from Ontario and Quebec. And we have partnered with  EKOS Research for the necessary quantitative surveys.

I had the chance to give a presentation and Q&A session at the national meeting of Regional Presenting Networks organized by the Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA). This is the group we are doing this work for and with. This session was followed by a successful kick-off meeting with the national Advisory Committee on May 5.

Since then, I have been working on all the necessary start up activities from briefing the rest of the team and getting the work underway to researching solutions for a collaborative online space dedicated to this project to building the project schedule for the first year of research and consulting activities.

Canada’s performing arts scene boasts some of the world’s most celebrated musicians, dancers, actors and performers. Yet, the purpose and the work of arts presenters in building Canada’s cultural fabric, preparing the stage for diverse artistic expression and developing engaged audiences are little known or understood. In a rapidly evolving world, arts presenters seek to affirm their role in the creative chain coherently and with purpose.

During the next two years together with the presenting field across Canada and related sectors we will:

  • identify, understand and communicate the value and benefits of presenting for Canadians
  • envision the presenters’ evolving role in our changing world
  • raise awareness of the role of the live performing arts presenter in the creative chain, in communities and in society.

I am excited to work with CAPACOA, the advisory committee and the many outstanding people that work in the arts and in the presenting field in particular.

Research on Social Marketing

On June 22, the MRIA Ottawa chapter is putting on a conference on research on social marketing. I’m excited about being part of making that happen. The format we use is very focussed on discussion and participation.

This conference is designed to showcase the results of sound research on specific social marketing programs and foster a discussion between researchers and social marketers on best practices, target audience orientation, and program development.

An excellent line up of speakers will address their work with a wide range of audiences. I’m looking forward to this day and most importantly the discussion. I’ve posted on social marketing here before and intent to add additional thoughts leading up to the conference.