Sometimes The Best Marketing Doesn’t Look Like Marketing
Back in my 20s, around 2010, when I worked as the marketing manager for the Arts Council of Indianapolis (one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had), we participated in next-gen engagement training, including how-to sessions on topics like events and social media that appeal to young professionals, college students and school-age demographics. Led by out-of-state consultants, the premise was that to reach and cultivate new (future) audiences—the “next generation” of patrons—arts nonprofits would need to innovative.
The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra launched a free and casual concert series to allow visitors to get up close and personal with the orchestra. The Arts Council opened its own art studio in the heart of downtown Indianapolis with regular exhibitions by local artists to connect with this new demographic.
The ideas and innovations resonated with me, as I was the target demographic. However, a bit of time has passed since 2010. Now I’m a mother and helping mold a part of the “next-gen audience.”
I recently experienced a profound example of next-gen engagement. My elementary-aged daughter joined the new Dance Kaleidoscope Studios. In case you’re not familiar, Dance Kaleidoscope (DK) is Indiana’s longest-running professional contemporary dance company. After 49 years it opened a 13,000 square-foot dance center, its first-ever permanent home for its dancers and the community. Now, my daughter is whirling and twirling and tippy-toeing her way around a beautiful dance studio with an actual DK dancer as her teacher, a teacher who is kind and engaging.
But Aimee, you said this article was about marketing? Yes, dear friend, it is. Here’s where it gets tactical. You see, while her teacher is a great guy, he’s also an absolutely fantastic dancer. We heard about an upcoming DK performance and when I mentioned it to my daughter, she jumped at the opportunity. “Will my teacher dance in the show?” she wondered, as we purchased tickets. What a unique opportunity for her to potentially experience her patience-of-a-saint teacher dance his heart out on stage in front of an audience.
We dressed up like fashionistas and high-heeled our way into our up-close seats (so close we could see the sweat flying off the dancers as they spun.) We sat next to the parents of DK’s new associate artistic director and learned about his impressive background. We sat in front of another dancer’s father who was beaming with pride over his son’s talent. We told them my daughter recently joined Dance Kaleidoscope Studios. She was royalty from that moment on, an heiress to their sons’ dynasty.
We watched in silent wonder as the dancers lifted one another, spinning and shifting in wave-like harmony. Then the true marketing moment happened: my daughter’s teacher ran onto stage. “It’s him, it’s him, it’s my teacher, Mom!” she whisper-yelled, jabbing her pointer finger at the stage.
In this precious moment I realized that sometimes the best marketing doesn’t look like marketing at all. It looks like an invitation to real human connection around shared interests. It looks like one generation forging an engaging and educational path for the next generation, passing on the pure joy and sacred importance of their artistic talents. It’s a celebration of community for the greater good, and for this type of marketing I am deeply grateful.
Where have you witnessed on-point next-gen marketing, or simply marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing?
Are you stuck, trying to figure out how to engage and market to new audiences? Consider how you can build and reinforce meaningful, long-term, multi-generational connections. Review how you engage with these audiences through your website, social media and other digital marketing. Want to explore this with an experienced team? Let’s talk!