Three ways your website converts single-ticket purchasers

Every arts marketer would love to have a fully subscribed house. After all, this means a guaranteed cash flow, with income up front to invest for future expenses. It means a full house that generates energy and excitement for the performers. And it means a committed audience that has accepted your group’s artistic vision.

The reality, however, is that most small- to mid-size arts organizations don’t have a 100% subscriber base. In fact, most are lucky if they have a 50-60% subscriber base, which leaves a considerable number of seats to be filled with single-ticket purchasers.

How do you reach those one-time purchasers? Your season subscription brochure isn’t the answer – these folks aren’t on your mailing list. Maybe they’ll see the ads you put in the local newspaper? Again, unlikely, based on the declining subscription rates of most newspapers. Maybe their friends will tell them about your group? Perhaps, but you have a lot of seats to fill and hoping for that much word-of-mouth promotion is a little risky.

Since over 50% of all Americans now use the internet to research and/or make purchases (and that percentage is growing), the answer is digital channels – and more specifically, your website.

Why is your website so critical as your basic digital channel? Simply, it gives you three keys ways to convert casual browsers into potential ticket buyers:

Through education: Single-ticket purchasers have plenty of entertainment options to choose from: sports, movies, restaurants, clubs, etc. Even if these potential purchasers are leaning towards an arts-focused option, you still have to complete with all the other arts organizations in your area. One of the best ways to convert a potential user is to educate her. Tell her about your group’s artistic focus. Tell her about the playwright or the composer. Tell her about the play (without giving away the ending, of course). Make it interesting. Make it fun. And mainly, make it non-pretentious. Your audience is deciding between you and a movie; don’t make your offering sound like the performance equivalent of kale – good once you acquire a taste for it.

Through ease of use: While subscribers are willing to lock down performance dates on their calendar far into the future, single-ticket purchasers are more spontaneous in their scheduling – often making their evening entertainment plans on the fly. Eavesdrop on a dinner conversation at the next table on a Friday night and you’ll likely hear the question “What should we do after dinner?” Your website can provide the answer. Show that seats are still available for tonight’s performance (make sure this feature is optimized to display well on smartphones or tablets). Offer quick purchasing and checkout options that can be performed easily on a small device. Provide a map with direction options, so that your purchaser can expediently get from the restaurant to your building. Show where the most convenient parking is located. In short, make it easy to make that spur-of-the-moment decision.

Through multiple promotion tools: Your website can offer so much more than text and pictures. Did you make a video of your last talk-back presentation? Post it on YouTube and link to it on your website, giving your potential buyer a pre-taste of this experience. Did the local newspaper give you a raving review for the current play? Post a teaser of the review and link to the full review. Was this play made into a movie? Post a link to the trailer for the movie. Are other plays by this playwright being performed on Broadway? Or did the playwright win any awards? Again, post links to more information about her work. Remember, this isn’t a brochure. You have the ability to use all kinds of multi-media promotional tools to make your group’s work more interesting, more relevant, and frankly, more active.

Arts marketers are often accustomed to pouring all their promotional energy into their subscription brochures. While these are critical for promoting re-subscriptions, your website is a major tool for talking to those oh-so-important one-time purchasers. After all, they could be your next subscribers!

Are you describing your products correctly for the Swedish market?

Geert Hofstede, in his research on national cultural personalities, identified a key cultural dimension: masculinity vs. femininity. In masculine cultures, there is more emphasis on achievement, control, and power. Conversely, in feminine cultures, there is an emphasis on families, equality, and modesty. Understanding this dimension is critical when advertising in countries such as feminine Sweden.

In masculine cultures, such as the US or Germany, there is a need to be more assertive and competitive in advertising. Key indicators of a masculine advertising campaign include:

  • Product information is focused on showing differentiators, particularly as compared to competitors.
  • Product information will place a high priority on new technology or innovations.
  • There is usually a great deal of technical information, if the product type warrants it.
  • The tone is confident, self-assured, and rather bold in its claims.
  • Product groups are referred to as models or product lines.
  • Corresponding websites will place high emphasis on financial and investor information, assertively claiming long-term company strength.

In feminine cultures, such as Sweden, there is a need to be more modest and caring in advertising. Key indicators of a feminine advertising campaign include:

  • Product information is focused on showing the strengths of the product, without reference to competitors (implicit or explicit).
  • Product information focuses less on technical information and more on the experience of using the product.
  • Photos are artistic, rather than functional.
  • Product groups are referred to as families.
  • Product descriptions are more relaxed and modest.
  • Corresponding websites will place a high emphasis on the “people” side of the business, rather than financial information.

So, if you are planning on using your US-created ad campaign in Sweden, you may want to carefully evaluate the tone, descriptions, photos, and level of technical information. If any of these items is more assertive than modest, more competitive than caring, you may want to make some key adjustments to fit the sensibilities of this market.

Three types of ads and how to use them in Europe

We marketers have three main ad types at our disposal and a quick flip through a weekly news magazine gives us examples of each kind.

  • Entertainment – An Omega ad borrows a quote from astronaut Jim Lovell – “the moon is essentially gray” – to showcase their new line of gray watches. The ad riffs on an old Pink Floyd song, talking about the Grey Side of the Moon, and discusses the color sense of Lovell. The reader is intrigued by the lunar comparison while being amused by the commentary.
  • Information – A Great Courses ad describes an entrepreneur course, describing the content of the course and the reasons for taking the course. Information about the length and number of the lectures, as well as the delivery methods, are carefully explained. Most potential questions are answered through the ad, rather than forcing customers to search the company’s website for this information.
  • Brand building – A Huawei ad talks about the dedication of its employees and the joy its products bring to its customers. The ad features the battered and bandaged feet of a ballerina, creating the metaphor about hard work bringing about great performance. There isn’t information about Huawei products – simply statements about the company and what it stands for.

Each of the three ad types can be used to great effect for virtually any product or company. However, recent research looked at how these ad types are received in Europe and discovered some fascinating insights.

As it turns out, the level of individualism as well as the tolerance for uncertainty in a culture have a great deal to do with how an ad type is accepted.

In an individualist culture, such as Denmark, people feel that they are in control, or should be in control, of their decisions. If an individualistic consumer buys a big-screen TV, she wants to know that she has selected the best possible TV for her needs, with the right mix of features for the price she wants to spend. She feels responsible for her selection and may feel compelled to defend her decision at some point. This type of consumer responds best to information-type ads.

Conversely, in a more collectivist culture, such as Romania, people defer to the “wisdom” of their group, such as family and friends, about the credibility of a company. If the leaders in a “group” like a company, based on the company’s values and reputation, all the group members will also like the company. Therefore, this type of consumer responds best to brand-building ads.

In cultures with low tolerance for uncertainty, such as France or Germany, there is a strong need for facts to back up claims. Ads filled with marketing hyperbole will be literally dismissed as useless fluff. You only have to compare the brochures for medical device equipment to see the vast differences between US and Germany companies in their approaches to information fulfillment. US brochures will focus on pictures of the devices being used in their environment, while the text will focus on the experience of the patient and the physician. German brochures will focus on the included technology and the quantified advantages of those features. There will be considerably more specifications and other technical information included. Therefore, in low uncertainty tolerance cultures, an information-type ad is perfect. Entertainment ads are fine, as long as there is still concrete information about the product.

Finally, in a culture with a high tolerance for uncertainty, such as the UK, information doesn’t need to be spelled out. In fact, too much data is off-putting in these cultures; instead, there is a preference for the subtle, the understatement, and the soft sell. Therefore, entertainment-type ads work best in these cultures, since entertainment – particularly humor – can make its point indirectly without being pedantic.

So, how can you make sure you run the right type of ad in your target European country?

  1. Check the individualism and uncertainty tolerance values of the country (http://geert-hofstede.com/ shows country ratings on five different cultural values, including individualism and uncertainty tolerance).
  2. Evaluate the level of information, entertainment, or brand-building in the ad and confirm that it is appropriate for the rating.

Reference:

Hatzithomas, L., Zotos, T., & Boutsouki, C. (2011). Humor and cultural values in print advertising: a cross-cultural study. International Marketing Review. 28:1, pp. 57-80.

Two ways your images may be derailing your international ads

It’s Friday afternoon and you finally got the last approval for that international ad you’re running world-wide next month. After weeks of wrangling, everyone finally agreed on the catchy headline, the punchy copy, and the perfect image. You’re exhausted, but thrilled. You just know this ad is going to play as well in Paris and Peru as it will in Pittsburgh and Peoria. All you have to do now is send it to the translation company to get the text translated into multiple languages and you should be ready to send your final files to the magazines in a week or so.

So, you’re done, right? Hold on. While it may seem that images are universal, you may be about to make one of the two classic mistakes related to visuals in international ads.

Mistake 1: An item in the image looks different in different countries

This mistake is almost ridiculously easy to make, since it is the rare person that looks at every item in a photo and evaluates whether it looks different in other countries. But consider the homely electrical plug. Countless campaigns focusing on “connections” have used a plug and socket in their ad imagery. If you create the ad in the US, you’ll likely use a plug photo with two flat prongs (or two flat and a round, if you are showing a grounded plug). Great. Everyone in the US will instantly recognize that this is an electrical plug and will move on to your message.

However, in the EU or Australia, your viewer may pause for a moment, puzzled, wondering what he is looking at. Why? Because plugs in the EU have two circular prongs and plugs in Australia have three flat prongs. That puzzlement will only last a second, granted. But the damage will be done. You have only a second to establish credibility and get the viewer to read your message. And you just lost that second (and your credibility) by showing the wrong electrical prong for that country.

Mistake 2: An item in the image means something different in different countries

Again, this mistake is incredibly easy to make, since we are usually only familiar with the cultural nuances in our own country. Let’s consider the concept of a “blue ribbon.” In the US, this means best in class, award winner, first place, etc. Once again, countless campaigns focusing on superior quality have used blue ribbon imagery in the ad. Perfect – if you’re running this ad in the US. However, in the UK, the viewer is going to be more than a little baffled that you seem to emphasizing your second best standing, since in the UK, red ribbons signal first place. Blue ribbons are awarded as consolation prizes to the second place winners.

So, how can you prevent these classic imagery mistakes?

  1. Make a list of all key items in your images.
  2. Start to do some systematic research on each key item. After all, Google is right there, waiting for you to ask questions like “what do electrical plugs look like in Paris?”
  3. Ask your translation company for their feedback on the key items. Since most translators live in-country and have in-depth knowledge of the culture, as well as the language, they are excellent resources for these types of questions.
  4. Ask your regional staff, if applicable, for their feedback on those key items.

Now here is the critical part.

If your research or the feedback indicates that your image won’t work in another country, change it! Yes, it will mean more rounds of review and approvals. But isn’t that better than spending an incredible amount of money on an ad that, at best, will be ignored, or at worst, will make your company look foolish?

Yes, a picture can take the place of a thousand words. The key, however, is to make sure it is the right picture for the country.

Adapting marketing for differences between countries and demographic segments

In the US, marketers have long recognized that there are distinct heterogeneous market segments within a national market. For example, the Claritas PRISM approach identifies demographic segments such as Blue Blood Estates, Money & Brains, Shotguns & Pickups, and Bedrock America. Marketing campaigns are often created to speak directly to one of these segments, frequently because the product itself has the best functional/emotional benefits for that segment.

In international marketing, however, most campaigns are created for a national audience. Quite often, the strategies are based on one or more of the major cultural dimensions schools of thought (Hofstede, Hall, Globe, Schwartz, etc.). For example, the US scores high, nationally, in terms of masculine behavior. What this means is, as a group, Americans are more apt to be concerned with personal achievement. These attitudes are often baked into the US culture through the persistent “legends” about pioneer spirit and the idea that anyone can achieve anything with enough will and effort. Therefore, campaigns in the US frequently appeal to the idea of personal growth and achievement.

Recent research, however, has shown that international marketing needs to expand beyond the idea of a simple national culture and a single demographic in a particular country. Instead, campaigns should recognize that there is the “baked in” national culture as well as the heterogeneous market segments within that culture. So, essentially, there should be two levels of adaptation taking place:

  • National level, adapting for prevailing national cultural dimensions
  • Demographic segment level, adapting for the nuances of a particular customer segment

The research identified four possible marketing outcomes, based on the level of differences between these two levels.

Large differences between countries and demographic segments

If there is a large difference between the national culture of the company’s home country and the target market, as well as a large difference between the values of the demographic segments in the target market, the marketer should use a fragmentized approach. This means different advertisements for the target market and different advertisements for each segment within the target market.

Small differences between countries and large differences between demographic segments

If there is a small difference between the national culture of the company’s home country and the target market but a large difference between the values of the demographic segments in the target market, the marketer should use a glocalized approach. This means different advertisements for each segment within the target market. It should be noted, however, that these campaigns could also be used for similar demographic segments in other countries as well.

Large differences between countries and small differences between demographic segments

If there is a large difference between the national culture of the company’s home country and the target market but a small difference between the values of the demographic segments in the target market, the marketer should use a localized approach. This means different advertisements for the target country, but the same advertisement for all demographic segments.

Small differences between countries and demographic segments

If there is a small difference between the national culture of the company’s home country and the target market, as well as a small difference between the values of the demographic segments in the target market, the marketer should use a standardized approach. This means the same advertisements for the target market as for the home country and the same advertisements for each segment within the target market.

Marketing Implications

While it is critical to consider cultural differences at the national level (and to incorporate changes based on those differences), international marketing campaigns shouldn’t forget that there are often major demographic segments within those countries that should also be considered. International marketing should incorporate the best practices of market segmentation from the home country and then apply the nuances related to the unique culture of the target country.

Marketing Checklist

  1. Have you evaluated the level of cultural differences between your home country and the target country?
  2. Have you evaluated the number and strength of the demographic segments in the target market?
  3. Have you determined the ideal level of localization required based on the culture and demographic differences?

References

Koslow, S., Costley, C. (2010). How consumer heterogeneity muddles the international advertising debate. International Journal of Advertising. 29:2. pp. 221-244.

How culture affects acceptance of brand extensions

Brand extensions use an established brand name, such as Harley Davidson, to launch new products or enter new product categories. In Harley’s case, for example, the well-known brand name has been used to introduce:

  • New motorcycle product lines, such as street trikes
  • Full lines of aftermarket products, such as seats, windshields, backrests and racks, and lighting
  • Full lines of apparel, such as helmets, boots, and riding jackets
  • Full lines of décor items, such as limited-edition collectables

While the parent brand gives credibility to the extensions and reduces the costs of brand building for the new products, the extensions often repay the favor by enhancing the parent brand’s image. However, this enhancement only takes place when the consumer sees the following traits in the extension:

  • Fit: the extent that the traits associated with the original product can be transferred to the extension
  • Quality: the perceived quality of the parent brand
  • Fit x Quality: the interaction between the parent brand’s quality and the degree that the extension products complement the original product lines

Recent research has also shown that cultural differences affect how consumers react to the levels of fit and quality.

Long-term orientation

In countries with high long-term orientation (such as Asian countries), consumers value long-lasting relationships. Brand extensions build on prior experiences with the brand, leveraging the accumulated trust and respect for the parent brand; long-term oriented consumers place a lower priority on fit, accepting a wider range of product types under a parent brand.

Conversely, countries with lower long-term orientation (such as the US and UK), complementary factors become more critical. Harley fans can easily accept aftermarket products and clothing as being complementary to the original bike products, but would likely frown on a food-related product line.

Power distance

In countries with higher power distance (such as France or Russia), consumers are more loyal to brands, particularly if the brands are viewed positively by people in positions of power over the consumer (parent, boss, etc.). Therefore, brand extensions are more readily accepted because of the strong loyalty to the parent brand.

Conversely, countries with lower power distance (such as the US), consumer are less brand loyal and are likely to challenge a brand’s right to operate in certain product categories. In addition, past research has shown that consumers in low power distance countries have higher quality expectations, which skews the fit x quality equation, affecting how products are seen as complementary.

Individualism/collectivism

In individualistic countries (such as the US), the degree of complementary fit is critical. Therefore, these consumers are less willing to accept brand extensions that venture into barely related product categories.

Conversely, in collectivist cultures (such as Asian countries), fit is much less important. Consumers prefer products from companies that have successful images, regardless of the product mixes. For example, it is not uncommon for a successful Asian company to manufacture hard goods such as washing machines, have several food product lines, and include multiple service organizations such as banking and insurance. Therefore, brand extensions with a highly successful parent brand are generally easily accepted.

Marketing Implications

Brand extensions need to be presented differently based on the culture in the target market. If the extension is somewhat of a stretch, fit-wise, the complementary aspects will have to be carefully marketed to individualistic, short-term oriented, or lower power distance cultures. The level of quality will have to be emphasized to overcome the perceived fit mismatch.

If an extension is being marketed to a collectivist, long-term oriented, or high power distance culture, the brand history and the customer’s past experiences with the parent brand will need to be emphasized. The level of fit becomes less important that leveraging the existing relationship with the customer.

Marketing Checklist

  1. Have you evaluated the level of fit x quality in the brand extension?
  2. Does your marketing communications emphasize the correct factors, i.e. brand loyalty or complementary fit, based on the culture of the target market?

References Henseler, J., Horvath, C. Sarstedt, M., Zimmermann, L. (2010). A cross-cultural comparison of brand extension success factors: a meta study. Brand Management. 18:1, pp. 5-20.

The perils of treating all Eastern European countries as a single market

Many Western marketers frequently make the mistake of lumping Eastern European countries, such as Poland, Hungary, Croatia, or the Czech Republic, into a single market for the purposes of developing marketing communication campaigns. In some ways, they could be forgiven for believing that these countries would respond to advertising techniques in similar fashions in light of their other similarities:

  • Geographical proximity
  • Controlled for almost fifty years by Russia
  • New to evaluating persuasive advertising appeals
  • New to handling choices in consumer goods

Yet, recent research showed that there are very distinct differences in how consumers in these four countries respond to positively and negatively framed advertisements. In this research study, two products – apples and bottled water – were each given two different ad treatments:

  • In the positively framed ads, the key messages were about how these products brought enjoyment and pleasure to the consumer’s life.
  • In the negatively framed ads, the key messages were about how these products could help prevent illnesses or diseases.

The research examined not only whether positive or negative framing was preferred, but the attitude that the consumer had towards the ad and the brand as well.

Positive framing

Overall, consumers in all four countries preferred positively framed advertisements. However, there were substantial differences in how the respondents felt about the ad and the brand after viewing a positive ad:

  • Cognitive response to ad (ability to later recall the ad): The Czech Republic showed the highest recall rate for positive ads, followed by Hungary, Poland, and then Croatia.
  • Cognitive response to brand (ability to later recall the brand): In this case, Poland had the highest recall rate for the brand, followed by Hungary, Czech Republic, and Croatia.
  • Attitude toward ad: Poland had the highest positive response to positive ads, followed by Hungary, Czech Republic, and Croatia.
  • Attitude toward brand: Poland had the highest positive response to the brand, followed by Hungary, Czech Republic, and Croatia.

Negative framing

While the respondents were less enthusiastic overall with negatively framed ads, they also showed significantly higher cognitive response to the brand (ability to later recall the brand) when they saw a negative ad. There were also substantial differences in how the respondents felt about the ad and the brand after viewing a negative ad:

  • Cognitive response to ad (ability to later recall the ad): The Czech Republic showed the highest recall rate for negative ads, followed by Poland, Hungary, and Croatia.
  • Cognitive response to brand (ability to later recall the brand): In this case, Poland had the highest recall rate for the brand, followed by Hungary, Croatia, and the Czech Republic
  • Attitude toward ad: Poland had the highest negative response to negative ads, followed by Czech Republic, Hungary, and Croatia.
  • Attitude toward brand: Poland had the highest negative response to the brand, followed by Czech Republic, Croatia, and Hungary.

Marketing Implications

Despite other similarities between these four Eastern European countries, it would be a serious mistake to use the same marketing communication campaign in all four countries. For example, Polish consumers reacted very favorably to positive messages, while negative messages severely affected their attitudes to both the ads and the brand. On the other hand, Croatian consumers were lukewarm towards positively framed ads, but showed much greater ability to recall the brand after viewing a negative ad as compared to their recall rates with a positive ad.

So, it could be argued that in the Polish market, a positively framed message would always work best, while a negatively framed message in Croatia would be more effective if the current goal is to build brand awareness.

Marketing Checklist

  1. Has your market research checked consumer reaction to both positively and negatively framed messages?
  2. Have you clearly identified your current goals for the target market, i.e. build brand awareness or establish a favorable image for your product?
  3. Have you identified significant differences between countries that were to receive the same communication campaigns?

References

Orth, U., Koenig, H., Firbasova, Z. (2007) Cross-national differences in consumer response to the framing of advertising messages: an exploratory comparison from Central Europe. European Journal of Marketing. 41: 3. Pp. 327-348.