Case Study by Deanne Loft RGD, Senior Designer at Kohoot Media
The Prismatic Arts Festival (Prismatic) brings the work of Canada’s leading Aboriginal and culturally diverse artists into the spotlight, creating opportunities for local, regional and national audiences to engage with new art forms and artistic traditions. Through performances, workshops, networking and industry events, the festival also facilitates the professional and artistic development of emerging and established artists, enabling the continued growth of professional arts in Canada.
While working for Neptune Theatre–another theatre company in Halifax– Kohoot Media Creative Director Jay Hiltz was asked to rework the creative for a visiting show produced by Onelight Theatre. This encounter was the beginning of a 10-year working relationship with Onelight Theatre. Later, in 2008 when Onelight Theatre created the first Prismatic Arts Festival it was a natural progression of the relationship for Kohoot to take on the project.
Our overall objective was threefold: make the Prismatic Arts Festival a household name, increase awareness and attendance and build sponsor relationships. To reach these goals, the 2014 festival needed to secure ample sponsorship to allow the general public free admission to all main stage and outdoor performances.
In previous years, various venues in Halifax and Dartmouth hosted the festival’s events. This year marked a turning point: the festival was hosted on its own grounds at Alderney Landing. Events were accessible at a one-stop locale and the jam-packed schedule allowed for four days of non-stop, all-ages entertainment.
As the Senior Designer, I worked with Jay on messaging and the festival’s collateral. The project scope was extensive: a marketing plan, theme, festival guide, pamphlet, posters, buttons, banners, newspaper and online ads and lobby wayfinding (including window and elevator wraps).
The marketing plan began in January 2014 and the festival opened in August.
The first phase of this project began with developing a sales and marketing plan; the goal was to understand the festival’s current position and perception in the market and develop strategies for growth. We also wanted to make each invested dollar stretch as far as possible, and exhaust every free marketing platform in Nova Scotia.
Our methodology included a mentoring session with industry leaders, facilitating focus group meetings with current and potential audience members and conducting a survey of theatre and performing arts enthusiasts.
Our strategist for the project Sheila Blair-Reid conducted the focus groups. As the former owner and operator of the largest magazine publishing house in Eastern Canada and a key figure in the development of Nova Scotia Tourism over the past twenty years, Sheila was able to provide a lot of important insight into local arts and entertainment organizations, having worked very closely with their marketing and communication directors.
The goal of the first focus group was to bring in as many industry leaders from the arts and entertainment sectors as possible for a mentoring session focusing on Onelight Theatre. We wanted to gain insights from their past experiences marketing and building theatre companies within Halifax: what marketing efforts worked and didn’t work, the biggest challenges they faced and strategies for overcoming those challenges, what surprises they encountered, etc. We wanted to hear the good, bad and the ugly.
Questions for the industry leader focus group included the following:
- In growing audience attendance, what tools have been the most successful for you?
- When investing in marketing, what has not turned out to be a good investment?
- In terms of investing in media, roughly what percentage of our budget goes to social media?
- In regards to price point, what in your opinion is the ceiling that the majority of residences are willing to play for a performing arts event?
- In regards to sponsorship, do you have an internal employee chase sponsorship dollars or do you work with an outside firm?
For our second focus group, the meeting brought together a mix of people who had, and had not, seen performances by Onelight and Prismatic. Participants represented a cross section of different age groups, professions, and educational backgrounds. Our goal was to try and capture a sense of where local residents go to find out about upcoming arts and entrainment events, how they like to be communicated with and examples of marketing event marketing campaigns in Halifax they found effective.
Questions for the patrons and non-patrons focus group included the following:
- Are you familiar with Onelight Theatre or the Prismatic Festival?
- What compels you to attend a performing arts event?
- How do you like to receive information about performing arts events?
- How do you not like to receive information about performing arts events?
- Who in the city is doing a great job of getting you out to performing arts events? What communications do you find effective?
We also polled Facebook, Twitter and newsletter followers with an online survey using a third party application with Facebook. The survey consisted of the same questions that were posed in the second focus group. This feedback gave us data to start developing a clear strategy and identify what communication channels were most effective.
Additionally, we collected data and historical information from local organizations. For example, Neptune Theatre is over 50 years old and has seen a lot of shifts in marketing trends throughout its existence, particularly with the introduction of digital and social marketing. For them, traditional advertising still holds the strongest value: billboards and direct mail. Their MainStage attracts a more mature audience who isn’t as active on social media. Their studio theatre brings in new and experimental shows that attract a much younger audience, and for that social media has a strong reach. They have tried to introduce new shows to the main stage but ticket sales were not as successful with their typical audience.
Symphony Nova Scotia has origins as far back as 1897 with Halifax Symphony. For them, subscriptions have been their tried and true methods for revenue. Much of their marketing efforts focus on communication with direct mail to both inform existing subscribers and acquire new ones.
This research helped shape the marketing strategy for moving our project forward. We used these insights to make informed decisions about where to spend marketing dollars to get the most effective results and reach our desired audiences. To increase general awareness, we opted for billboards and radio spots to reach a wide audience, while select print ad placements and rack card distribution were are main areas of focus to hit the tourism market. We also focused on social media marketing efforts to reach the younger arts enthusiasts.
Understanding the vibrant vision of the festival, we created visuals to reflect that vision—bold, striking and an immediate visual impact that resinated with the artist community.
Onelight Theatre and Prismatic Arts Festival had never had a document that housed all of the brand elements for the organization – they didn’t have a brand promise or a mission/vision statement either. Since we were so immersed in the marketing plan and were discovering so many new and relevant insights about the organization, Kohoot took this opportunity to initiate a Brand Standards Guide.
Brand Standards Guide
The Brand Standards included:
- Messaging for both Onelight Theatre and Prismatic Arts Festival: brand promise, vision, mission, unique selling proposition, public-facing marketing blurb and an elevator pitch
- Logo use: clear space and minimum size, variations
- Colour breakdowns
- Graphic elements
As we crafted the messaging, a concept emerged that so completely embodied the culture of both entities that the client embraced it as the festival’s ethos; thus, “Art for Everyone” was born.
Last year's festival ended with a promotional teaser for 2014. This image (featuring a dancer) and the concept “Art for Everyone” formed the branding foundation for this year’s events.
With the completion of the marketing plan and brand standards, Kohoot hit the ground running. Time was limited, but we enthusiastically began to produce materials and advertise the festival.
The first challenge was figuring out how to evolve the original poster design into a new identity for the festival. We drew inspiration from the festival’s main stage scaffolding. Abstracted, this underlying grid provided structure and unity throughout the collateral. The juxtaposition of hard and soft textures mixed with a bold colour palette and beautiful photography created a vibrant and engaging visual experience.
Another challenge was helping the client reach their goal of encouraging visitors and increasing opportunities for engagement with the festival. Through strategic paid social media marketing, we targeted desired demographics and monitored our results— adjusting as necessary to maximize our engagement.
We used the 'boost' option for Facebook posts to increase engagement. A boosted post is content posted to your Facebook wall and then targeted to specific demographics with a paid reach. You can monitor and increase the reach by controlling how much money is spent on each impression or click. An impression is simply a record of how many people saw something that was posted to the Facebook wall, while engagement pertains to a record of how many people clicked, liked, or commented directly on a post.
Facebook: July 28 to Aug 21
Total Boosted Posts: 15
Dollars spent: $578.00
Page Likes: 114
Link Clicks: 99
Facebook was our primary social media tool that was used for paid marketing. Twitter was used to support Facebook content and boosted posts by tweeting links and similar content in addition to live tweets from events and local happenings that pertained to the festival.
The boosted posts definitely helped us reach a new audience outside of the current Facebook followers. We saw and increase in page likes, post likes and running commentary on individual posts. Compared to non-boosted posts that were reaching audiences organically, the engagement level saw at least a 200-300% increase.
The 2014 Prismatic Arts Festival was a runaway success. Festival organizers estimate that 10,000 people attended the four-day event and corporate sponsorship was the highest to date. With increased “likes”, “shares” and overall dialogue about performers and performances online, social media engagement was the highest Prismatic ever experienced. The dialogue continues, even months after the 2014 festival concluded. This has everyone extremely excited about continued success in 2015!
“Prismatic has had a long, successful history with Jay Hiltz and Kohoot Media. Developing a global brand and image that cohesively covers a range of print, social media, outreach and advertising initiatives while staying true to the spirit and vision of the Prismatic Arts Festival was a challenge. Through Kohoot, Prismatic was able to tap into the skills, experience and creativity of many talented people. The Kohoot team worked with us to understand our vision while preparing unique, high-quality, unforgettable materials. The shared success of this effort is the result of ongoing consultation, communication and respectful exchange of ideas. We look forward to continuing to work with Jay, Tim and the rest of the Kohoot team. “ Maggie & Shahin - Prismatic Arts Festival.
- Keep production simple, particularly with larger projects that go to tender; you may not necessarily be working with familiar suppliers and installers.
- Focus on communication and collaboration. Amazing things can happen when you and your client share a vision!
- Plan ahead. Word counts, pagination, head shots—establish deadlines with your client to make sure you get what you need before time becomes an issue.
- Having a strong presentation and polished package is essential when campaigning for sponsorship. Sponsors want to see that you produce quality work and want to know that they can proudly associate with your product.
- Know your market—and leverage all the free publicity possible!
- Supply your creative team with as much content as possible as early on as you can to help keep the project on schedule.
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