Instagram Growing Fast

Here’s a little chart on the current and future projections for the US Social Network thanks to eMarketer.

Facebook remains the king, but Instagram has come so far so fast. Are you using Instagram?

I guess some people still use Pinterest!


Posted in Content Marketing, Marketing, Social Media

Marketing Musings from the Presidential Campaign Blue Edition

Fascinating! It’s really the only word you can use to describe what is happening right now in the 2016 presidential campaign cycle and in particular, how we can learn marketing tricks to help us in our own work. This will be the first of what I hope to be a few dalliances with this topic over the next eight months in the run-up to the election.

Hopefully, what we’ll be able to do is pose a few questions that might shift the perspective on your work and have you think about your own challenges through the prism of how these candidate campaigns have formulated and executed their plans. What you will not get here is any political ranting in favor or against any candidate, unless of course it offends or excites me as a marketer.

I do not position myself to be a political consultant. Actually, I’m far from it. But what I am is an enthusiastic observer and hopefully an acute learner from the lessons being taught when hundreds of millions dollars are being spent on advertising and marketing campaigns. Sometimes the money is spent on ideology, but the majority of it is spent on brands – those of candidates and political parties.

As of this writing, immediately the Nevada Democratic Caucus and South Carolina Republican primary, the races have been winnowed to two candidates on the Democratic side and four on the Republican.

Let’s look at some of the interesting items on the Democratic side first.

Hillary Clinton’s candidacy was a foregone conclusion eight years ago. For the better part of the last decade she and her team have built the campaign that is now being executed. Yet an upstart self-proclaimed socialist in his 70’s is giving them a real run for her money – especially among the youngest voting constituency – those in their 20’s and 30’s.

One may ask, is this exactly what Team Hillary wanted? After Joe Biden took himself from the race, it appeared as if her nomination was a slam dunk. However, having someone in the role of antagonist, allows the team to stay sharp and on top of their game. Sure there must be some sleepless nights, but it’s forcing the entire team to do their best work and not rest on their laurels.

Meanwhile. Sen. Sanders has tapped into the same grass roots that propelled the current President to office. The small $25, $100, $500 donors are the ones who have created a war chest that has exceeded Clinton’s fundraising for the past month or two. Of course, one might argue some of Hillary’s supporters are staying on the sidelines until the money is really needed in the fall. But if one doesn’t secure the nomination, there truly is no tomorrow.

On the other hand, as we know from our work, simply flipping a switch to turn supporters into donors is not an easy task. It takes time to cultivate and if small, grass roots donations have not been part of the Clinton strategy from the beginning, it may be difficult to ramp up in a short period of time.

Now, let’s look at this from a marketing perspective.

On one hand you have an established name with almost immediate brand recognition. But it appears as if the brand has some of its own challenges. Rightfully or wrongfully, there’s distrust not only in Hillary’s history but also as an establishment candidate. This uneasiness in the electorate seems to be the pathway that the Sanders team has chosen to follow and amplify to great success.

One secret to great marketing is always is to take the perception and leverage it to your own advantage. Call it marketing jujitsu. If you’re promoting a product or event that already has carved out space in the public’s mind, it is imperative to use that for your own advantage. One of the reasons new events and new programming too often fail is because there’s no brand recognition with the public at-large.

In the case of Sanders, they understand Hillary’s weakness and have continued to push the progressive approach which has forced Clinton to move further left than she may want, at the same time as trying to ride the coattails of the current administration.

My own personal perspective is the Sanders team is doing a better job of creating a vision for folks to buy into. Clinton, on the other hand is being much more pragmatic. She has been on the inside and knows the challenges of politics as they exist today – and in her view – what they may look like at the point of the inauguration in 2017.

Sanders on the other hand is building upon the enthusiasm, especially from the young millennial generation, that anything is possible and a revolution can break the stalemate that has frozen Washington for so long.

Here’s another point to make in the world of marketing. Having the opportunity to create a vision for your customers or donors is sometimes more important than all of the pragmatic approaches you can list. This is not an easy strategy; similar to one saying “you need to tell your story.” Most marketing professionals are competent on one side of the ledger or the other but not both.

Pragmatic vs. Visionary. How do you approach your marketing and fundraising? Can you tap into both sides and have folks see the future as you and your organization wish it to be and then contribute or attend or engage? The difference between mediocre success and wild accolades may be the difference in you being able to connect both sides.

Lastly, one of the most interesting statistics I’ve viewed thanks to the geniuses at Nate Silvers’ website is the impact of Facebook on this particular campaign. Check out this link:

Bernie Sanders is substantially ahead on the number of likes across the country, well in excess of Hillary.

One might think given the importance of social media in the last campaigns – particularly in 2008, that the Clinton team would’ve embraced a strategy to build legions of followers and “likes.” However, they have seceded that territory to the Sanders campaign, and one might argue it has worked extremely well for the challenger.

Of course, ‘likes’ are not votes, but you would have to admit it would be an indicator of trends across the country.

Now for a little inside baseball. As we’ve all learned, the youngest are no longer avid Facebook users. Rather, Instagram and Snapchat are what are particularly hot on college campuses these days and Facebook has taken on the platform of choice of those in their 30’s+. So I’m not sure what we can learn from all of these analytics, but it certainly has me contemplating the disconnect between Sanders popularity on Facebook and the strength of his support offline with the millennials.

What is to be learned of all of this? Of course, we don’t have access to the inside data the campaigns have, but from what we can extrapolate, the ability for the Sanders campaign to engage through social media is one reason for his success.

Is this because of the message of “revolution”?

Is this because social media is equated only with big, major changes?

Or is it because those on Facebook want to check in on the gruff musings of a New England politician?

Whatever the case, there’s much more to come in the next few months.

Next time we’ll look at the Republicans and the fascinating way that social media has trumped a $100 million candidate.

Posted in Brand, Marketing, Politics, Social Media

Protecting Your Brand

Here’s a brief overview of copyrights and trademarks for those of you who might have questions.

While its not mandatory for those of us toiling in the marketing trenches to know all of the details, it is certainly good to have a basic knowledge of the terms.

Thanks to good friend Bryan Tuk for the post. Check it out:

Posted in Brand, Marketing

2016 Events Marketing Trends A-Z; First Edition

Hot off the virtual presses, the 2016 Events Marketing Trends A-Z First Edition with letter A-M covered. Article appears on pages 29-31

Thanks to our friends at International Festival and Events Association where this article first appeared.

Watch for N-Z coming soon.

Posted in Brand, Collaboration, Event Marketing, IFEA, Marketing

Super Bowl Meh

A friend of mine and I have had the tradition over the past decade plus to text one another throughout the Super Bowl on the status of the ads, the game, the halftime and in turn, America.

Sometimes there have been exceptional moments to share  and to be a part of the collective experience that is the unofficial holiday of Super Bowl.

The game’s quality aside, throughout this year’s broadcast was “meh.” We found ourselves grasping for some semblance of an ad, a message, a theme that would resonate beyond this morning’s news blurbs on local tv… and there just wasn’t any to speak of.

The trailers for movies were just about the same trailers as we’ve seen for the last umpteen years. Autos seemed off message. Messaging about Marilyn Monroe seemed to be as disconnected with the millennial generation, just as a block of what one could only assume was millennially-focused spots mid- second quarter that fell flat with older demos. Enough with the computer generated or enhanced animals. We’ve seen enough.

While a certain level of creativity was present in many ads – kind of like a spark of an idea – but none of them have me running to YouTube to watch and share this morning, (which I keep reading is the value-add of spending $5 million for thirty seconds of time.)

Buzz Unworthy.

What I really miss is the emotional, smart, thought-provoking cleverness that used to permeate the advertising industry. What I fear is that the combination of the Trump effect (mean spirited, Tweet driven, lowest common denominator messaging) and the reliance upon metadata to make deciions  has extinguished the flame that created messaging that resonated.

As a proponent of arts marketing – and in turn arts advertising everywhere – I will continue to stand on my soapbox and preach the virtues of quality content and efficient messaging to a world starved of meaningful engagement.

Either that or we just need a new Apple product launch.

Posted in Brand, Content Marketing, Creativity, Marketing

It’s Facebook’s World, We Just Live In It

More news on Facebook tweaking their newsfeed. Good two minute back-to-basics video thanks to Mashable.

Posted in Marketing

So How’d You Do? (Part II)

In the last full-length blog post, we looked under the hood of end of year campaigns at some of the takeaways from the projects we worked on at the end of 2015.

With this installment of the blog, I would like to delve into a few more of the keys that made the projects successful, or could’ve made them even more so if they would’ve been executed as originally planned.

• Pre-campaign momentum. There’s really no replacing a good quality project plan, with plenty of energy and excitement rolling up to the start of a fundraiser. Given the holiday season, a well-executed “pre-launch” is particularly difficult for some organizations to accomplish as there is so much underway and mission critical.

However, if you do have the luxury to spend time on the ramp up to your next fundraising campaign, I would highly recommend having 4-6 weeks which is planned to have periods of donor acknowledgement, mission messaging and of course, the all-important quiet time.

We all get so busy within the constant drone of the have-to-do’s and need-to-do’s which fill our communications that the audience of our messaging might become tone deaf to which messages matter most.

If you can objectively set up the game plan for pre-campaign activity, it will make for a much more uniform and strategic game plan for all involved. Just the right mixture of messages from and about your cause combined with salutes to your donors and volunteers can carry the day. When sprinkled liberally with doses of complete silence, it will make your messaging stand out so much more.

• Retention rates – As most of us know, retention rates are of huge importance if we want to maintain the inertia from previous successes. Holding on to donors is the life blood of what we do, yet the median retention rate is only 43% according to the 8,025 organizations surveyed by Bloomerang. That fact alone tells us we have a long, long way to go.

How does your retention statistic measure up? If there’s one key performance indicator (KPI) that we should all be measuring it is how we fare versus the national donor retention average.

But if we’re measuring the donor, why not as well measure the donation retention? According to the same survey, the median gift retention rate is slightly better with 47% being retained from one year to the next.

As for our 2015 projects, we had a 48% retention rate on donors for the same campaigns… slightly above the average. One note: if you run multiple campaigns based on seasonality or some another specific timeline, it is always important to make sure to track past donors in order to compare apples to apples and to avoid mixing fruits and fundraisers.

On the donation retention side of the ledger, we had a remarkable 43% increase from the same donors year-over-year. That’s a pretty great increase and put us on the road to overall success of the campaign. As I had mentioned in a previous post, we may have grown top end donors at the expense of affordability for lower level supporters and this is something that will need to be addressed moving forward.

Refresher on the tricks of the trade – A few things became very apparent when rolling up the sleeves on the grass roots level of a campaign.

First and foremost, always remember to block and tackle. While you can have the flashiest players or social media platforms at your disposal, but if you don’t do the basics correctly, all the new tech toys will just wind up being a distraction. Here are a couple of the “solids” brought back to my attention.

Social is great for conversations, but never forget the tried and true. Snail mail with all of it’s bulkiness, is still the way for many to give. While many projects have been able to move online and the giving rate has stayed 50-50 for online/offline, you have to recognize it’s a really big 50% to walk away from. Make sure you have budget to use the good ol’ USPS at least for the next several fundraising campaign cycles.

We always hear about personalization – but for many of us that goes not much further than the subject line or the initial salutation. What worked very well in our tests was the suggesting of a specific level of donation for each individual. This is a one of those opportunities where you should take yourself out of your day job and put yourself in the place of the recipient.

Pretend you’re receiving a donation letter from an organization you support. Do you know what value you put on that interaction and engagement and what that brings to your life? Or would it be easier if the organization did that for you? Take the step and do some testing moving some of your smaller donors higher and some of your most significant donors even higher. My guess is you’ll be surprised by the results!

Keep Cleaning – Of course your results will only be as good as the content of the letter, the efficiency of the donation forms online and off, but don’t overlook the importance of constantly maintaining your database. This step is critical, yet many organizations don’t have the capacity internally to have this managed on a daily or weekly basis. I am here to say you need to step up and make it part of someone’s job – and if “someone” no longer works for you, it is probably your job until you find a volunteer or intern to help you in your cause. It’s that important!

Make sure when the mail is received and the bad addresses come back they are immediately corrected in the system. Same with hard and soft bounces through your email system. Remember our motto: Digital cleanliness is next to godliness! What to do with bad emails is a little tricky – but you can try reverting to old school techniques like sending a quick “Was it something we said?” postcard, phone call or even stalking on Facebook and messaging supporters that way. (Not that we’re advocating for stalking).

Whatever trick you use – try everything you can to keep people engaged, however if they’ve moved or god-forbid passed away, keeping your data clean will make it that much more effective in the long term.

Well, that pretty much recaps the high and the lows of our most recent end of year campaigns. We hope we refreshed some of the training you’ve had along the way and possibly even showed you a new way or two to think about your next fundraiser. Good luck and happy fundraising in 2016!

Posted in Fundraising, Marketing

Data Informed Instead of Data Driven

For those of us who toil in the world of marketing Facebook is our greatest resource and our toughest challenge.

I love this article on how the mysterious Facebook algorithm works. You know, that thing that decides what we see and what we don’t — and more importantly what our fans and donors see and don’t see.

Spoiler alert: it’s really PEOPLE behind it all. Real, live authentic human beings. Who would’ve thought that?

Best takeaway is the future of data: Marketing decisions based on data INFORMED rather than data driven.

Give it a quick read: Facebook Algorithm

Posted in Marketing

So How’d You Do? Part 1


For so many of us in the non-profit ranks – and especially the arts – the end of the year campaign is usually the most stressful time of the year with heavy performance schedules and fundraising, coupled with the personal commitments to the holidays.

Now that the holidays have passed, it’s a good time to reflect back on the efforts of the end of the fourth quarter and review how we did. January is always a good time to do a post-mortem on your fundraising effort while it is still fresh in your memory. Before you move on to the next project, take a few minutes to write some notes, and be brutally honest with yourself about your efforts. Hopefully, you will be left with some ideas to file away for the next rodeo.

After reviewing the results of the end of year projects I was involved in, here is the first set of notes from my own personal experience on what to do and what not to do for your next fundraising projects. We’ll include some other tips and hints in our next post.

1) Remember what you forgot. We’ve all been there. It’s that place halfway into a campaign where there was that one ginormous concept, you learned before – but went on to forget. Now’s the time during the recap phase to jot down those notes and put them in a file to review before you go into your next battle. It could be as easily as making sure you updated all those address corrections, or something in the process that saves you and your volunteers/staff extraordinary amount of time. Perhaps there was a concept something you learned in a blog post, webinar or training session? It’s good to have a catalog file of tips, tricks and helpful hints, but its only good if you continue to use them. Today is a great day to start that file.

2) There’s no underestimating the importance of the personal touch. If you haven’t succeeded in segmenting your list and assigning personal outreach tasks throughout the organization, now is the time to put this on the top of your to-do list to prepare for your next fundraiser. The Executive Director should have her list. The Board should have their lists. And you should have your list to cultivate to ensure the right message is getting to the right individual.

3) Watch your “ask.” Given the theme of one of the 2015 projects we worked on, “the ask” led many of the smaller level donors to opt themselves out. From the early analysis on the returns from the fundraiser, it appears as if donors misunderstood the campaign’s focus. In retrospect, it is clear the message appealed to higher-level donors, rather than encouraging participation from supporters throughout the generosity continuum.

While the personal outreach phase of the campaign emphasized a specific gift amount based on past giving history, the overall theme, context and general public outreach promoted a higher gift amount. Be aware that the initial messaging sometimes obscures the personal communication that can result in unintended consequences. A reminder that some of the results may be due to the timing of when a message is received, or what part of the message is consumed more readily.

But what is underscored is the importance of a holistic approach to every part of the message. One never knows which communication is going to influence a supporter to make her donation. So be sure your direct mail, email, website, social and personal outreach are all in sync with the goal, and make sure if there is a pathway #2 for your supporter to make the gift that is right for them.

Getting more money from less people is efficient, however it shouldn’t necessarily be a goal.

We hope these items are of some assistance in your recap and planning. If you have any thoughts, share them here – we’d love to continue the conversation.

Check out “So How’d You Do Part 2” to be posted shortly with notes on pre-campaign momentum building, social and marketing support and retention.

Posted in Accountability, Fundraising

The Joy of Space-X

In case you missed it, last month Space-X, the Elon Musk-led space racers, accomplished what some may have thought to be the unimaginable. As part of their continuing progress towards making space travel commonplace, Space-X launched a rocket with a payload of 11 satellites, propelled them into orbit and then brought the rocket back down for a safe landing on a launch pad in Cape Canaveral. Amazing!

If I didn’t see it for myself, I wouldn’t believe it. The video actually looks like it is being run in reverse as the rocket lands softly and the engines. It was almost too perfect. Here is the link:

Of course, I’m a marketer and not an engineer – so there is a great deal more to the flight plan and the months and years of work put into making such an accomplishment a reality. I apologize for simplifying down to a few sentences, but celebrating such an accomplishment MUST be done.

And celebration is why am I writing about this on an arts marketing blog. The celebration of all of the dreams and hard work to make those dreams a reality is palpable in the video. It’s true. It’s genuine. It’s what we all search for in a work environment or on a team or part of a theater, dance or musical production.

At about 32 minutes into the video, while some geniuses are giving a layman’s explanation to the intricacies of the project, an audible roar begins to build in the background as the entire team of hundreds realize what’s about to happen. All of the studying. All of the work. All of the tests. All coming to a conclusion before their eyes. It’s enough to bring tears of joy to your eyes – if not raise some major goose bumps!

The convergence between what is about to happen and the ongoing commentary is not contrived as so much is in these days of hyper-planned media extravaganzas. Look no further than Starwarsification I mentioned in a recent post.

I’d trade the authenticity of this amazing real-time video for every over-Disney-fied, Oscar-telecasted, reality-based, Super Bowl halftime performance ever. There’s an emotion that is triggered in us all when we witness real people with true passion. It simply cannot be duplicated.

Hat’s off for a tremendous accomplishment and an even better example of what it means to be a true team. Bravo!

Posted in Collaboration, Motivation, Synergy
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About Sean King
Sean King has been consulting with small businesses and non-profit organizations for 25 years.  Currently, Sean is a principle in the Aspire Consulting Group providing solutions and training for arts, events and non-profit marketing professionals and their organizations. Clients include Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!) and a growing list of satisfied organizations. Sean speaks regularly throughout the United States including at the IFEA Annual Conference, Arts Reach Conference, AFP, 92Y, CiviCRM User Summit, PA Council on the Arts, Michigan Festivals & Event Annual Conference.  Sean serves as the Marketing Chairperson for the Hamilton District Main Street program in Allentown and is a Co-Chair of the Arts & Culture Committee for the Upside Allentown initiative. He also blogs a  You can follow Sean on Twitter @skingaspire. Sean resides with his wife Natalie and son Haydn in the global crossroads of Fogelsville, Pa.