Exclusive inclusivity – Part one: Why we attend

If you’re marketing an event, attraction, sport, museum or arts performance, the odds are you’ve gathered demographic data on your customer, and you have a fairly good idea of WHO attends.

But do you know WHY they attend?

If you don’t understand why people engage with your programming your marketing may fail to connect with your audience.

Why do we “attend”? What drives us to get up off the couch, purchase a ticket and go to a play, a gallery, an event or a game? It’s the desire to satisfy deep-set and often intangible values which the participant may not fully understand or be able to articulate.

Until recently, even researchers couldn’t agree on our motivations. One comprehensive research project stated that the most cited motivations for leisure experiences were pleasure and escapism. Another research paper said that the key factors were a shared experience and social engagement. Yet another paper said that consumers were drawn to challenging and socially-engaged leisure activities.

A 2011 study by University of Leeds White Rose University Consortium concluded that “the complex motivations of theatre audiences remain unclear.”

And yet, in the past decade, we’re starting to see patterns emerge in consumer behaviour research. Recent research identifies consumer tendency towards products and experiences which reflect their ideal self-image. This applies equally to packaged goods and ticketed attractions.

This may seem like a shift in motivation, but we’ve always been driven by a need for self-actualization and self-fulfillment – as psychologist Abraham Maslow noted in 1943 in his Hierarchy of Needs.

What’s different in the 21st century is that we have social tools that enable these needs: we constantly curate and define our self-image via our social channels. Twenty years ago when we visited a museum or went to a game, we likely only shared that information with a small circle of family and friends. In 2019, our every activity is shared – often with people whose only contact with us is via social media, and who form their image of us based on the content we share. We have the ability to shape our image via this content – and therefore by the cultural, entertainment and sports activities we choose to attend.

WATCH FOR PART 2 COMING SOON: “Exclusive Inclusivity”: How arts, sports and entertainment can feed our social needs.

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