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Tag Archives | Adam Thurman

If You Love Your Brand, Set It Free

Last week I reflected on Adam Thurman’s recent post about wrestling corporation WWE reinventing itself three times to adapt to changing audiences.

He followed up with a post about how the visible manifestation of rebranding has to reflect an internalized change that has already started within the company, or else the rebranding fails.

He suggests organizations commit to rebranding themselves every 7 years or so.

His post reminded me that Japanese anime series change their opening sequence and music every time the season changes, which can happen multiple times a year. As an example, here is the opening of D.Grayman season 1 versus season 3.

There is continuity of characters and basic artistic look to let fans identify their favorite anime series when a new season comes out. However, other than the Drew Carey Show whose changes in opening sequences didn’t necessarily synch up with changes in seasons, I can’t think of too many American shows that make a regular change. (Granted, apples to oranges comparison.)

In any case, while most arts organizations may put out a different brochure every season, they may not change the look of their website as regularly. That might be something to consider, especially if you can feature the work of a local visual artist to draw attention to them as a resource.

It could be especially effective to change the header of a monthly newsletter since that can take less effort than revamping an entire website. Doing A/B testing with different art can help identify an effective look and identity for the organization.

You can probably get a high open rate on your emails if you tell people you want their feedback. This month half are getting one piece of art and the other half another, next month the art with switch for both groups. That way people not only are engaged by the request for feedback, but there is a sense of competition with another group about who got to see the better artwork first.

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Wrestling With Your Audience Composition

I am rather busy wrapping things up here at work and preparing to move, but I wanted to make a nod in The Mission Paradox blog’s direction for a post he made about reinventing one’s organization.

Adam Thurman had been tweeting in advance of his post about how many times he attended Wrestlemania and how wrestling held lessons for arts and cultural organizations so I was curious to see what he had to say.

I had watched wrestling once upon a time, but drifted away for various reasons, including the fact the basic plot was pretty repetitive.

Yes, you could say that about arts organizations which revive the classics. Romeo and Juliet aren’t ever gonna get any less dead (though you never know…) But these days, there are probably more people for whom the classics are brand new than repeats.

But you have to admit, while the basic formula does repeat itself, there is a heck of a lot of drama that goes on before anyone ever enters the ring. Much of it harkens back to some basic archetypes with which people can identify: heroic journeys, villains, anti-heroes, talismans of power, ethical quandaries.

Thurman addresses some interesting facts I wasn’t aware of about how wrestling giant WWE reinvented itself twice in order to appeal to changing demographics and tastes.

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What If They Don’t Want To Be An Executive Director?

On the Harvard Business Review blog site, Anne Kreamer asks “What If You Don’t Want to Be a Manager?” (h/t Daniel Pink) where she talks a little about the alienation one might feel moving from being a producer of material to a manager. While she talks about an experience in a corporate environment, it was easy to see the same situation cropping up in the arts when someone moves from creating content to producing revenue reports and reviewing labor laws.

One of the options Kreamer suggests, other than leaving the company and striking out on your own, revolves around changing the existing work environment. It was her last two sentences that resonated with me (thus my emphasis).

This is something more companies need to address. To remain globally competitive, organizations need to devise innovative ways to encourage and reward creativity. The unorthodox titles embraced by start-ups — directors of fun, ministers of information — can seem ridiculous, but the emphasis on improvising new ways of doing business is important. Furthermore, research conducted by Office Team found that 76% of employees did not want their boss’s job. If employees are no longer responding to the old carrots, it’s time for companies to establish new means of rewarding talent.

This reminded me of the Daring to Lead and Ready to Lead reports I had written on in the past that reported young arts leaders were chomping at the bit to gain greater responsibility in their arts organization, but didn’t necessarily want to assume an executive role.

It got me to thinking that while there is a lot of discussion about exploring new business models for arts organizations like the B Corporation and L3C, maybe there needs to be a corresponding discussion about changing arts job descriptions so that people actually want to assume the roles.

Two issues that seem to rise to the top for executive directors is work-life balance and that the position seems 75% about fundraising and increasing. It may be time to institutionalize the idea that marketing and development aren’t the sole province of those departments by spreading the responsibility around in job descriptions.

I have read a lot of criticism of Michael Kaiser’s ideas, but I have never seen anyone say he is wrong when he advocates for paying attention to the interests of potential donors and connecting them with your corresponding needs rather than viewing them as the source of a lot of money to answer the need you have prioritized.

With the proper training and expectations declared at the outset, marketing, education and artistic staff could take a more proactive role in identifying, engaging and meeting with donors than they do at present. Hopefully freeing the executive director to balance their personal and professional lives, improve their job satisfaction, connect back with the parts of the organization that excite them, and perhaps encourage others to crave their position.

The same can obviously be done with marketing where development, education and artistic, etc. are more active in expressing and advancing the organizational message.

I think people are already cognizant of this interdependent need based on a Twitter exchange between Adam Thurman, Howard Sherman and others this past September.

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What Would Happen To Wine If Everyone Wanted Free Grape Juice

Hat tip to Adam Thurman for distributing the link to an interesting piece about devaluing artistic content by Todd Henry. Henry wonders about the fate of artists when increasingly the view seems to be that content should be free.

“This means that artists have to shift their business models to give away (or make available for cheap) their main art, and instead focus on selling scarce peripherals. Authors sell lectures. No longer able to make a living from recording, bands sell tickets to concerts and survive off of merchandise sales. Content creators give away their content in order to gain eyeballs and ears,…

The problem is…some people are just great at being artists. They aren’t great at business models, distribution or line extensions. They just want to make great, valuable art and sell it at a fair price. What do these people do?
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Would we have had The Beatles if they’d been told, “Never mind spending years in the studio crafting your records. Those things are just promotional fodder to sell these snazzy Sgt. Pepper t-shirts and posters. You should focus instead on how you’re going to monetize.”

I am currently exploring bringing a show, which heretofore has only existed on YouTube, to our stage. The creative team is actually excited that they might not have to cover most of their expenses out of pocket for once.

Until Todd Henry pointed out that increasingly it is ancillary products rather than the artistic product supporting the creation, it never occurred to me what a bizarre situation it is. These guys from the YouTube show I am talking to mentioned the same thing–T shirt sales helped defray some of their expenses.

But there are a million stories in the naked cit.. -erm, YouTube and not everyone is going to be paid for them. We already know that places like YouTube are eroding the concept that you should have to pay for content. People will clearly continue to create content and try to support it however they can. I don’t think an effort to inspire a shift in attitude is going to gain much traction.

Though who knows, I hear Comcast cable is trying to get people used to the idea of paying for bandwidth consumption. As much as I am resistant to the idea, it could change attitudes about paying for content as well.

To extend the question Todd asks about killing the golden goose, I wonder how many creatives will persist until their abilities mature if few are willing to pay for the content. That might be the real long term threat.

The guys I am trying to present are young and their show is fun. But what happens in a few years when they settle down and look to raise a family and they decide they don’t have time to create content alongside their regular job and family? The fact artists have never been paid well has always been a problem, but if even the possibility of a pittance wanes then unremunerated recognition becomes the only motivator to create.

Artists and other creative types need time to allow their skills to develop. Ira Glass said as much in the speech I linked to last week. As a country, we need creatives to mature into their abilities rather than quit early on.

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