Be a Belieber in marketing your arts organization to teenagers
When Justin Bieber jotted a note in the guestbook at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam last April, saying, “Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber,” the Internet erupted. But instead of joining the cringe-fest in criticizing the 19-year-old Canadian pop star, the museum posted an official statement on Facebook with a wider perspective:
“We think it is very positive that he took the time and effort to visit our museum. He was very interested in the story of Anne Frank and stayed for over an hour. We hope that his visit will inspire his fans to learn more about her life and hopefully read the diary.”
Despite the inappropriateness of the comment, or the immaturity of the photos he snapped, Anne Frank House officials have a point: It’s a good thing we have teenagers who want to hang out at museums.
Philadelphia museums will have a benchmark for teenage attendance after data is collected from the STAMP Pass, a program launched in October 2013 from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance (the Alliance) with Knight Foundation funding. Students enrolled in STAMP (Students at Museums in Philly) receive a year’s free admission to 12 top local museums. The Alliance reports that more than 5,000 teenagers have already signed up for a STAMP pass, and they hope to enroll a total of 10,000 before the end of the school year.
Among audience segments, teenagers are traditionally known to have the lowest profile in museum attendance — and, looking at 2006 research from the National Art Education Association, the trend continues. Still, there has been a surge in museum programming for teens over the past couple of decades. The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis has established itself as a national model for engaging teens: Now accommodating 10,000-plus young people per year, with a 12-member teen council at the core, it’s a case study in how to effectively market to teenagers. Take a look at their teen program how-to kit posted online.
Local leaders in the effort like Fleisher’s Teen Lounge and Asian Arts Initiative’s Youth Arts Workshop are also getting noticed. Both programs are free or provided at a reduced cost, and give teenagers a place to get hands-on in creating artwork with professional teaching artists.
So what works in marketing your arts organization to teenagers? Successful outreach to this age group breaks the price barrier, works with school and club groups that students participate in voluntarily, and often operates through a teen committee. With that setup, teens who work as paid interns can be the ones who plan events for other teens. In a Museum 2.0 blog post, Nina Simon has also found that a museum should work to give teenagers social experiences with the friends they already know.
Check out a top 10 list from New York’s Museum Teen Summit, a group of teenage leaders representing different museums from their city, on what makes for successful teen engagement. A 2012 report from SloverLinett Strategies lists the following insights on teen audiences to keep in mind:
- Teens don’t want to be treated like kids — but they do want to feel welcomed and included in an experience.
- The liaisons interacting with and facilitating teens’ cultural experiences play a very important role.
- Parental support for teen involvement in cultural programs is critical to the success of the engagement effort.
The business world is dedicated to attracting the brand loyalty of teenage audiences, a group with spending power and influence on the spending of family members. Arts organizations are closing in on a lag in paying attention to this demographic with new programs like the Philly STAMP Pass, connecting to teenagers with strategies they’ve identified themselves.
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