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Sandy Rees

I think you're right that you can't assume you know why people support a particular organization. I remember talking with a major supporter of a food bank once and she told me that the thing she liked the most about the organization was the fact that we were keeping food out of the landfill! Had nothing to do with people going hungry or not.

I learned my lesson that day and I have never assumed again that I knew why anyone does what they do.

Travis J.

I think this raises an issue in sore need of discussion, but I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion. Let's say you begin marketing to these "low-brow" donors as "low-brow" donors. In an age of marketing literacy, my donors would see this from a mile away and probably be turned off. More importantly, I would alienate my donors who DO come for the programming (and give more money).

I guess my point is: marketing is part of the programming package. If people go to the opera because it makes them feel cultured, they will respond to marketing that makes them feel cultured. Pandering is very transparent and will make donors feel as if they are being talked down to. I'm not horrified by a "Come to the opera--you'll look classy!" tag line from a programming or institutional perspective. It horrifies me as a donor.

Deb

What I want to know is how on earth they were able to elicit "true" answers from the opera goers! Most surveys would beget the pat answers you'd expect about the excellent performers, or the outstanding program, etc. I'm surprised most respondents would even know - let alone admit - that looking classy was a primary motivation.

Harlo

I agree with your argument mostly, except you do not acknowledge the psychology behind opera companies' marketing strategy; a strategy which relies on this very alienation you describe. While your typical opera company has a deep appreciation for the art, their marketers understand that opera's high-brow mystique is a large part of the reason why people buy tickets. (Meaning, in addition to buying tickets to a great performance, audience members are *also* buying another product: the opportunity to view themselves as an aesthete, as enlightened, cultured...) Marketing must keep up this appearance, or they'll lose that segment of their audience.

Yes, it does seem to alienate other segments of the population, but luckily, marketing can capitalize on that, too. They can repackage the product to another group of potential consumers. By introducing outreach initiatives such as youth programs, discounted tickets to matinées, etc., marketers bring in potential audience members lying outside of their reach and expand their base of support.

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