Customer Relationships in Arts Marketing: A Review of Key Dimensions in Delivery by Artistic and Cultural Organizations (Abridged)

by François Colbert and Danilo C. Dantas

What do we know about the customer relationship in arts management? What role does relational marketing play in cultural organizations? What are the avenues worth exploring in this field? These are the main questions addressed in this article.

There are few fields where the customer relationship is more crucially important than in the arts and cultural sector. But there are several dimensions to this relationship. The quality of the artistic product no longer suffices. In today’s hyper competitive marketplace, the sheer variety and quality of offerings vying for consumers’ attention have forced arts organizations to invest in other aspects of the customer experience. For example, the success of the Tessitura database illustrates how arts and cultural organizations can improve the customer experience and build a stronger relationship with consumers. The development of new audiences also relies on a deeper understanding of their expectations and behaviours.

The evolution of marketing and technology has inspired researchers to explore these new trends from different angles, adding to a growing body of literature. These studies on the relationship between arts organizations and their customers have sometimes produced conflicting results. This article seeks to encourage further debate on these issues by tracing the origins of this line of research and presenting an overview of the main findings thus far.

Drawing on different texts from the literature, the article first turns its attention to the use of the product orientation and market orientation in the arts and the variations in their effectiveness depending on the type of customer. The article then presents the main factors (aesthetic, social, service-related) affecting the quality of the customer experience and discusses the importance of the notion of co-creation in the cultural sector. The authors then move on to explore the role of emotions, involvement, pleasure and the quality of the customer relationship in the development of satisfaction, repurchase or recommendation intentions, and loyalty toward a cultural organization or product.

By way of conclusion, the article calls for a reflection on two crucial avenues of investigation that have received little attention to date. The first concerns the huge impact that the shifting demographics, cultural changes and technological developments of recent years have had on the different types of cultural consumers and their defining characteristics. An investigation of these new types of consumers that goes beyond the usual subscriber/non-subscriber dichotomy is required in order to gain a clearer understanding of the type of relationship they want to establish with the cultural organization. Second, in a context where most research in the field of arts marketing has relied on traditional methods such as surveys, qualitative interviews and observation, this article invites researchers to adopt innovative approaches in their research into the relationship between consumers and arts organizations. Longitudinal studies, for example, could help us better understand the evolution of the relationship between a group of customers and a specific organization. Moreover, neurophysiological methods such as eye tracking and analysis of facial micro-expressions could afford better insight into the reactions of consumers to specific changes in the artistic experience. These new avenues of research offer researchers a valuable opportunity to design innovative and impactful studies that will improve our comprehension of the customer relationship in the field of arts and cultural marketing.

Read the full article in the International Journal of Arts Management, Volume 21, Number 2, Winter 2019.

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