Here's how we've helped organisations like yours put their customers firmly centre-stage so that they could offer products, experiences, and services their customers actually wanted.
Shaping marketing messages to ensure event success
The organisers of an established annual cultural event that invited people to create wearable art for exhibition wanted to understand whether they needed to re-position their messaging and marketing. They wanted to know what to call the people submitting entries – were they artists, designers, craftspeople, or fashion designers? This was important to ensure the quality of entries was high, which in turn determined the type of sponsors they could attract, and ultimately the overall success of the event.
What our research uncovered
We conducted ethnographic interviews with six participants, in their studios, both men and women. We spoke to people who had submitted entries in previous years since most of our questions were based on their experiences both of the event itself and as creators.
Overwhelmingly, our interviewees wanted to be seen as ‘artists’ and their work as ‘art’. The data we collected suggested that the event was considered ‘low art’ because of its perceived craft and fashion origins, and because the creators were mainly female. Our research and analysis showed that, in the male-dominated art world, there is bias against craft, particularly textile craft, which is predominantly created by women. The dominant art world position on textile arts and crafts is that these do not have artistic value because they are practical rather than artistic activities. The power and influence of those in the art world to consecrate and legitimise certain works as ‘art’ is due to significant ‘cultural capital’. However, these influential actors’ definition of what is art and what is craft shifts over time, meaning that art forms that were not previously regarded as art, such as photography, eventually become absorbed “into the Church of Art”.
Our recommendation to the organisers was that they refer to the entries as ‘art’ and the entrants as ‘artists’, and include a statement in their marketing explaining the art-craft dichotomy. We felt that the designs may be recognised as ‘art’ by the art world in the future. The acceptance of the designs as art may happen as more men become involved — both as entrants and at a management level.
Designing better services
A tertiary institution was finding that school leavers who were the first person from their family to attend university either found it hard to make the decision about whether to study at university or found the transition from school to tertiary education hard (or both). They wanted to know why and what they could do to support these students.
What our research uncovered
Through a series of ethnographic interviews and sensory walks with first-year students on campus, our research showed that students who were the first from their family to attend university were struggling to settle into university life because going to university was not a natural ‘next step’ as it is for students from university-educated families.
Our cultural analysis revealed that, because of a lack of socialisation during childhood and low cultural capital, the students from non-tertiary-trained families that we interviewed felt that university was not for them, not for “the likes of us”, and not an automatic post-school route in the way it is for students from university-educated families who do not really choose at all. (These students have always assumed that they will attend university, always expected they would, and don’t really pay much attention to the actual decision.)
While the students’ parents are often supportive, they are unfamiliar with the university system as they are not university-educated themselves and their offspring have therefore not been socialised into what to expect at university or how to behave. We found this meant the students generally did not feel comfortable when faced with “all the books” in the library nor did they feel a sense of entitlement at being on campus, in the way that students from university-educated families do.
Unfortunately, this means that social inequalities are produced and re-produced within the social system. Which is why it’s so important for tertiary institutions to give students from non-tertiary-trained families much more support in their first year.
Our recommendation was that better engagement with students was needed before they left school such that university attendance is normalized and the choice to continue on to further education is made easier for students who find the decision difficult. Additionally, we recommended that extra support services be made available for these students to enable them to settle into university life as quickly as their peers from university-educated families.
If your business or organisation wants research-based insights that will help you create products and services your customers want, contact Mundy & Anson today >