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Creating and programming to an audience mood is never a good idea, but you can use marketing strategies as a moderator (in the statistical variable sense) to reach people when your topic is tough. 

With covid exhausted audiences the delivery is more influential than the message. People feel isolated and sick of being talked at. More than ever they are craving interesting personal stories and experiences that spark their emotions. Don’t shy away from tough topics, or try to program to audience trends. Use smart marketing to breach the schism between heavy topics and audience avoidance. Heavy or sad content can still reach a broad audience if they are engaged appropriately.

FOR EXAMPLE: SQUID GAME
Two Main Sources: Psychology Today and The Lab 

  1. Even if it’s not a new story (Squid Games draws from Hunger Games, Gladiator, etc), it can still have an impact, if the show is extremely well made and visually striking
  2. When baking, dating and even lego building can be turned into a competitive sport, there’s no denying we live in an increasingly competition-obsessed capitalist society.
  3. We can see ourselves in multiple roles within the story, creating multifaceted empathy. 
  4. Salience of economic disparity and disadvantage is boosted by the pandemic, even though not directly driven by or commenting on it.
  5. Preparedness no longer just for doomsday weirdo preppers. Survival “what ifs” have a newly increased pertinance now.
  6. The Korean setting and language make it easier for viewers to psychologically distance themselves and enjoy the escapism.
  7. Australians are adapting the show. Local audiences are regionalising memes, posting reaction videos, and buying white Vans slip ons.
  8. Subtitles make for a more active viewing experience, forcing audiences to completely immerse themselves. 

So what might this look like in an arts marketing context?

  • A mix of emotional appeals – use music, graphics and words to create juxtapositions or pairings that cause a higher intensity of emotional response. 
  • Use personification – talk directly to the audiences, use the first person, more casual language in order to build empathy
  • Start the story – rather than “SHOWNAME. Tagline, starring, five stars” as most shows go with, start the actual story without giving away any spoilers. That way you leave the audience hanging and wanting to know more, you can sign post any particularly confronting aspects, and your website can start mid-conversation.

To be clear – I’m making a distinction between the content of the show vs the promotion of it. I think it’s possible to amp up the emotional appeals of marketing, not the shows!

This seems counter intuitive, however as the Patternmaker’s research shows, capturing the atmosphere, excitement and energy is more important than ever for audiences post-COVID. The excitement at going out again will be there with increased freedoms and life returning to normal, so use other emotional pairings to amplify that.