The customer is not always right… no matter what he says

Those who stress negotiated meaning argue that the meanings of texts are neither completely predetermined nor completely open, but are subject to certain constraints. Some commentators refer to influences on the process of making meaning such as ‘a preferred reading’ – which may be represented in the text as ‘an inscribed reader’ or may emerge in ‘interpretative communities’. Individual readers may either accept, modify, ignore or reject such preferred readings, according to their experience, attitudes and purposes.

We are all familiar with concepts which urge us to prioritise the user/audience member. User-centred design is hugely popular in digital media projects, web projects and consumer goods. More and more the role of the consumer in the construction of meaning, and value, is coming to be acknowledged and even prioritised. Web 2.0 technologies, and emerging interaction techniques and practices open up the possibilities for communication which is direct and deeply personal to our consumers. But with these possibilities come dangers.

As arts marketers we are often responsbile for constucting, modifying, incubating the expectations of our audiences. There exists a bond of trust between artists, marketers and audiences as each contributes distinct elements to construct the transactions which occur in cultural consumption. A play may only last 60 minutes, but if a person booked their tickets 3 weeks in advance they have had three weeks with an idea that you (the marketer) and they made together – it is unique to them, was constructed with your help, and with the ideas that the artist gave you about what they should expect.

We lay the foundations for individuals to build complex relationships with the organisations we represent. The foundations will be more accessible to some individuals, and similarly more fertile ground for discreet segments. But by thinking in terms of foundations. By understanding that we are building the schemata of relationships, the skeleton, which the attender will apply meaning we fully understand the potential for personalised approaches.

The schemta which we construct begins and ends in brands – which I will talk about in more detail next week as I describe a shift from an acquisition mindset, where we are trying to communicate a simple, monologic message, to a series of unique relationships, as we induce attenders to climb a ladder of trust, commitment and ultimately meaning.

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