A number of the UK’s museums, galleries and heritage attractions have adopted a new way of looking at their audiences, and it’s paying dividends.
They’re using an audience segmentation system that’s based on understanding the deep-seated values that drive people’s engagement with culture. Then they’re using these insights to craft offers and messages that really resonate.
Using this system, the Museum of London saw a massive increase in visits; Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is increasing its exhibitions engagement; the Tate Modern is maximising its audiences; and Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) is using the insights across every area of its work, from marketing to interpretation to retail.
The system is called Culture Segments and it takes a psychographic approach to classifying customers. Developed by cultural research consultancy Morris Hargreaves McIntyre (MHM), it’s designed as a system that can be used by any organisation targeting audiences for cultural, leisure and heritage attractions.
Audiences are not homogenous. They’re made up of diverse people with different needs and wants. To be audience-focused, we need to understand and meet those needs and wants. In an ideal world we’d develop personalised offers for everybody, but this is expensive and impractical. Segmentation is a good half-way house: clustering people into groups who share the same needs and wants and developing differentiated strategies for those segments whose needs we can best meet.
Why use psychographics?
Many segmentation systems are based on demographics such as age groups, life stages, income levels or social class. Or they’re based on behaviour – people who already engage in different types of activity and people who might. There are other proprietary systems that are based on making assumptions about the attitudes and values people might have depending upon their postcode.
Most of these systems are concerned with finding audiences for mass-market products and so they take a broad-brush approach. What we’ve found when people engage with culture is that such approaches simply don’t apply and so these systems will always have limited success.
What motivates us?
Cultural activity is highly discretionary. The motivations people have for engaging with culture and the benefits they seek are highly personal. In this respect, broad demographic groups are not homogenous in their attitudes towards culture. In those areas where there’s a critical mass of cultural offerings – in cities, for example – housing is so diverse that a single postcode can’t possibly serve as a proxy for what all residents might be looking for as cultural options.
Through years of research we have found that values and attitudes are the key factors that drive cultural behaviour.
Some people are open to taking risks with what they see and do, others are more conservative and want the reassurance of popular events. Some people want to have a great time with friends; others want deep and meaningful experiences, sometimes on their own. Some people want to be challenged and provoked while others want the comfort of familiar things. Some people have their imaginations fired by the creative process, while others prefer to be wowed by the finished article. Some people want to learn; others want to have fun. These and many other factors determine the type of cultural consumer an individual is.
Eight Culture Segments
Culture Segments have been derived from robust research using large-scale quantitative methods and multivariate 3D cluster analysis. The system divides the majority of the adult population into eight distinct groups. In this system, the definition of “culture” is very wide – stretching from high art to movies, from playing an instrument to making a film, from going to a pantomime to going for a walk.
The eight segments are:
Mature; traditional-minded and interested in heritage, nostalgia and life-long learning
Community-focused, receptive, confident; value inclusivity and creatively inclined
Aspirational; seek quality time, build their self-identity and look for self-improvement
Contemporary-minded; social, active, experimental and like discovery
Sophisticated, discerning, independently-minded and spontaneous; very active cultural consumers
Settled, self-sufficient, focused, content, with fulfilling interests; appreciate being reminded how much they enjoy occasional cultural outings
Time-poor, busy, ambitious; struggle to prioritise leisure activities; wistful and need guarantees they’re not wasting time or money
Enjoy mainstream fun, popular acts and events; see mainstream culture as great social and leisure opportunities
This is not to suggest that there are only eight kinds of people in the world, but that if we group people according to those who have these factors in common, we’re in a better position to understand and meet their needs. We’ve developed detailed “pen portraits” – easy-to-use data sketches full of details about the eight segments, designed to help attractions recognise and understand their audiences and prioritise those that offer most potential. Organisations are proving that this approach to “mass personalisation” is more effective than targeting people by superficial, irrelevant factors.
Reaching your audience
Using these insights about their markets, organisations can begin to develop cross-departmental strategies to respond to the needs, values and motivations of audiences. This gives teams across departments a common language for talking and thinking about audiences.
Culture Segments have worked effectively for the Museum of London, where they have increased their audiences from 500,000 to over 1 million in the past two years. The museum used Culture Segments to identify its core, priority and developmental audiences, creating events programmes to attract new groups and effectively target exhibitions at very different segments, thereby attracting entirely new audiences.
At London’s Tate Modern, for Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, Culture Segments were used to identify those audiences that are always slow in booking tickets and attending certain exhibitions, to then urge them into taking action promptly and reassuring them that the show would deliver positive benefits. The result was that the Matisse exhibition broke all of Tate’s records to date, attracting some 600,000 visits over its five-month period.
Understanding your visitors
At HRP, every department is familiar with Culture Segments and develops its strategies with its priority segments in mind. Each palace has priority segments that inform programming and events planning. Developments, retail and catering offers are all increasingly being informed by research with key segments.
MHM also works with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, most recently to evaluate several of their festivals, including the summer festivals Plantasia and Full of Spice. Applying the segmentation developed for the attraction – which is based on the attitudes, needs and motivations of visitor groups – enabled Kew to understand its festival visitors through a segment lens, and to understand what potential visitors might want from a festival depending on their segment. This has allowed the attraction to actively focus on and address visitor engagement with their festivals.
Culture Segments are universal. MHM has now conducted studies in many different countries, including the UK, the US, Norway, Sweden, China, India, Brazil, Australia, South Korea, Turkey and Indonesia. It works across the subsidised and commercial cultural sector from performing arts and exhibitions to plays and visitor attractions.