Privileged to Market the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra
I’m blessed to combine two professional loves in my work, marketing and music. Indeed, my education reflects these dual interests. I studied with Karen Shaw at Indiana University and Ozan Marsh at the University of Arizona, completing a doctorate in piano performance. After several years of teaching and performing Robinson I earned an MBA in marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.
At Last Marketing Something That’s Good for You
I spent two decades in private industry marketing such brands as Brach, Andes, Toblerone, Milka, RCI, Cricket, Azar Nut and Shell Oil. I enjoyed responsibilities in product management, new product development, market research, email and social media marketing, and—as early as 1995—Web design. While I loved working in these businesses, I’ve found orchestra marketing to be a greater professional challenge.
I joined the Houston Symphony in the 2004 season, its third straight year of decline. Over the next five seasons the team I put together turned audience revenue upward, growing sales 38% or twice the industry average. The American Marketing Association recognized these results with its Marketer of the Year Award. We also received five AMA Crystal awards and an ADDY for Best Television Advertisement. I’ve spoken at the League of American Orchestras Conferences and Fall Meetings several times, once serving as the League’s liaison to orchestra marketers. I’ve had the opportunity to lecture on branding and marketing at the American Marketing Association, the University of Texas Business and Communications Schools, and Rice University’s Jones School of Business. The United States Postal Service’s national magazine, Deliver, talked to me about the Houston Symphony’s direct mail methods. I’m fond of working with numbers, having earned the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation.
New Methods for Orchestras
My team brought several innovations to Houston.
- Using profiling and modeling, we mined our trade lists to triple the rate of return on prospect cards.
- To revitalize an in-hall campaign we offered two unique subscription premiums: a limited-edition Hans Graf champagne-cork baton kit and Michael Krajewski Pops Corn.
- We conducted the industry’s first Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (A-Met) research study, as developed at Harvard’s Laboratory of the Mind, with 70 one-on-one interviews to understand classical audience motivations.
- For a new product offering, Young Professionals Backstage, we marketed almost exclusively through Facebook, gaining four times as many subscribers as planned.
- We used musician trading cards in a new way, as prizes for a wheel of fortune used to attract audience members to a marketing table at outdoor events. NPR National Public Radio’s All Things Considered interviewed an orchestra musician and me about the project.
- In what I believe was an industry first, we printed multiple versions of season brochures for different market segments.
In 2009-2010 I ran an agency, Robinson Marketing for Orchestras, and spent much of the year learning more about social media. Social media is the most exciting development in marketing of my lifetime, even more than the emergence of websites in the mid-90s. I was also excited about making the remarkable technology of WordPress available to orchestras, free of charge.