Affordable Art Fair - Embedding Culture Segments

The whole [ ] organisation feels excited and empowered by Culture Segments. It’s given us a common language, whether we’re in London or Brussels, New York or Singapore, to understand the people we want to come to our fairs and why they will love them.

- Sarah Lyons, Head of Marketing, Affordable Art Fair

Now in its 20th year, the Affordable Art Fair holds 13 fairs in 10 countries which in 2019 attracted over 202,000 visitors. 

Since Will Ramsay founded the company in 1999, over 2.7million people have visited an Affordable Art Fair, taking home over half a million artworks. 

The company also offers art-lovers the chance to purchase affordable contemporary artworks 24/7 through its online marketplace.

Culture Segments is helping to solve the organisation’s need to connect with audiences and optimise the Fair experience, making it successful for gallerists and visitors alike.

Sarah Lyons, the Affordable Art Fair’s Head of Marketing, explains how Culture Segments is embedded across the organisation to help them achieve this:

“We started working with MHM in 2018 as we were noticing differences in our audience attendance throughout the year. We wanted to find out who our audiences were, how we could reach them, and which audiences would gain most from the experience of visiting the fairs.

We found our dominant segments, globally, were Expression (26%) followed by Essence (22%) and we opted to focus on two supporting segments as well: Affirmation and Stimulation who came to some Fairs more than others.

Our goal is to increase our audience share from these segments. As well as rethinking our marketing approach, we’ve made great efforts to ensure Culture Segments thinking is embedded across every area of our operation.

To do this we have made sure:  

1. All staff know their Culture Segment

We have an annual conference where we get everyone together from around the world. This year everyone answered the Golden Questions before they arrived and knew which segment they belonged to.

2. Staff practise applying the segments

At the staff conference we did lots of workshopping around Culture Segments. We created challenges such as ‘write an email that’s designed to attract a Stimulation audience’ or ‘think of a fair attraction that would meet Expression’s needs and engage them in the art’. 

3. We share pen portraits

MHM’s Pen Portraits helped us understand the mindsets of each segment. I personally really like the ‘how to reach this segment’ section. 

When I speak to people who aren’t confident in marketing I use the portraits to bring to life how to speak to each segment. 

Naturally we pepper our copy with Culture Segments buzzwords. We’ve also created a new brand proposition – Discover the joy of collecting art – and created a campaign based on pen portrait videos using real fair visitors to bring our target segments to life.

4. We sense-check content

We regularly talk to the international teams, making sure there’s planned content that works for each of the target segments.

In addition, we create global content for all teams to use - the whole of our 20th anniversary magazine was created to specifically appeal to the four segments and help build trust in the Affordable Art Fair, which the research has also helped identify as being an area we wanted to work on.  

5. We talk about Culture Segments with external agencies

We always include the Culture Segments in briefings, for example for PR agencies, and have found it an incredibly useful shortcut for explaining our target audience.  

6. We’re sharing Culture Segments expertise with our gallerists

The Affordable Art Fair has a family of loyal galleries, some of whom have been exhibiting with us since 1999. These small to medium-sized businesses want to know the customers as much as we do, so we run Business of Art sessions designed to help them be effective and sell more art. 

This year one session focused on sharing Culture Segments audience insights. We explored how they could use them to help them make better connections with visitors, engage them on their terms, understand the different drivers people have for purchasing and owning art.

Essentially this helps them support their customers, increasing sales but also satisfaction. 

Impact – Increased engagement and audience share in six months.

This year, having implementing the strategy globally, we’re seeing hugely encouraging results. 

When looking at the Culture Segments of first time visitors to the fair in 2019, three quarters (76%) were from our four key segments.

Our brand proposition and 20th anniversary campaigns drove a reach of over 2.2 million from just 220 communications. 

Another series of blogs #MyAffordableArt blogs, focused on the Expression audience: 

  • Just six UK social media posts reached 46,400 people
  • Over 1 million page-views of three blogs featuring art in the homes of the UK Affordable Art Fair team
  • Half the blog viewers engaged with further content or purchased tickets. 
  • The campaign was so successful that we expanded it globally and ran a further four blogs featuring international Affordable Art Fair team members.

All in all, the whole Affordable Art Fair organisation feels excited and empowered by Culture Segments. It’s given us a common language, whether we’re in London or Brussels, New York or Singapore, to understand the people we want to come to our fairs and why they will love them.”


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