Symphony Space - Culture Segments in action

We were amazed to see how accurately each patron represented their own Culture Segment.

- Kristin Cook, Senior Marketing Manager, Symphony Space

Symphony Space is a multi-disciplinary performing arts center in New York City. 

Their fundamental mission is to connect art, ideas and community through their work. Their ambition is for bold programming, presented in a warm and welcoming environment, to forge indelible relationships between artists and audiences.

Building a picture of current and potential attenders

Symphony Space asked MHM to help them better understand their current and potential audiences with a view to focusing their efforts on growth. 

We began by surveying Symphony Space’s existing bookers to understand their relationship with and perceptions of the venue and the organization. This also enabled us to establish which Culture Segments made up their core audiences. 

Audience Atlas New York (MHM’s culture population study of the whole NYC market) revealed Symphony Space had great potential to increase audiences from the Expression and Affirmation segments.  

A deeper dive into audience needs and drivers

We then held an audience forum with members of these segments. This gave deep insight into their needs and wants from visiting Symphony Space, and tested their responses to different marketing approaches. 

Expression, which makes up 27% of New York’s culture market responded strongly to Symphony Space as a creative, inclusive community. 

Meanwhile, Affirmation, who comprise 20% of the city’s cultural attenders, recognized Symphony Space as providing valuable and worthwhile learning experiences and had aspirational associations with the venue.

A strategy to grow and delight Affirmation and Expression audiences

Symphony Space were galvanized by the insights. The team immediately started working on an engagement strategy that would entice more Expression and Affirmation audiences to the venue and ensure the segments’ needs were fully met once in the space. 

Key aspects of the strategy include: 

Optimized brochure design

  • Feedback from Affirmation on the navigation of the season brochure informed its structure, as well as the new website design. 
  • A ‘How to get the most out of your visit’ page was added to reassure planning-minded Affirmation. 
  • Expression had responded most strongly to seeing images of artists’ faces, showing the people behind the music, so these are now on every page.
  • Events were divided by genre and a Table of Contents and Event Calendar was added to allow for easier navigation for Affirmation.

Refreshed look and feel of the venue’s interiors

These segment themes dictated the refreshed visual look of the interior spaces. 

Again, using feedback directly from the audience forum:

The bar space and lobby areas have been redecorated to feel gloriously Expression, filled with colorful, emotional pictures of artists mid-creativity

The lobby provides a bright, cheerful, inclusive welcome to the venue 

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Wayfinding and signage have been creatively upgraded with Affirmation in mind, making navigation of a potentially confusing space clear and easy, leaving no one feeling lost or out of sorts.

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Monitoring audience growth

Because Symphony Space has Culture Segments TagTool – which tags segment data into their Spektrix database for differentiated messaging – the team can see which segments are booking which tickets, signing up to email marketing and responding to membership invitations; and in response to which marketing.

They can monitor which approaches are more or less successful in attracting their target audiences and can tweak messages and approaches in real time to maximize return on investment. 

Before using Culture Segments, we mostly relied on quantitative data such as ticketing/donation history and geography to understand our audiences. After working with MHM and participating in an audience forum, we were amazed to see how accurately each patron represented their own Culture Segment. Now we are better able to understand our audiences' perceptions of Symphony Space and the arts and therefore speak to their values and interests in a more informed and personalized way by using qualitative data

- Kristin Cook, Senior Marketing Manager, Symphony Space

All images copyright Symphony Space


Lorna is MHM's Head of Insight. She oversees the quality of the insight processes across the company...

As Director, Jo works with many of our key clients on projects such as segmentation and branding;...

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