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Got (Concert) Milk?

April 13, 2011 |  5:00 am

How do you grow your audience?

It's the million-dollar marketing question with a brand-new answer: milk.

This short film was the basis of the 2010-11 season marketing campaign by Konzerthaus Dortmund in Germany. There's no cursive writing, no roses and not a hint of romanza in sight. "We wanted to get young people interested in what we are doing, so we had to change our image,"  the concert hall's PR head, Jan Boecker, told Culture Monster.

The need to attract a younger audience is something North American marketers are obsessed with, but surely in Europe they don't have to worry about such things?

It turns out they do.

Dortmund is a classical music marketer's nightmare. Located in the middle of Germany's industrial heartland, this former coal and steel town is only just starting its transition into the education and IT sectors. While there has been an orchestra and opera house in town for about a hundred years, the concert hall was only built in 2002. Most of the 580,000 people living in Dortmund prefer watching soccer anyway. Even if they didn't, concert halls in Essen and Cologne are less than 60 miles away.

Konzerthaus Dortmund (KD) is a first-rate concert hall but, on top of everything else, has to struggle against being the new kid in town. Capital costs, energy bills and salaries are covered by money from the town of Dortmund but the programming budget depends on ticket sales.

JarrouskyThe premise of the campaign, produced by Jung von Matt, Germany's biggest ad agency,  was a study that showed a correlation between the playing of classical music and an increase in a cow's milk production. One hundred and 80 organic cattle were treated to a live concert. After that,  recordings of music played by artists that would be appearing in the 2010-11 season were played in the barn.

The milk was put in glass bottles with a label talking about the artist whose music was played during its production and details about when they would be appearing at KD.

Since KD isn't in the dairy business, the bottles were available for a month at a local health food shops as well as at the concert house cafe.

Subscriptions are up this season for KD and while it is impossible to know what bits of their complex marketing strategy are directly responsible, the Concert Milk campaign got them plenty of free air time on the news, culture shows and blogs.

Jung van Matt is more accustomed to working with Mercedes-Benz- and Nike-sized budgets, so how did KD afford its services? "We have a special deal with them,"  Boecker said. "They can be very creative and make something they can win marketing competitions with, so it doesn't cost so much. Maybe 20,000 euros [approximately $29,000]."

What do you think? Should concert milk become a Trader Joe's staple? Why is it so rare for a performing arts organization to be genuinely innovative in their marketing?

--Marcia Adair

twitter.com/missmussel

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