It’s time to be bold, it’s time for X-Culture

Be bold and reap the rewards of a new approach to audience development, argues Laura Rothwell, founder of CRYSTLSD and interim Marketing Director at Tyneside Cinema.

In this blog Laura explains why and how cultural venue marketing teams can do things differently, sharing learning from the recent X-Culture pilot and publishing the full project report.

Over the past few months CRYSTLSD has been leading an innovative programme called X-Culture, testing new approaches to engaging young people in cultural, creative and heritage offers.  

At the City of Dreams launch event in September 2018, we outlined how, through a small pilot project, we would attempt to demonstrate how relationships with a younger audience could be rethought. 

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We asserted that by focusing on face-to-face relationship development, by being willing to meet your target audience on their own terms, in their own environment and with an open mind, cultural organisations could make significant headway with people that are traditionally termed ‘hard to reach’. The pilot is complete, and it is time to give some genuine consideration to the idea that it might, in fact, be the sector itself that is hard to reach.

Over 8 weeks and on a tight budget, the pilot scheme met its objectives to connect with young people who have not previously been interested in engaging with “culture” in the typical sense. The statistics outlined in the final report attached, demonstrate the value in considering face-to-face relationship building to start, or to supplement a campaign, particularly if the campaign aims are to build an entirely new audience.

X-Culture; a new way to connect with younger audiences

What we learnt we must do:

Be where your audience are
Win their trust, they do not want to be ‘marketed to’
Deliver something valuable
Listen and take them seriously
Relinquish control

What we learnt not to do:

Be a flake, if you adopt this method for growing audiences, you’ve got to go all in
Make assumptions
Exclude audiences from the conversation
Take audiences for granted
Be stubborn, digging in and falling back on what you’ve always done as a marketer is fruitless

The potential lies in the collective commitment of marketing teams to be bold and take a risk on a creative approach to audience development.

X-Culture happened in just 8 weeks, with fairly minimal input from venues; imagine what could happen if we all said YES? YES, to taking creative risks in marketing; YES, to incorporating this methodology into our marketing toolkits; YES, to getting into the heart of our communities; YES, to building face-to-face relationships as part of a marketing remit; YES, to programming collaboratively with our audiences; and, YES, to the evolution of what it means to be inclusive and accessible.

No other marketing activity was conducted as part of this pilot, this was to demonstrate a clear correlation between activity and output, it is apparent though, that were this approach to be integrated holistically into a broader campaign, the results would be amplified, and engagement improved.

Read the X-Culture report for the complete story of the pilot project and all the results. Find out about the 18 partners who took part and read their feedback. Learn more about the project methodology, and details of when, where and how it was delivered. Get the all-important information about costs and return on investment. 

Questions? Thoughts? Get in touch with Crystallised via Twitter @crystlsdteam  or email

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