Promotion done by audiences, emphasis on relations, and discovering local potential were the key issues discussed during the Marketing in Culture conference taking place on 20 and 21 April in the ESC and organised by the CCI. Over 350 people participated in the discussions on inventive and unexpected ways of promoting cultural events.

The conference started with a speech by Estella Burga and Thomas Wood Näslund from Sweden (Lava Bibliotek & Verkstad), who talked about how a library in Stockholm facilitates participation in culture. ‘We work in a specific space. It’s our space, so it is important that we invite people and make it possible for them to participate,’ said the speakers. Lava Bibliotek is an open space. ‘We devote a lot of time to workshops, e.g. fingernail painting or 3D printing. We offer workshops on different levels and provide the materials. We facilitate making use of what is available,’ explained Thomas Wood Näslund. ‘If you need a drill, we can lend you one,’ he said in jest.

Rachel Weiner of the Swedish Institute talked about trusting audiences and presented a project in which the official, state Twitter account is run by the citizens of Sweden. Each week, a curator is selected from among volunteers who are active Twitter users. For a week, they may post whatever they see fit, on condition that the tweets comply with Swedish law and are not harmful to anyone. For 5 years, only one post has ever been deleted. ‘We trust our curators, and they reciprocate with involvement in the promotion of our country,’ said Weiner.

Stories about people, not about institutions

‘Digital storytelling’ was discussed by Aleksandra Janus (Centrum Cyfrowe), Barbara Stawarz (, and Marcin Wilkowski ( Thje meeting was hosted by Łukasz Maźnica ( ‘Why do we need a narrative? Because we cannot remember dates. We will not remember information,’ said Maźnica. The speakers talked about a study of Facebook users’ activity, which found that we spend most time on our own profiles. ‘We raise narcissists,’ remarked Barbara Stawarz. Aleksandra Janus emphasised another aspect of the communication: ‘We reach local groups of aficionados, who do what we do but in their free time. Go where your audience is going,’ pointed out Janus. Communication in culture should be based on the narratives of local communities or the people involved in the life of institutions.

Don’t build refinery; build bots

Daniel Aduszkiewicz ( addressed the issue of improving viewer service. ‘We need to know the time for which a person is able to tolerate a problem. Don’t build big refineries, don’t start from big projects of customer service improving. Start with what your problem is,’ he said. Aduszkiewicz warned against the ‘information creep’. ‘The moment when everyone knows everything, everything is posted, but actually we know nothing and nothing can we verify,’ he explained. The solution is adjusting the information to the channels used. ‘Posts on Facebook are different than posts on Twitter’. Szymon Korytnicki (creator of the Mateusz Transporteusz bot helping people move around Gdansk) toyed with the idea of bots replacing humans. According to him, bots are an element of personalised customer service. ‘They’re popular for a reason. They go with the trend of personalised service through emotional form,’ said Korytnicki. The idea of customers being served by software sparked a heated discussion on how bots can be used in culture. It was suggested that a computer program was created to promote classical music among the listeners of dance music.

Logo scrapyard

Why we need media sponsors was explained by Izabela Franckiewicz-Olczak (Biuro Badań Społecznych Question Mark) and Natalia Brylowska (Observatory of Culture, CCI). Research shows that most often it is individual events that receive sponsorship from the media. That is one of the most popular forms of culture promotion. Nearly 85% of the interviewees mentioned radio stations as the main sponsor; websites are least often asked for help (45%) and it is them who most often refuse. For the media, the sponsorship provides opportunities to strengthen their brand; for the institutions, it is about high attendances. Report available

The topic was later discussed by Marcel Andino-Velez (Museum of Modern Art) and Józefina Bartyzel (Teatr Polonia, Och! Teatr). The discussion was hosted by Mariusz Wróbel (Prokultura). The participants pointed out the imbalance in the relation between sponsors and institutions of culture, as well as various questionable practices. Referring to the state-owned media, Mariusz Wróbel said, ‘The mission of the media is like the Yeti – everyone has something to say about it, but no one’s ever seen it.’ ‘A solution may be looking for local sponsors or building your own media. Other outlets should be called “partners”,’ proposed Marcel Andino-Velez and Józefina Bartyzel.

Locality, authenticity, truth

The second day of the conference started with a speech by Natalia Hatalska. ‘We live in a globalised world, but we cherish the “local colour”,’ she said, referring to Donald Trump. She claims that globalisation and unification of culture make people turn to what is local but also expect truth in actions. That is why, in spite of us having access to any music we like, musical festivals have their heydays. We need to experience. ‘It can be seen in tourism where a new category of clients has appeared, i.e. half-tourist (organised trips) half-traveller (spontaneous discovering). That’s why Paris organises campaigns encouraging people to “become a Parisian” for some time,’ explained Hatalska. She gave many examples of how the trend is put into practice. For instance, Tschlin, the quietest place in Switzerland, has only one phone anyone can call, and the inhabitants answer it. If the phone is not answered, the caller wins a stay in Tschlin. The campaign was a huge success. ‘We want to experience and see real people,’ remarked Hatalska.

Name your price; cab drivers and hairdressers

Anna Kulka-Gryz (University of Warsaw) presented the findings of the Name Your Price study. Two theatres staged seven plays. In each case about 20-30% of tickets was sold at prices given by the customers. They paid more or less the nominal prices. However, they paid more after the shows (ca. 21 PLN) and less – before them (17 PLN). ‘No one tried freeloading,’ said Kulka-Gryz and suggested that audiences should decide how much to pay for cultural events.

Aleksandra Czapla-Oslislo talked about her experiences with the The Stanisław Wyspiański Teatr Śląski case study. Kamila Janaszkiewicz discussed the National Forum of Music. Czapla-Oslislo pointed out that marketing links are created through direct contact. ‘People need to know we are not a sarcophagus.’ She suggested people should rethink their idea of promotion. ‘Clients don’t need a hammer; they need to have a nail hammered,’ commented Czapla-Oslislo. Kamila Janaszkiewicz remembered that when the National Forum of Music was in the trial period, word of mouth marketing was chosen to be used. ‘We invited people who are best at gossip: cab drivers and hairdressers. They could buy special tickets for 1 PLN. It was a massive success. Years later, I met a cab driver who still remembered the concerts,’ she said.

Karambit youth in a bubble

Mirosław Filiciak, PhD, of SWPS University talked about how people under 25 function in today’s world. He pointed out that the young generation is a difficult audience. ‘They’re the least solidary, and the most xenophobic and populist generation. They focus on individual success not on social change. They want to “be somebody”,’ said Filiciak. The most important aim of cultural institutions should be fostering solidarity among the youth. ‘Young people build their relations online,’ said Anna Rzeźnik (Królicza Nora, CPC Brand Consultants). With Bartłomiej Brach (Królicza Nora, SWPS University, University of Warsaw), she defined how generation Z (born between 1995 and 2010) participates in culture. ‘Cultural institutions compete for the youth’s time and involvement,’ explained Brach. Their activities should emphasise communality, creativity, and new symbols important for specific groups, for example a karambit, well-known by gamers.

Anna Maria Szutowicz (Y&Lovers) explained how to ‘hype up’ culture. She noticed that generation Y (no kids, between 16 and 29) feels the need to define their identity, feel the agency and pleasure, establish relationships, and see good. ‘A young person is not interested in what culture says about itself; they’re interested what it says about them,’ explains Szutowicz. That’s why catering to those needs will be crucial for future cultural activities. A example of ‘hype’ may be the publicity around genetic ancestry, i.e. tracing lineage for people who submit their DNA for analysis. For two days, the ESC auditorium was filled to the brim. The 3 rd edition of the conference will be held next year.

Written by Anna Iwanowska of the press office of the city of Gdansk

Photos 20 April 2017: