Let’s Get Real 5: What’s the Brand? (North America)

DEADLINE is end of July 2016

We are looking for 6 North American arts and heritage organisations to participate in our next collaborative action research project, looking at building your brand digitally. The cost is $3,000.

This online project is run in parallel with a larger UK project of the same name made up of 25 UK based organisations. This North American version is run entirely online, incorporating 4 ‘virtual workshops’ run via Skype taking place over a period of 10 months. Between workshops, you will carry out your own experiment in your own channels, supported by industry experts and the Culture24 team.

Very few cultural organisations are maximising the potential that digital offers, especially when it comes to making money or generating real value online. This project is an invaluable opportunity to try out new approaches in a supported environment with guidance from experts.

You will have access to a lively and engaged peer network with a shared sense of purpose, plus space to experiment with approaches, tools and tactics in a supported environment.  Each of the North American participants will have a UK buddy to support them and share ideas and learning.


What The Getty got from taking part in Let’s Get Real

Read our interview with Annelisa Stephen of The Getty, Los Angeles about her 2015 Let’s Get Real experiment and her experience of working with Culture24 and partners in North America.

Annelisa Stephen


What will Phase 5 focus on?

This time Let’s Get Real is going deep into understanding your brand and its value online.  How can you express that brand through an experience, through an object or through memories? Could you create new products with your existing digital assets? What value might they have and would anyone buy them?  Considering ways to generate new income is a hot topic as public budgets are squeezed and everyone is forced to look for new business models. Only a few cultural organisations have started any online retail activities and many more simply don’t know where to start!

Engagement and relationships are key factors in any brand’s success, but as with any business proposition there also needs to be a nurturing of entrepreneurial culture – and risk-taking, both of which don’t always come naturally to many cultural organisations. Many organisations are becoming more and more cautious, getting entrenched, scared or defensive because they are on the back foot.  Digital can drive a sense of entrepreneurialism and of being nimble, it can be at the forefront of driving change internally.

Phase 5 will build on our learning from the previous four Let’s Get Real projects and consider how those lessons apply to the specific challenges of income generation and brand value online. This will include thinking about what success looks like, understanding audience needs and buying behaviours, exploring what relevant content we have and how we shape it to convey our brand though products, building a joined up narrative for our audience and understanding our organisation’s challenges.

What‘s involved

The project is aimed at any North American arts or heritage organisation that is interested in becoming better at understanding their brand value online, is interested in developing new products and exploring how to sell them online, and is able to commit the necessary funding, time and resource.  The project is shaped around four virtual workshops (via Skype) spread over ten months. Between workshops, you will carry out your own experiment in your own channels, supported by industry experts and the Culture24 team.  Together we will collaboratively explore how you can become better at recognising, articulating and generating value from your online brand and your digital assets.

You will learn how to develop a greater awareness of your audience needs, your relevant online marketplaces and your product development processes.  Developing things people value enough to actually spend money on will not only generate income but is also a powerful and dynamic way to make deeper connections with your audience. We will explore how to become better at recognising, articulating and generating value online and how to develop intelligent online retail strategies and practices.

Helping up on this shared journey will be cultural brand expert Frances Croxford, who spent 10 years as Product Developer at Tate Enterprises before setting up her own company Seeking State. She will be helping us translate our brands into things that have both financial and emotional benefit. Read our interview with Frances Croxford on why retail has to be both a financial and emotional building of your brand.



Why is online an important place for cultural organisations to think about retail and product development?

The business models for retail publishing, education, music and travel are unrecognisable from ten years ago.  Digital change has been the driving force of this disruption and is challenging organisations to be more open, agile and outward looking. But where are we in the cultural sector on this journey?  Let’s Get Real looks outwards to the industries that are going through digitally-driven transformation and is a call to action to the cultural sector to do the same.

In the recent Digital Culture 2015 report, online retail is detailed as one of the most anticipated new digital activities for 2016.  But online cultural retail is about more than just generating financial value. What we sell and package influences how our audiences engage with us and with culture more generally. The way we approach new product development challenges the way we think about our overall cultural offer, our brand and our purpose.

People want experiences with soul and products with a story – for the cultural sector this is part of our DNA. We are the envy of many commercial retailers struggling to invent their own story and the rich image-led nature of our work lends itself perfectly to online engagement and sharability. But how can we tap into this hidden value, respond to the behaviours of today’s audiences and reshape our offer online? What new products, services and markets are realistic for us? Can we find a sweet spot between culture and commerce? Is it all just hype or can we grow this in sustainable ways?

Read our interview with Tim Plyming from Nesta on why they have partnered on the project.


Who is LGR5 NA for?

The project is aimed at any North American arts or heritage organisation that is interested in becoming better at understanding their brand value online, is interested in developing new products and exploring how to sell them online, and is able to commit the necessary funding, time and resource.

Each participating organisation must nominate one individual to attend the four Skype workshops. It is vital that the person chosen has responsibility for, or is capable of, effecting change in digital strategy and branding.  They must attend the four Skype workshops plus will be expected to contribute approximately another six days of their time between workshops.

In addition to that person, each organisation will need to nominate a minimum of two other members of staff, from other departments or from the senior management, whom they will have access to and can consult when running the individual experiment. These additional staff members need to be available for three internal meetings at the start, midpoint and end of each partner’s own individual experiment. This is to allow the organisation to consider more meaningfully any changes that may be needed to its own working methodologies.


What you will gain by participating?

-       A better understanding of the value of your online brand and your potential for online retail activities. You will gain an understanding of the building blocks for generating income in the longer term. These include a greater awareness of your audience needs, your brand, your relevant online marketplaces and your product development processes.

-       Being part of a lively and engaged peer network with a shared sense of purpose. The network will act as a source of community, knowledge and support. It will also provide a space to benchmark, compare and contrast both data and experiences.

-       Time to reflect on your wider organisational goals and the role that digital activities can play in fulfilling these (or not). This could include looking honestly at both success and failures internally and the allocation of budget spend and resources in this area.

-       Space to experiment with approaches, tools and tactics in a supported environment.

-       An understanding of ways to assess how fit for purpose your online retail content is and how to improve that, both strategically and practically.

-       An ability to reflect on your own organisational structures, processes and rhythms when seeking to engage audiences with your online retail content, to develop insights for opportunities for organisational change.


How will the project be structured?

Culture24 will lead a group of 6 cultural professionals from a range of diverse arts and heritage organisations based in North America. Participants will work alongside colleagues who share similar struggles to improve their organisation’s impact and break down the internal barriers affecting the way they work and make content online.

Nesta has joined LGR5 as project partners and will bring their extensive research knowledge and creative industry expertise to the project. 

The project will adopt an established and successful learning methodology used and developed in previous projects. This involves learning from others, learning by doing and learning together.

Learning from others

We will bring in experts from inside and outside the sector to advise and inform on audience needs and best practice. They will be invited to speak at workshops and/or mentor participants during their experiments.  These include cultural brand expert Frances Croxford (Seeking State) and digital storytelling expert Matt Locke (Storythings).

Learning by doing

Participants will be supported to scope, plan, run and analyse content experiments connected to online cultural retail. Each experiment will be developed with the support of a mentor, to act as a catalyst for building understanding and driving internal change and development. Potential types of experiments could be (although not necessarily limited to):

-       Is your current online shop fit for purpose? Or how do you begin to create a new online shop? (Online shop-led)

-       Developing ideas/narratives for new products through online audience engagement and research (product development-led)

-       Promoting product or product range on a single or range of online platforms (marketing-led)

Learning together

Participants will come together at four collaborative virtual workshops across the project to share experiences and knowledge, as well as hear from experts. These workshops will support participants on their experiment process exploring different aspects of understanding online cultural retail in practice, from defining issues to creating ideas to analysing actions to reflecting on the wider learning.


What is the timeline?

Deadline for participation: end of July 2016

Workshop 1: July 2016, via Skype

Workshop 2:  Sept 2016, via Skype

Workshop 3: November 2016, via Skype

Workshop 4: February 2017, via Skype

How do I sign up?

Please sign up here by end of July 2016


What is Culture24 and Nesta’s role?

Culture24’s role is to lead and co-ordinate the project. We will identify and bring in experts as necessary to support all stages of the project delivery. The lead contacts at Culture24 will be Jane Finnis and Sejul Malde who will facilitate the workshops and manage the project. They bring expertise in project management, research and evaluation techniques to the project. Crucially, we also bring our experience of analysis and strategic thinking that was critical in the production of the first four Let’s Get Real reports.

Culture24 will oversee all of the research and liaise with any external partners or contractors. We will carry out the analysis of the project and will write, edit and produce the final report, overseeing its production and distribution across the sector.

Nesta have joined LGR5 as project partners and will host the three London workshops as well as bring their extensive research knowledge and creative industry expertise to the project.


What is Let’s Get Real?

Culture24 has been leading a series of dynamic, collaborative action research projects since 2010 with a range of cultural sector organisations in the UK and North America to help them understand and deal with digital change.

Each phase brings together 25-30 cultural organisations to consider issues such as:

LGR1: How to evaluate success online - June 2010 to September 2011. This first phase of action research brought together 24 cultural organisations to collaboratively look at the state of the sector re metrics and measuring success.

LGR2: A journey towards understanding and measuring digital engagement - July 2012 to June 2013. The second phase of the project involved 22 cultural organisations and explored what digital engagement could mean for each of them. We tried in particular to better understand audiences’ online behaviours and motivations.

LGR3: Is your content fit for purpose? - April 2014 to December 2014. This third phase involved 29 participating cultural organisations and explored how to adapt online content to better meet the needs of audiences.

LGR4 and LGR North America: What’s the story? - April 2015 to December 2014. The fourth phase, the subject of this report, involved 30 cultural organisations and explored ways of helping arts and heritage organisations to respond more meaningfully to the audiences of today.

LGR Young Audiences - Nov 2015 to June 2016. This new strand of LGR, involves 19 arts and heritage organisations exploring ways to better reach and engage children and young people online. A second project is being planned and will start in November 2016.