Keen Independent Research
Phone: (303) 3858515
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172 N. Washington Street
Wickenburg , AZ 85390
100 Fillmore Street, 5th Floor
Denver , CO 80206

Recreation, Arts and Culture

Recreation, Arts and Culture

Keen Independent helps recreation, arts and cultural institutions better connect with their current and potential audiences.

Understanding changing consumer demand for recreation and leisure activities across the nation. National Endowment for the Arts has been the leading provider of information on recreation and leisure in the United States since the 1980s. David Keen served as lead researcher for the NEA in repeat Surveys of Public Participation in the Arts. Mr. Keen helped the NEA restore its franchise as the leading information source in this field after the NEA’s less-successful experience with its 2007 Survey.

David Keen has helped other organizations use these data, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum and the Kansas State Historical Society, as discussed below.

History is not dead (in Kansas). David Keen performed site visits, intercept surveys, telephone surveys, focus groups, executive interviews and other research for the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS), which operates the Kansas Museum of History and the Center for Historical Research in Topeka and 16 historic sites throughout the state. Although the assignment was initially intended to focus on changes to individual KSHS products and services, the best ways to market KSHS, and other specific issues (e.g., naming, signage, logo), Mr. Keen found the challenges that KSHS faced to be much bigger — people were not going to KSHS facilities, even though they are of high quality. KSHS market penetration was about one-half of one percent of the Kansas population, with a downward trend.

Dave Keen asked, “Is history dead?” He explored the public’s interest in history, researched other facilities (Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia reported a 50 percent drop in attendance since its peak in the 1970s) and documented the intense competition for leisure time in the Kansas market. However, Kansans still displayed an interest in history and going to history museums and centers. One-third of Kansans research their own family history.

Mr. Keen went on to ask, “Are museums and libraries dead?” He concluded “yes” for a physical library such as the Center for Historical Research, but “no” for an online information source, which he urged KSHS to launch.

He then asked, “Is Kansas dead?” Although KSHS leadership didn’t use this term, Kansas being a poor market for their product was often voiced as an explanation for KSHS’ declining performance. Mr. Keen easily dismissed this argument, and in fact found that Kansas was a favorable market for the product.

After exploring other possible explanations for poor performance, Dave Keen concluded that Kansas were simply not thinking about KSHS experiences, which was the fault of KSHS, not the potential visitor. He recommended ways to re-launch KSHS products, capturing any customer who interacts with a KSHS offering (get name and email, enroll in an online community, and cross-promote). He helped the organization start to redefine its mission, develop an integrated marketing plan, reallocate limited resources, build new partnership and reach new geographic areas. (A copy of the Summary Report is provided separately.)

Reinvention of an aging recreation provider. In many communities, for many years, the YMCA was the center of its recreation activities — basketball started at a YMCA, the local Y taught many generations how to swim, and going to “the gym” and going to “the Y” were synonymous. Over the years, the YMCA has lost this place in the community, especially in the Denver area. In the 1980s and 1990s, suburban municipalities competed in building their own lavish recreation centers.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Denver barely weathered these challenges, nearly closing its doors. After a restructuring of its assets, the Y retained a team led by David Keen to examine the market for recreation and community services, perceptions of the Y brand and service offerings, and potential strategies to regain its relevance in the metropolitan area. Dave Keen urged the organization to reach beyond its traditional “bricks and mortar” model to deliver Y services where its audience already was, including the same community recreation centers that were threatening its existence. Mr. Keen worked closely with the board and senior management to fully understand its existing and potential members, explore alternative strategies, assess financial feasibility, and recommend a long-term path for the organization. Today, the YMCA of Metropolitan Denver operates five of its own campuses, manages six other facilities and brings programming into Denver and Adams County Schools.

Building bridges that link communities. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati explores courageous steps for freedom, yesterday and today. It is a bridge between communities in the Cincinnati region, the nation and the world, and continues the fight to end modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

When creating the Freedom Center, civic and business leaders, including senior management from Procter & Gamble, sought to develop deep and long-lasting relationships across communities in the Cincinnati region. David Keen worked with leadership and other outside consultants to segment audiences, further refine programming, develop membership and other offerings to connect audiences with the Freedom Center, and test marketing approaches. He also helped the Center explore how to develop networks of supporters throughout the United States.

The Center successfully opened and is an important organization that links Cincinnati residents. Its work now reaches around the world.

Bringing customer relationship-building to arts and cultural organizations. Many arts and cultural organizations take a “build it, they will come” approach to their audiences. David Keen completed a groundbreaking research effort into customer profiling for the Colorado Symphony to help them better understand their audience and develop more efficient ways of marketing. Mr. Keen applied a proprietary segmentation system that grouped past and potential ticket-buyers and subscribers into households with similar demographic and psychographic characteristics. David Keen explored how customers select entertainment options, how they choose to go to the symphony and how they experience their relationship with the symphony inside and outside the concert hall.

To help the Colorado Symphony organization (including its musicians) understand different customer types, attitudes and relationships, Dave Keen developed “names” for key customers segments along with detailed lifestyles and motivations. He then helped to educate symphony musicians and management on how different audiences relate to the symphony and how they could better deliver the symphony experience (from receiving a mailing, to going to the symphony, to talk-backs and other post-performance activities). Opportunities for personal connections with musicians were discussed. Finally, he helped the staff fine-tune subscription packages and direct mail marketing.

Find yourself in the arts. For many years, Dave Keen worked with Denver area organizations to jointly market and promote arts and cultural offerings. He convinced institutions to pool customer data in order to create a relational database of 250,000 local area households attending the arts. Mr. Keen used data to track buying behavior for segments, especially success of cross-promotion.

Mr. Keen also partnered with a marketing firm to develop and launch the Find yourself in the arts marketing campaign.

How to behave (and not behave) in a park. David Keen and Annette Humm Keen conducted observation and intercept surveys in City Park in Denver to identify who uses the park, when, how and why, and whether there were barriers to additional park visitation. The Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Zoo and City and County of Denver used this information to better plan for and market the park. This research was awarded an American Marketing Association Gold Peak Award for Market Research.

Other examples. Keen Independent has also helped to build communities of supporters, create new exhibits and programming, revise pricing and increase community impact for more than 20 arts and cultural institutions such as:

  • Smithsonian National Zoo;
  • A developer of horse tracks;
  • Denver Museum of Nature & Science (recognized with awards from the American Marketing Association);
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art;
  • Denver Film Society;
  • Museum of Science, Boston;
  • History Colorado;
  • Children’s Museum of Denver; and
  • Vilar Center for the Performing Arts in Beaver Creek.

“We needed information about our market to better allocate marketing resources. [They] helped us understand who we needed to reach and how we needed to reach them.” – Marketing Manager, Vilar Center for the Performing Arts