Marketing professor orchestrates a learning arrangement with the DSO

Billy Jones, senior lecturer, Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, orchestrated an arrangement with Paul Hogle, executive vice president of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) for five groups of MBA students from his Consumer and Industrial Buying Behavior class (MKT 7470) to study, analyze and evaluate the symphony’s current membership practices in order to deepen current patron loyalty and cultivate and expand its base of new patrons.

“Due to the recent strike there has been a churn in patronage and retention, so I reached out to the DSO as a member of the Midtown community with an offer to allow our MBA students to study their concert attendees in an effort to re-attract lost audience members and develop new subscribers. We were thrilled Paul accepted our offer to study the underlying motivation to audience preferences and reasons for continuing support of the DSO,” explained Jones.

MBA student Joshua Lintunen seized upon the opportunity to work with the DSO. “I feel this project bridged the gap between academic study and the work environment, and provided me with a valuable learning experience.”

Groups completed complex segmentation analyses for the DSO by identifying psychological and/or behavioral traits of its audience, focusing on their basic motivations for attending the symphony. They conducted market research on 614 respondents, observing and recording audience demographics at a variety of DSO performances.

The students presented their findings and recommendations to Hogle, his staff, and Jones at Orchestra Hall. Some of the recommendations included suggesting the DSO target its differing market segments with custom messages, feature expanded musical genres as a complement to their classical music and occasional pop music offerings, ensure school-age children are provided with opportunities to attend performances and meet with DSO musicians, improve the customer service experience regarding ticketing, and database management practices.

Providing the students with enthusiastic, generous, and insightful critiques of each group’s presentation, Hogle said, “These students conducted an enormous amount of work, all of which is very, very interesting. Much of what they’ve generated and presented to us will lead to discussions at future team meetings within the DSO. I’m so impressed and deeply encouraged by how thoroughly they dug into a complicated issue and didn’t come back with easy, trite answers. Their suppositions were well shaped and presented.”