An essential guide to audience development

Emma Hazelwood (University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Rob Lawson (University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Rob Aitken (University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)

Marketing Intelligence & Planning

ISSN: 0263-4503

Publication date: 18 September 2009



The purpose of this paper is to examine the characteristics and usefulness of opinion leaders and market mavens in relation to theatre guides as a way for theatres to develop new audiences.


Surveys and a small number of in‐depth interviews are conducted within a sample of 1,200 theatre patrons. A univariate analysis of variance analysis determines degrees of correspondence between levels of opinion leadership or mavenism and reported influential behaviour.


Opinion leaders are much more useful in the process of audience development than mavens given their propensity to engage in positive reinforcement behaviours particularly in their roles as theatre guides.

Research limitations/implications

While the level of mavenism is related to provision of general market information, it is not related to diffusion of performance‐specific information. Also, the portrayal of opinion leaders as living in a “closed world” unlikely to be an effective cultural influence on non‐attendees, is not supported. A further limitation is that it could not gauge the effectiveness of the self‐reported influential behaviour of non‐attendees. Further research should measure the effectiveness of opinion leaders based on how many of the non‐attendees they influenced came to the theatre.

Practical implications

Theatres should identify opinion leaders and encourage their natural “guide” behaviour with targeted incentives and information as a method of building new audiences and developing new relationships.


This paper will help theatres to use their resources more effectively to increase audience attendance. Further, the identification and establishment of theatre guides based on the characteristics of opinion leaders is within the capability of all arts organizations.



Hazelwood, E., Lawson, R. and Aitken, R. (2009), "An essential guide to audience development", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 27 No. 6, pp. 789-804.

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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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