A commentary by Kenneth Wardrop on “Festival management innovation and failure”

International Journal of Event and Festival Management

ISSN: 1758-2954

Article publication date: 16 July 2010



(2010), "A commentary by Kenneth Wardrop on “Festival management innovation and failure”", International Journal of Event and Festival Management, Vol. 1 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijefm.2010.43401baa.003



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

A commentary by Kenneth Wardrop on “Festival management innovation and failure”

Article Type: Commentaries From: International Journal of Event and Festival Management, Volume 1, Issue 2

by Jack Carlsen, Tommy Andersson, Jane Ali-Knight, Kari Jaeger and Ruth Taylor

This case study resonated with my experience as Chief Executive of Edinburgh’s destination marketing organisation – DEMA, a member and major collaborative partner DEMA of which is Edinburgh’s festivals (the organisation that represents Edinburgh’s 12 major festivals and includes the Edinburgh Fringe, one of the case studies in this paper). It is also based on my former with Edinburgh’s Winter festivals (Edinburgh’s Christmas and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay) managing the city’s interests in this festival.

The paper presents a good combination of practical case studies and theory. It correctly presents the diverse range of elements and cross cutting nature of festival innovation for example product, service, marketing and funding. The paper helps identify the challenges facing festival managers, emphasising the diversity of management and business experience and skills required by managers, and the need to be able to innovate in the application of business management systems along side the need to be creative in programming, branding and marketing. The statement “[…] there is a constant need for festival managers to innovate with respect to the entire festival value chain” hit a chord with me.

The importance of defining core values (the vision aims and objectives) for festivals and events based on an understanding of customer and audience as well as stakeholder, funders and sponsors needs is paramount. It is essential that festival managers keep this under regular review. To me this was the learning point from the case study of the Gothenburg festival in the paper and their experience where a review of the rationale for the festival based on the audience, sponsors and funders needs led to a complete re think of the product programming, target audience, branding and marketing.

The need to be fully responsive to changing customer needs is a driver of innovation a point not fully explored in the paper. An example being the use of web based routes for marketing, customer relationship management, distribution and packaging of product to maximise value added.

The importance of being part of wider networks and collaborations with DMO’s in terms of festival innovation is an important area of continued research. Edinburgh’s festivals are for example progressing their “Edinburgh festivals Passport” linked to a single ticket portal covering all 12 festivals to package the product with the tourist trade to improve accessibility for customers, ticket sales and revenue streams. Edinburgh’s festivals continue to innovate with the on going development of digital TV (Edfest TV), and their web-based presence to expand quality media content availability, and improve global customer reach. Innovating routes to maximise data acquisition through CRM’s is a strategic focus.

From a DMO perspective festivals and events represent if developed correctly an important part of the marketing mix for a destination, and through strategic collaboration can assist the DMO. Festivals through programming can assist in reaching identified target audiences for the destination, shape and reposition destination brands and influence perceptions. Based on the Edinburgh example and my experience as chief executive of the DMO, there is a huge degree of mutuality of purpose in the collaboration between Edinburgh’s festivals and Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance.

The concept of “simultaneity of innovation and failure” is interesting to me as a practitioner. In my view failure should be seen as an important learning experience as long as it is not catastrophic failure, and innovation should be considered as a vital tool for festival management to forestall failure.

The paper for me highlights the challenges that exist for festival management teams in securing the necessary multi-disciplinary skill sets across business systems, marketing and creative programming to be able to innovate and ensure continued success. This I often a great challenge for small teams with tight budgets. A strong Board of Directors with a diverse range of skills is a good way to supplement the skills set of a staff team. However, for me the acquisition of this diverse set of skills can be seen in itself as a compelling argument for collaboration.

16 April 2010

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