We in Barbados are all familiar with the marketing slogan for Crop-Over, “more that a carnival, it sweet fuh days”. Albeit true, as a cultural entrepreneur, I would like to offer an alternative view. I see Crop-Over as not just a carnival, but rather, a great opportunity to market Barbadian creative arts and cultural industries in general.
For many years, we in the Arts (excluding those directly related to Crop-Over) have viewed the festival as an exclusion zone. That is, seeing it as a time when people were only interested in the next groovy soca tune or the politically charged social commentary. There is some justification in this thought, since that has seemed to be the main focus of the festival producers, and one could argue that there has been a neglect of other areas of the creative arts where there were distinct opportunities for integration. It would also suggest that competing for media coverage and public attention would be difficult during this period. However, in my humble opinion, this only represents the most obvious point of view.
Finance minded persons would suggest that it is better to have 20% of $100.00 than 100% of $10.00. I see a similar comparison as it relates to our ability to take advantage of international media coverage and the marketing opportunities therein at Crop-Over vs. other times of the year. Although on the surface it appears that after the most obvious prominent events like Pic-o-de-Crop, Grand Kadooment, tents etc, there would be little time left for other areas of the creative arts, Crop-Over is still a time when all eyes are on our culture. Therefore, even with a small percentage of coverage, it still offers a better opportunity than most other times of the year. We also must not discount the broad interest of the overseas visitors to our country first and foremost, then to our festival. Although Crop-Over may be the main reason for their visit at this time, it does not mean that they are not open to other aspects of our culture and creative arts industries, or that they should not be given the opportunity to absorb all that Barbadian culture is. A good example of this is the current visit of a student group from the Virginia Commonwealth University’s department of History, Anthropology and African American studies. Their visit is part of their course module to study Caribbean culture and it will earn them six credits. Education is a great way to market and expose our culture and creative arts industries to the world. However, this is a long term investment and it is difficult to measure the results in the short term. Much of 21st Century marketing is concerned with immediate and measurable gratification. This is a reality for every entrepreneur in the creative arts industry who has one eye on growing expenses and the other one on shrinking sales. However, even at this time we must make sure we plant the seeds of our long term cultural future, so the next generation will have markets to harvest from.
Renowned business author Professor Michael Porter has offered several suggestions for companies to gain a competitive advantage. I will apply his value chain concept to the Barbadian creative arts industry, with a view to outlining how we can capitalise on the Crop-Over season. Porter’s value chain comprises Inbound logistics, Operations, Outbound logistics, Sales & Marketing and Service. As this relates to the creativeindustries, it would translate as Talent & Ideas, The Creative Process, Artistic Products (both tangible and intellectual property), Public Offerings/Sales, Ability to Maintain Public Interest and Service Demand. For too many years, we in the creative arts industries have focused mainly on the lower end of the value chain. This is primarily because that is where the fuel that drives our passions lies. In many cases, we assume that the market will want what we have produced, or we leave it to some other less capable person to decide where and how it should be presented to the public and at what time. We need to also focus our attention to the upper end of the value chain and take more control of opportunities to promote our cultural products in international markets. This will significantly assist in gaining a competitive advantage and taking advantage of the opportunities at Crop-Over.
There are several international market entry strategies one could choose from to try to penetrate an overseas market. However, one will find that many of them involve primary research that requires a visit to the country. We see this with the several trade missions by the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries (BCSI), which involves an initial investment that would deter most small entrepreneurs in the creative arts industries. I am suggesting that at Crop-Over, the opposite is true. The international media and the potential markets (i.e. visitors) come to us. Therefore, this is an opportunity to strategically place the Barbadian creative arts community in to new markets internationally. This is the time to form strategic alliances or consortiums and take full advantage of the potential the opportunity of Crop-Over brings.
It is imperative that we in the creative arts industry allow our creativity to transcend our core competencies and extend to the areas that will take our industry into the international markets of the future.