Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Toronto Carnival Reflection Part #2

Hey Readers,

Quite some time has passed since my initial Toronto Carnival Reflection post and as such I hope everyone’s month of September is off to a great start. Toronto Carnival 2014 has definitely been a hot topic of debate and during the months of August and September I have noted excellent dialogue, developments and initiatives pertaining to improving the festival.  Similar to part 1, this reflection post is intended to touch upon the challenges pertaining to our carnival but also shift the focus to possible variables and interventions that could be considered when devising a solution. 

A Number’s Game? 

Tuning into several post carnival interviews broadcasted on local radio station CHRY, I was happy to hear commentary from various stakeholders on the successes and challenges of this year’s carnival. Within the interview on Dr. Jay’s Soca Therapy Show, a success that was mentioned was the increased number of registered masqueraders within bands and an example was provided of a band having upward to 4000 masqueraders. Though that is definitely an incredible accomplishment, a point that also struck me was the comparison made between the number of non-masqueraders and spectators. The number of masqueraders that participated this year in the Grand Parade was approximated to be in the range of 10,000 whereas the number of non-masqueraders and spectators was in the range of 1 million. With the stark difference in the number of masqueraders to non-masqueraders, my initial thought was I am not surprised crowd control is an apparent issue. Apart from storing this as a tidbit of information, the gradient in numbers in my opinion, warrants the question why? Why do the numbers of non-masqueraders outnumber the number of masqueraders so drastically? Is there anything that can be done to convert non-masqueraders or spectators to masqueraders? Or perhaps could it be seasoned masqueraders are transitioning back to being non-masqueraders and spectators? And of course, everyone’s favorite question when it comes to stormers, why is the preference to jump or cross the fence rather than play mas?  

In discussing solutions of how to promote the Grand Parade as display of cultural celebration and as an event that warrants the adherence of appropriate behaviors among non-masqueraders and spectators, many have voiced the need for increased public awareness. As mentioned within my part 1 post, I believe raising public awareness and education is definitely an important part of the equation.  I also believe, however, additional interventions and strategies will be needed. In addition to an awareness/education campaign, one thing comes to mind to incorporate is social marketing. What is social marketing? Broadly speaking, social marketing utilizes marketing concepts, such as Product, Place, Price and Promotion (the 4Ps), to influence behaviors with the aim of benefiting the greater social good. Let’s consider the following scenarios and the way the 4Ps and interventions derived from a social marketing approach could make a difference. 

Scenario 1: 

Picture a non-masquerader who opted to view the parade along the Lakeshore as opposed to within a designated VIP area. What does the environment look like? Well if this individual is standing along the Lakeshore portion, there is likely tall fences placed along the route. Now consider what impact could that fence have? On the one hand the fence’s intended purpose is to deter non-masqueraders from entering the parade route, inadvertently though the fence is also visual obstruction to those who would like to remain behind the fence to observe the parade.  Consider what happens to the non-masquerader on the outside as the day progresses and more non-masqueraders opt to not adhere to the fence and infiltrate the route. As you could imagine, viewing the parade from behind the fence becomes more and more difficult. Tired of being unable to see, the abiding non-masquerader decides to walk along the outside of the route with the only highlight being the possibility of running into family or friends. (as I have been told by my non-masquerader friend).  

Does this scenario sound appealing? How could social marketing make the behavior of staying behind the fence appealing? 

Reflecting on the scenario above from a social marketing perspective, I would consider Product. Product is a tangible object or service that is provided to support or facilitate behavior change. In trying to make the behavior to stay behind the fence more appealing to non-masqueraders, perhaps products the following may have an impact:

·         Placing monitor screens throughout the route which enable non-masqueraders to see parade from an unobstructed view from where they are standing. (Imagine going to a Beyonce concert, and due to your seat being far away it is somewhat challenging to see the stage. Looking up you think to yourself, thank goodness for these monitors. They are positioned to project closer images and ensure all attendees can enjoy the view wherever they are sitting). 

·         Placing promotional vendors and/or interactive entertainment placed along the outside of the route. (A driving force behind a non-masquerader infiltrating the route maybe due to feeling like he or she is missing out of the action. If an effort is made to make staying on the outside more appealing, perhaps more non-masqueraders will be inclined to stay off the route). 

 Photo Credit: C.S.

Scenario 2

It’s 3:00pm and the procession of the bands is underway. As a band is preparing to cross the stage, there is an impending concern regarding the number of non-masqueraders that are infiltrating the route. Creating a challenge of congestion and a visual eye sore for judges and paying patrons in VIP areas, there is a sense of urgency to secure the “stage”.  Although the anticipation to cross the stage was high, the storming within the stage area causes many masqueraders to feel disappointed and question whether to play mas again next year. 

Does this scenario sound appealing? Could social marketing be used to make the stage more appealing for masqueraders and apparent to non-masqueraders? 

Reflecting on the scenario above from a social marketing perspective, I would consider Place.  The place component of social marketing takes into consideration where and when the target audience would perform the behavior or access the product or service. With place, consideration is given to what could be done to make the experience more convenient and pleasant for participating individuals performing the behavior.

Using the scenario above as the example, let’s consider the stage area within Toronto Carnival from an environmental context. From the perspective of a non-masquerader or someone who was unfamiliar with Toronto Carnival, do you think they would know where and when the stage presentation is occurring? My guess is probably not, because visually the stage is an open road. A non-masquerader or spectator who is unaware of the competition aspect of the parade may question, what makes this “stage” portion of the Lakeshore that much different from the section 50 meters back. In addition to raising public awareness on Toronto Carnival, we may additionally want to consider the following: 

·         Incorporating an elevated stage may provide the visual cue to non-masqueraders that the area is prohibited, in addition to give masqueraders the opportunity to showcase their costumes with minimal disruption. An elevated stage would make it quite difficult for a non-masquerader to infiltrate the space, particularly if security was positioned to secure the area. 

·         With respect to the VIP areas, positioning the cabana and vip areas near the judging stage to ensure that masqueraders are in their sections and that the view is visually appealing. 

Toronto Revellers did a great job in my opinion by factoring Place with respect to servicing their masqueraders. Being the first band to hit the Lakeshore, masqueraders were encouraged to meet at the assembly area at 7am. Taking into account the early meet up time, the band offered a “J’ourvert Breakfast” to help get masqueraders nourished, and ready for the road. Although waking up was probably a challenge, offering a breakfast to masqueraders may have made the behavior easier or more appealing to masqueraders to fulfil. 

Scenario 3:

After attending Toronto Carnival and observing all the action from the sidelines, a young woman and her friends decide they want to play mas next year. Doing research into costume prices, and noting the backline and frontline range from $150 to over $900, they quickly realize playing mas may pose a financial challenge. Being out-of-town masquerader having to factor in travel, accommodation fetes, the time to pick up costumes from the mas camps, the group was hoping an adequate alternative would be available. 

This scenario is of a non-masquerader who wants to play mas, but may be unable to access or affordability. How could social marketing be taken into consideration? 

Reflecting on the scenario above from a social marketing perspective, I would consider Price.  Within social marketing the Price component strives to decrease the cost or barriers to perform the desired behavior. Price is not limited to monetary considerations but also factor in costs such as time.  Referencing scenario 3, the price of costumes may be a monetary concern for non-masqueraders, who may be willing to participate formally if an alternative inexpensive option were available. Alternatively, in terms of the cost of time, many masqueraders this year voiced challenges of being able to locate an entrance to meet their band and as such missed the stage.  Here are some options of interventions that incorporate price:

·         Offering a cost friendly Las Lap t-shirt band which would cross the stage after all the mas bands and steel pan bands have made their way down the route. Making pre-registration and on-site registration available, the opportunity is provided to non-masqueraders to become t-shirt masqueraders on the day of the parade and deters the overused phrase “You Should Have Bought A Costume”. A Las Lap band may also promote congregation within a designated area as opposed to along the route which creates congestion.

·         With many masqueraders being social media savvy, the use of technology should be incorporated. The incorporation of an interactive map that illustrates entry points, in addition to updates as to which band is crossing the stage may be a great way to reduce the cost of time and keep masqueraders and spectators informed  with up to date information

Last but not least of the 4Ps is Promotion. Let’s consider the following scenario. 

Scenario 4:

As part of the communication strategy, promotional material is disseminated online with the goal to highlight the upcoming events within the Toronto Carnival Festival. Though the information is well crafted and shared broadly to an audience interested in the festival, each year there is concern over non-masqueraders who do not respect the Grand Parade. 

Let’s Face it, Stormers ruin the parade. What interventions and communication strategies should be used to deter it?

As mentioned within my part 1 reflection post, it is important to ensure the communication messages and methods used to disseminate the information, not only reach the target population (ie. Stormers) but also convey the desired behavior we would like them to adopt. Knowing who the target audience is and their associated characteristics is important, and often requires background work such as retrospective qualitative data collection or surveys. Collectively, I believe there is benefit in knowing the communication initiatives are being targeted to the intended audience, especially in situations where behavior change is the goal.  

This wraps up Part 2 of my Toronto Carnival Reflection. Although the scenarios above highlight some of the challenges within our carnival, they were used to serve as an example of how social marketing techniques could be incorporated in determining a solution. Defining solutions is a task that will require collective effort, collaboration and buy-in from stakeholders. In part 3 of my Toronto Reflection post I plan to talk about this as well as evaluation.  (As a side note- I promise part 3 won’t take as long to post. I’m nearly done my final draft :). 

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to leave any comments below. I would love to hear your feedback! 

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mark Your Calendars and Food for Thought

Hey Readers,

 Did You Know..
In the few weeks since Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival 2014, an initiative called Save Toronto Carnival has been able to mobilize and arrange a meeting with Toronto Councillor Joe Mihevc and the community to discuss the Toronto carnival. 

The meeting will be held on Thursday November 27th from 7-9pm at Toronto City Hall. 
More details will posted as they become available. 
Until then, stay engaged and informed by tuning into the #SaveTorontoCarnival Facebook page.

Below are memes that were released as part of public awareness campaign. 
Wouldn't you agree playing mas is the wiser (and more appropriate) option than to squeeze or jump through a fence?

Share your comments and thoughts below.