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! 

If you want to contact the author of the post directly, send an email to


  1. I think the DJ's should play a major role in the off season when hosting their fetes all across Toronto to speak to their fans and non fans about this issue of storming. The reason i say this is because most of them have sections in big bands etc and during the fete will annonce who jumping with sally ( for example) but not everyone in that fete of 1000+ is playing mas, but they are all hype from hearing that and then the dj is also good and they want to follow him / her come the day of the parade so when they hit the lakeshore all hell break loose. Now that's something i taught off maybe i am wrong..but i am sure this's also a small part of the problem. By taking small and big parts and putting them together to make a whole....Educating starts alround....Your pt2 was well said....We must make this work for the better.

  2. That's for your comment Mr. Wonderful! I agree dj's would play a great role in promoting the message. Excellent suggestion.

  3. Good suggestions all: let me try to give my two cents on what you propose:

    First of all yes, it is a NUMBERS GAME, the thing is, when you have a festival that attracts over a million spectators, and another ten thousand participants, the challenge is always going to be .. What do we do with those numbers, how do we accommodate them and still retain the integrity of the festival... My feeling on the SIZE OF THE BANDS unless regulated and contained pose the biggest threat to the carnival..while it is wonderful for a band leader to be able to attract 4,000 plus masqueraders (GREAT BRAGGING RIGHTS)... what does it do to the other bands? The fact is, we are never going to grow Toronto Carnival to the point where every band will be able to sell 4,000 + costumes, so in effect what we are creating by allowing one or two massive bands is that.. we are 'starving' the other bands of players... we have already seen it this year in terms of the reduced number of bands.. we have gone from the days of 16 bands, down to 8 bands this year, so yes, while the number of participants may be up slightly (for now), the number of bands have gone down due to some bands 'monopoly' on the players. My feeling is that there should be a 'cap' put on the number of players each band is allowed to register... Honestly, from a Spectator's perspective.. it becomes 'BORING' to see hundreds and hundreds of the same costume, it may make a great picture in front of the judges to see this 'mass of mas', but to the Spectator, it us just 'more of the same'. to put this in perspective.. When I go to the Santa Claus parade, I am quite happy to see 50 or 75 of each costume to get the message, there is no need for me to see 200+ of the same thing. Oh, on that idea of a.... 'Cheapy Band'...don't do it... If you think some of the smaller bands are 'starved for players now'... just introduce a 'Cheap Alternative' and you will see how quickly Toronto Caribbean Carnival' will turn into one large 'Tee Shirt mass'... We have got to find a way to 'grow the spectacle that is costumed carnival.

  4. 1.PRODUCT: The placing of monitors along the parade route.. while this is an excellent suggestion to facilitate those who cannot see the parade due to the possible 'debt' of spectators...The question is, we are not dealing with a few thousand people here in a confined area as would be found a live concert... we are dealing with close to a million people stretched along a 5 k route... Just where do we position these 'electronic viewing areas'... and do we now not create in effect several congested viewing areas' along the route as people try to position themselves close to these monitors? So from the spectator perspective it is just more of the same.

    2. PLACE:: My feeling is that 'signage' would do just as good a job of telling the spectator where the 'stage /judging area' is, while a 'big stage' would be a 'nice to have' (especially for those people who also play mas in Trinidad and are familiar with the euphoria of being on 'the big stage')..however I don't think a stage would be a deterrent to someone who really wanted to get into the bands..they would simply wait 'at the foot of the stage' for when the band exited the judging point, then get into the band.. Depending on your age, you may, or may not recall that in the old days (early days of the parade going to the Lakeshore and the CNE)... the bands actually performed on a stage in front of the Grand Stand until it was taken away.. the only reason why the 'stormers' never entered the parade there was because there were huge metal gates that enclosed the Grand Stand area, the bands had to both enter these gates on one side of the stage area, and exit them on the other.. Needless to say, as the years went by, the 'stormers' made their way up the Lakeshore and positioned themselves outside of the gates where they waited for the bands to come out so that they could 'jump in'... I remember one year playing mas with my then 'young children' (pre-teen)... we were so overwhelmed by the mob that waited for the band just outside of the CNE gates that we left the band right there as the entered Lakeshore, fearing for the safety of my two daughters, we gave up on going down Lakeshore that year, ...instead, we just stayed in the CNE (in our costumes) and watched the remainder of the parade, then went home.


  5. ...contd....

    3. PRICE: Yes, I agree with you 100% that the price of costumes are slowly becoming 'cost prohibitive' for many people... a few years ago many 'seasoned masqueraders' felt that the price was slowly creeping beyond what we were prepared to pay for a 'good jump down Lakeshore'.. if is for this reason that many of us either stopped playing, moved into a 'Marshaling' position with some bands, or found a 'connection' to a cheaper alternative... the Corporate Sponsors' tee shirt band. My personal opinion is that the Toronto bandleaders who take their cue from the 'for profit' Trinidad and Tobago Carnival bandleaders are simply pushing the envelope when it comes to pricing, my opinion is that the price costumes are sold at has little to do with 'the cost' of producing those costumes.. or if they are, surely there are less expensive ways to produce them that have not been explored.

    4. PROMOTION...As a result of the 2014 Toronto Carnival debacle this year, this is the one area we all agree upon that has not worked, we also all agree that the mediums used to promote and educate the public on the 'evolution' of this festival has failed miserably.. What we have today is a series of disorganized vehicles promoting the festival, but each one singing from a different song book.. Toronto Carnival has been presented to the public at large as anything from a .... 'Street Party', to an ..... 'Interactive Carnival', to a 'Costume Only Participants Parade'... Is it any wonder that we had the problems we did this past summer? What is needed in order to correct the mistakes of the past is, ONE PROMOTION BODY able to get the ONE MESSAGE out to all the 'main stream' media. While it is wonderful to use 'social media' for getting the message out, it can't be the only vehicle as experience has show me that social media 'preaches to the converted'.. what we need is to have the message taken beyond that audience, taken to the areas where 'the spectator' congregate.. to fetes, boat cruises, band launches, public gatherings (especially the free ones).. have the DJ's preach the messages to their 'following'.. and yes, on mainstream TV and radio... AND DON'T WAIT UNTIL TWO WEEKS BEFORE CARNIVAL TO DO THIS... All Rules, Regulations and Stipulations with regard to the Carnival and in particular the parade has to be a 'talking point' all year long, and then backed up with a Major Education Campaign at the beginning of Carnival Season.


  6. Thanks Anonymous for your comments and feedback! Excellent insight and new points to consider. I agree with you that sizing out smaller bands out is not a good thing and should be look into how this can be resolved. Going from 16 bands, now 9 is not a good trend, and I hope that strategies can be put in place to deter any further decrease in participants. Thanks also for the insight regarding the stage, (although I am dating myself) I wasn't yet a masquerader at the time when there was a stage on the grand stand, so it is definitely interesting to hear that stormers was still a problem. The examples mentioned within the post were used as an example to show how social marketing and how thinking about the 4Ps when determining interventions could be useful when the goal is to alter behavior. I think it's great to hear varying views, of what works, what doesn't, as well as alternatives as to possible solutions. Thanks!

  7. You are welcome Collabo... I am of the mindset that we cannot improve a situation until we look at the 'big picture'... This festival has grown to a point where it has 'outgrown' the old model... We cannot continue using a template designed in the 70's and 80s for our present day needs(and this is what we have been doing), simply 'tweaking' the old design won't work because we are now dealing with an entirely different product. We need to....yes take a few of the 'best practices' of the old parade, then see how we could incorporate those into a new design that meets the needs of this present day parade... Just my opinion.

  8. For a very long time i have been saying these bands, a few of them i must say are way to large....I had many of discussion with others about this and they saying know way this could never happen how can you stop someone from making $$$$ eh ! So to me right now it's all about the mighty $$$$ to the big bands and we know who they are. We must work hard enough in the off season to make 2015 a much better year in Tronoto...Thank you