Arts, Sports, Marketing, “Smarketing” — and Me

Leslie Cargill

Hello. I’m Leslie Cargill. In my debut column for Clyde Fitch Report, I’d like to introduce myself and my craft and offer some ideas for this space moving forward. After that, I’d also like to hear from you. What – in your mind – will make this column worth reading? What will make it worth several minutes of your time each month? What insights and takeaways will be of value to you? (Lesson 1: understand your audience.)

I’ve tagged my career path “From Baseball to Ballet,” as I’ve worked with the Boston Red SoxUnited Way, the Museum of Science and Boston Ballet, among other exceptional, experience-based “products” in the worlds of art, tourism, education, entertainment and sports. Following my four-season stint at Boston Ballet, where I directed marketing and communications for one of the world’s leading dance companies, I returned to working independently as an advisor, project manager and interim CMO for the clients of Cargill Marketing and Communications. And to writing this column for CFR.

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Briefly (because this isn’t really about me): I’m a Bostonian, born and raised; a lifelong New Englander; (Is this where I should say I’m a diehard Red Sox fan?); I attended U. Mass undergrad, and I hold a Simmons MBA; I am a “do-er and fighter” in the words of my daughter when her kindergarten teacher asked students what their parents do for work; professionally, I’ve been honored to work with top-tier people and institutions, nonprofit and for-profit, throughout my career. Mentors? Many, but especially Perry Sorenson, an executive in the hotel industry and my first boss, who may not know the influence he’s had on my career since he took me under his wing way back when. And George Sullivan, former Fenway Park PR Director and sports writer, whose sense of humor, knowledge of baseball history and red pen have made an indelible mark. My favorite place? The coast of Maine. Influencers? People near and dear. Inspirations? Art, music, athletics, communications written and spoken, good humor, the great outdoors. Values I respect include trustworthiness, thoughtfulness, strength of character, uniqueness, perseverance, simplicity, commitment… (Lesson 2: remember where you come from.)

I call myself a “smarketer” because marketing is what I do and smart is what I try to be. I am also very aware that the phrase “I am a marketing and communications consultant” usually results in one of two responses: the eye-roll (thought bubble overhead with image of me standing between a lawyer and a used car salesman) or the muffled yawn (thought bubble with image of Earth covered with thousands of people who look like me).

My husband, a teacher and writer, thinks “smarketer” sounds like a made-up word, which it is. Another image, a Venn diagram, succinctly describes our relationship: 1st circle (set A) has his name and the word “intellect” written across it; 2nd circle (set B) has my name and the words “street smarts” written across it. Our daughters’ names — and gifts — fall in the overlap. While the union of two unique circles can represent any sort of relationship in work or in life, I’ve come to believe that it’s the intersection — the mix of the two — where true genius lies, where the good stuff happens. (Lesson 3: beware the company you keep.)

So I’m still playing around with this term, “smarketer.” At worst, I figure people will pause to consider my botching of the English language (but pause they will). At best, people might consider me a practical person who knows what she is and knows what she’s not. (Lesson 4: know yourself, because “authenticity,” as much as this overused word has become a flag for falsehoods, is critical, but only if it is authentic authenticity.)

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But what is this column, The Mix? Let’s begin with a brief game of word association:

To a baker, it’s the recipe.
To a painter, the palette.
To a programmer, the code.

Now you:

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For those of us whose “art” it is to advance the creative gifts of others (i.e., a “smarketer”), the answer is The Mix. By formal definition — from the American Marketing Association — the mix would be:

…controllable marketing variables…to pursue the desired level of sales in the target market. The most common classification of these factors is the four-factor classification called the ‘Four Ps’: price, product, promotion, and place…

Even for those who speak this language, this can be confusing. Put more simply, “the mix” is a game plan: the tools, the techniques, the combination of activities that get a person, place or thing known and wanted. More marketing-speak.

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Where to begin, then — especially when many of us can’t even keep up with the term “marketing” these days? What is it to you? For each time the question is asked, the answer is likely different. Forget defining “the mix.” We do need to understand what “marketing” means. Is it science? Is it art? Is it the intersection of the two?

According to the Common Language Project of Marketing Accountability Standards Board of the Marketing Accountability Foundation — or, the MASB:

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

In the world of arts marketing (or sports or nonprofits in general), the discussion often assumes that the arts have something to learn from industry. What would happen if it were more generally considered the other way around? Perhaps there’s more to be gained that way. In the book Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists Work (by Rob Austin and Lee Devin), the notion of creativity, trial and error, ambiguity, spontaneity and corporate ad lib as a model for new thinking in corporate management is proposed and explored. Suggests Jose Royo of Ascent Media Group about the premise behind Artful Making:

…practices followed in the collaborative arts and theater in particular offer a model and a process for management…

In other words, art as teacher. With business the learner.

However we define marketing (and we will explore it up and down, if not define it), this space is called The Mix because in it we will in fact go beyond formal definitions. As good marketers should, we will go where the audience leads us. We will ask questions, examine values, review lessons, seek opportunities and take artistic license — just as a painter, lyricist, filmmaker or costumer might do. We may return to the first four lessons:

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  1. understand your audience
  2. remember where you come from
  3. beware the company you keep
  4. know yourself

But we may add more, perhaps by asking questions:

  1. What is remarkable marketing?
  2. Beyond clicks, views, visits, hits – what else is there?
  3. What is values-based marketing and why is it important?
  4. What has really happened to authenticity?

And so on.

The Mix will explore topics on marketing and communications in the arts world and beyond. It will work around definitions and avoid the straight and narrow. In fact, any intersection — life and work, art and business, choices and results, science and art, marketing and “smarketing,” baseball and ballet — will be fair game.

Let’s begin.

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Leslie Cargill
Leslie Cargill is a “smarketer” and communicator, privileged to work with leading brands like Boston Ballet, United Way, the Museum of Science and the Boston Red Sox. From baseball to ballet, she advances experience-based programs in the arts, tourism, education, entertainment, healthcare, fitness and sports. While the goal is to retain and grow an existing base of business, the trick is in developing new or "non-traditional" audiences. She was Director of Marketing and Communications with Boston Ballet before returning to her consulting practice where she serves as advisor, project manager and interim CMO for her clients. She believes in a good mix of marketing basics, a campaign approach, and both program and institutional strategies in branding, positioning, messaging and communicating. A dyed-in-the wool New Englander, she splits her time between Boston and her family home on the coast of Maine. She can be reached at Or call Leslie at 617.913.9000.