What do Broadway and Ajax have in common?

Every couple o’ months, the powers that be at Telecharge share insidery ticketing insights to industry professionals through an email listserv-like called “Market Notes.”  And, as you know if you’ve been reading for awhile, I often reproduce those comments here.

Usually, the insights are full of numbers and data and graphs and all sorts of stuff that make economics lovers tingle . . . and makes everyone else want to throw up like that guy at Grace.

This Market Notes was different.  It’s a good ol’ fashioned story.  And, nothing gets a point across better than a story (it’s one of the reasons our President is such a good public speaker – listen to the debates again and listen to the stories he tells).  So, put on your pjs, curl up with some hot chocolate, and let Shubert VP of Marketing, Charles Flateman tell you a tale . . .

Getting Consumers to Buy More Broadway: A Fable

There’s an old marketing tale (which may or may not be true) that goes like this: The people from Ajax Cleanser (the kind that came in a can with holes on the top) had lots of market share and a solid business, but growth was at a snail’s pace. Everyone already had Ajax under their kitchen sink and used it every day. It was the ultimate mature business.

So they gathered together all the finest minds at Ajax to figure out how to grow their stable, yet moribund, business. At first, conventional ideas were proposed: advertise more, raise prices. No one could come up with a marketing plan that didn’t cost a fortune to execute. Until…

The most junior marketing guy in the room took a can home and came back the next day with the very same can, claiming he had the answer to improved sales right there on the conference room table.

What did he do? He went into his basement and drilled the holes on the top of the can so they were 33% bigger. The stuff simply came out faster. The solution cost nothing to execute. People consumed a lot more product, and sales jumped. The junior ad guy was a hero, got a promotion, became a superstar and captain of industry, gifted and generous, with the adulation of a grateful nation (as long as we’re making stuff up, we might as well go all in). The end.

So what’s the moral of the story for all of us on Broadway?

We think of the industry as a mature business that’s hard to grow in unit sales, so we rely on price increases to drive revenue growth, which ought to make us very uncomfortable. How do we get people to consume more of our product without losing revenue?

Broadway, like Ajax, also needs to make the product “come out of the can” easier. For so many consumers, it’s hard to find out how and where to buy a ticket, not to mention that we often present information using jargon that only we in the industry really understand. What is a “regular” ticket? Who wants a “full priced” anything? When we give customers the choice on a show website of “Buy Tickets” vs. “Buy Premium Seats,” are we considering the half of our market who’ve never been to Broadway? Do they have any clue what we’re talking about?

Of course, our product doesn’t come shaken out of a can, but we can learn a lot from the smarties who make the holes bigger and give customers an easier way to get the product. Because those customers really do want more of what we have to sell.

What do you think of Charlie’s tale?  Spooky?  Does it make you have good dreams?  Bad dreams?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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