How to paint a face and sell a show.

Wicked is not a show that advertises much.  It doesn’t have to.  That’s why, whenever they do anything, I pay attention.

Here’s what I’ve noticed:  heavy on the outdoor, a bit of radio during tight times, occasional full page NY Times ads that look like editorial announcements . . . and street fairs.

That’s right, Elphaba lovers, nestled between the roasted corn-on-the-cob and the 1000-thread count sheet vendors, you’ll find a booth selling the most successful Broadway musical of the last 20 years (at least).

Selling is not the right word, because you’re not going to find Ticketmaster operators trying to get you to upgrade to premium tickets at their booths.

What you’ll find is an opportunity to take a “Which Witch Are You” personality quiz, a chance to sing your favorite Wicked tunes (Oh the poor roasted corn and bedding vendor guys who have to listen to the final notes of ‘Defying Gravity’ sung by 9 year olds who didn’t make the cut at Stage Door Manor), and my favorite . . . a free green face painting.

That idea makes my face go green . . . with no paint necessary.

The hardest thing about a street fair is getting someone to come to your booth, when the buttered corn on the cob is cooing at them from the booth next door.  By offering something for free that you’d pay 15 bucks for at Six Flags, Wicked gets families to run to their booth, stand in line, and absorb all the marketing messages the staff can muster.

My favorite part?  There is no stickier or more visible impression you can make at a fair like this!  That face-painted family is going to be reminded of that experience and the musical that goes with it all night long.  And it’s not a random freebie.  There’s a girl with a green face in the dang show!  It makes total sense.

So should you all go out and get a face painting kit?  No.  But when you think about it, the street fair is the perfect analogy for any cluttered advertising environment . . . like the famed pages of the A&L section in the NY Times, for example – lots of people wandering through, flipping, browsing, not really sure what they are looking for . . . waiting for something to grab their attention.

How can you get your audience to stand in line to be marketed to, without making them feel like you’re hitting them on the head with a selling sledgehammer?

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