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.


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below!  Click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)



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  • It’s an interesting metaphor. I don’t think it’s about making the cleanser easier to get to. It’s about getting customers who already buy the product to use more of it without knowing it– thus spending more money per serving and buying more frequently.

    Broadway tix already have a lot of the “not knowing it” factor built in, or at least the touring tix I buy do– with all the handling charges, even though no one is actually handling the online emailed tickets any more.

    But I think the spend more at a time metaphor is apt. I only have one idea: Is anyone doing package deals where you get the t-shirt, program, or even the jacket with your ticket and it’s waiting for you when you get to the theater?

  • Felicia says:

    “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.”

    They really, really do. We had sold-out performances, and standing ovations from appreciative (and very much appreciated!) audiences, with a show produced on a shoe-string budget, devoid of big-name stars and eschewing glitz and hyperbole. Many of our audience members (several of them not regular theater-goers) told us in a talk-back session and via post-performance emails that they appreciated the high quality of our show as well as its honest approach and presentational respect for the audience. For us, then, making “the holes bigger” and giving “customers an easier way to get the product” meant expanding the regular theater-going audience with our story and the way we told it to them. We’re looking to head to Broadway with our show, “Fannie Lou,” and not a day goes by that I don’t hear from somebody who asks when they can get tickets to see it on the Great White Way. Hopefully, soon. Like every other production, though, we need the financial backing. The hard work has already been done. We have a great show, a wonderful product. We’ve received stellar accolades from the most important critics — the audience. Now, we need the monetary backing. As we continue to seek it, we’ll keep trying to convince prospective producers that they don’t have to speculate about future possibilities regarding broadening the number of spectators and filling theater seats. A solution to increased sales and expanded audiences, at least where “Fannie Lou” is concerned, is available right now.

  • Sue says:

    If anything at all comes of this, I hope it is a huge facelift for “Audience Rewards” (AR). The whole thing is disjointed, mystical, cryptic and impossible to use. I buy theater tix fairly regularly and the next day I see a link to get “ARs” (too late for me), or I forget to ask about it, or I see I could have gotten 5,000 points (not sure what they are worth though) if I had mentioned it, and by the way, where are my rewards and how do I cash them in? Can I use them on premium seats which is what I usually buy? Why not mail and/or e-mail me a voucher worth $50 off my next ticket purchase once I reach a critical mass of ARs?Who came up with the lousy name? Why are they saying it’s the “frequent flier” program of Broadway to add confusion to confusion — why not just call it Show Points or something more user-friendly? If I forget to mention my AR account, can I show the receipt later and get the ARs added in? ARggggghhhhh!!!
    It is yet another example of a Broadway endeavor framed in the mind of the business, not the customer.

  • Paul Argentini says:

    From time immemorial,for every offensive weapon created, a defensive weapon followed. When the Hershey Chocolate executive brought home the problem of raising the price, his kid said, don’t do that! Make the bar smaller. When Ajax drilled larger holes, my mom left only one hole untaped. If I had a show on Broadway, I’d make the doors bigger to let in more audience by selling to out-of-towners only a limited number (how big is the house)of something like Newbie Seats for say a 25% discount. Tickets don’t sell a show, word of mouth (cyberspeak) does. Remember what happened when they opened the tix booth in Times Square? Who does not believe in cyberspeak? It’s just been released but who doesn’t know about the film AMOUR?

  • Paul Mendenhall says:

    People will go to any lengths to see something they really want to see. The problem is, most producers now have no brains, no taste and no guts. They only want to put money and effort behind revivals, or recent movies-plus-songs. You can have the greatest marketing in history, but if your product is crap, it won’t matter a damn. There isn’t a single show in NYC right now that you could pay me to sit through. There’s your problem.

  • Broadway, including its audience, mirrors the social and economic inclusiveness of our society. And like our society it has evolved socioeconomically; albeit, not at the pace our predominantly liberal community desires.

    Currently, the economic health of the country is similar to that of the gilded age. Economic inequality is eroding the middle class, which means fewer people have disposable income to attend the theatre or travel (remember 65% of Broadway’s audience are tourists).Furthermore, minorities have fallen disproportionately from the ranks of the middle class by greater numbers, which adversely impacts their ability to attend the theatre and in turn financially sustain the diverse storytelling we all long for.

    To me these factors greatly inhibit the expansion of the audience and the effort to entice those that do attend Broadway shows to see more shows every year.

    Nevertheless, I continue to be optimistic and think as society grows more enlightened and improves from a socioeconomic standpoint so will Broadway and the theatre (i.e. ticket sales).

  • YES! YES! YES! This is my big frustration with so many events I want to attend. I also wonder why the ticket price is almost always reserved for the last page of online ticket purchases. Business gurus and marketers do the same thing on their sales sites. Why has price become a “hidden” entity in attending theater? Do we think that people don’t know they may have to pay something?

    Thank you Ken!

    • janis says:

      Bobby H.,
      So true. I often am infuriated to the point of stopping the ticket order at that point and never returning for tickets. If someone has something to sell, the price is a part of the sale and I refused to purchase anything online or otherwise without knowing both the product and the price.
      Broadway should take that to heart. Maybe even a very short skit or something to show the value of the product and a list of prices on the first page.
      Couldn’t hurt.

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