3 Marketing Lessons for Broadway from Super Tuesday.

Is it just me or is Super Tuesday the new Superbowl?  Ok, ok, maybe it’s the Playoffs, and Election Day itself is The Big Game.

But it certainly felt like a-must-see-sporting event Tuesday Night, as my wife and I snuggled on the couch, eating wings, and screaming out at the TV when there was a touchdown or even a “fumble” (Like that awkward moment when Joe Biden mistook his wife for his sister – I’m just glad he didn’t make an Arkansas joke after he did it).

As I hooted and hollered (I think I even did “the wave” at one point – my wife did not), I couldn’t help but notice there were some Broadway marketing lessons to be learned from the results.

Now, these are general takeaways, and are not about political affiliation, viewpoints, or any of that ire-instigating stuff, but they do apply . . . so here goes.

1. Whoever has been around the longest, has an advantage.

If you’re in a cluttered market, like this year’s democratic field, and there isn’t an obvious decision for the consumer/voter to make, they’ll default to the thing that has been around the longest.  Joe Biden won the night.  Why?  Partly because he’s been around the longest! He has run for President 3x now, so voters are used to seeing him in a field like this.  He has been a member of Congress even longer than Bernie.  And, of course, he was a VP.  In marketing-speak, he has the highest “awareness” or market penetration of any of the candidates . . . so it’s not surprising that he’s starting to gallop ahead.

TAKEAWAY:  In a recent study I did on Broadway shows, The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera were the two shows of all the shows on Broadway that had the highest awareness.  Why?  Because they had run the longest, of course.  And it’s no surprise that they are two of the most successful musicals . . . in history!  Long runs help perpetuate an even longer run.  So, get your show to run for a long time. 🙂 Or, the better takeaway is for those of you who want to make a career in the theater.  If you’re a Writer, Producer, Director or other TheaterMaker, keep on sloggin’ away.  Your Awareness will catch up too.  Remember how I said Joe ran from President TWICE before?  Yeah, those didn’t work out quite so well.  But he kept on runnin’.  And we’ll see what happens this time.  (And I’d expect Mayor Pete to be in 1, 2 or 17 more races until he notches a big win too.)

2. Endorsements matter.

My favorite phrase of the night from the CNN Color Commentators was “Joe-mentum.”  Made me spit out a buffalo wing.  But it’s true.  After Joe’s win in South Carolina (which was partly due to the endorsement from Jim Clyburn), he was speedin’ into Super Tuesday with some extra gas in the tank. . . and then he got those late-in-the-day endorsements from Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg . . . and then . . . blast off.  Getting other people to support your mission is an easy way to double or triple your base.

TAKEAWAY:  Get testimonials from your audience members, celebrities or any influencers out there. And don’t just put those quotes on your website, but get those folks to push their message about your show out to their audience.  However you can.  Yes, even if you gotta trade something or even pay ’em!   If you think Jim, Amy or Pete just gave Joe their endorsement without getting something in return (one of them has VP written all over their future), well, you should not be a politician . . . or a businessperson.  Because this is how the world works.  Reciprocity.  Give ’em something to get what you want!

3. Buying advertisements is effective but NEVER as effective as word of mouth.

I used to like Mike Bloomberg.  He did amazing things for NYC.  He runs his governments like a business, yet he goes after the NRA and other social reforms like he’s got a gun.  But, Mike proved that money can’t buy you everything. And, by the way, this isn’t the first time voters have rejected a politician trying to make up for their lack of awareness or poor word of mouth with cash.  They rejected billionaire Ross Perot.  Mitt Romney supplemented his campaigns with his own personal fortune.  That didn’t work.  And, now, it looks like Mike is against the ropes.  Actually makes you feel pretty good about the American people.  Spending more than 10x what your fellow candidates spend may get you in the race, but it can’t get you to win the race.  And kudos to Elizabeth Warren for reminding us all of this . . . even if it hurt her own cause.

TAKEAWAY:  Buying more advertising to “make up” for your late arrival to the market, or to overcome bad reviews or worse, bad word of mouth (those debate performances, Mike – and what did you do that required those NDAs anyway?) may improve your standing, but it won’t guarantee your rise to the top. So don’t let advertising agencies convince you otherwise.  As the above proves, getting your show to run a long, long time and getting positive word of mouth is much more important than spending $100 million.

This race is only just getting interesting . . . so you can bet I’ll be back over the next 7 months with more comparisons of Political Theater to actual Theater.  But I promise . . . NO discussion of actual politics. 🙂

What do you think about the strategies candidates use to marketing themselves?  Comment below.

And if you want to learn more about political marketing and how we can use their strategies to help our own businesses, check out the smart blog of this actual political marketer.  (Yep, candidates hire marketing companies too.)

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