What “The Queen’s Gambit” Taught Me About How To Market Broadway.

Nerd alert confession time:
 
In 1991, I was a member of The Manhattan Chess Club.  
 
I was a decent player, although I did get beat by an 8 year old once. (In my “defense,” my coach told me the kid was the next Josh Waitzkin). 
 
I gave it up. Not because the 8 year old slapped my ego like a hockey puck. But because I got hyper-focused on becoming a “grandmaster” in the theater . . . a journey I’m still on, by the way!
 
But chess is one of those things that I say I’ll get to someday. You know, like when I retire. (Ha!) And every once in awhile, when chess appears in the news, I’ll click.
 
So, when I noticed that a new Netflix series called The Queen’s Gambit was trending, I couldn’t help but watch.
 
There were seven episodes.
 
I watched them in two “up-until-2AM” nights.
 
There were a ton of marketing lessons from this series:
 
– It felt like a true story, but wasn’t (a strategy more typical for horror films, like The Blair Witch Project).
– The “#X in the US” banner on Netflix uses social proof to give you a solid dose of FOMO if you do NOT watch.
– The series was “limited” giving you both a desire to finish it, and also want something more. (Google “2nd season of Queen’s Gambit” to see what I mean.)
 
But the biggest marketing lesson of all is the simplest, most powerful, and it’s right on the surface . . . but also hidden from view.
 
What am I talking about?
 
Put it this way . . .
 
What do you think I wanted to do after watching ONE episode of watching The Queen’s Gambit.
 
That’s right.
 
I wanted to play chess.
 
The Queen’s Gambit wanted me to play chess.
 
And . . . here’s the ding-ding-ding . . . I bought a chess set within 24 hours.
 
Now, I understand marketing enough to know that if this happened to me? This happened to a lot of those people who made the series #3 in the US.
 
The lesson?
 
The best way to sell something is to create a story around that something.
 
It’s long-term strategy. No question. But if someone asked me how to market Broadway?
 
It’d be encouraging more movies about Broadway and the theater. More TV shows about the theater. More books, poems, and stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the theater.
 
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to buy a course on how to play better chess.
(Have you seen The Queen’s Gambit?  Did this happen to you?  Are you playing more chess now?)
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Do you have a show but need some help in marketing it, without hiring a high-priced marketing company you don’t need?  Click here for lessons on how to market your show from Broadway A-listers for less than you pay for your gym membership.
 
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Comments
  • Adam says:

    I’m a FIDE International Arbiter. I wasn’t Grandmaster strength, so I decided to be an arbiter. I also can’t act, so I became a producer. Josh made his IM norms at tournaments I directed. When I was in Moscow, two things I did was arrange tours of the Moscow Art Theatre and the Central Chess Club. And, after a long hiatus, I’m returning to playing.

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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