Did you know Broadway has a loyalty program? And why you should have one too.

One of my favorite theater reporters wrote an article for the Associated Press recently and with the headline alone, he nailed something that I had been thinking for years:

A Broadway Secret:  A Frequent Flyer Program for Theater Fans

If I had the insight to write that article, I would have headlined it, “Why the @#$% do more people not know about the awesome thing that is Audience Rewards, for @#$%’s sake?”

And that is one of the many reasons I don’t write for the Associated Press!

If you don’t know about Audience Rewards, click here, learn more and join.  It’s the “Official Loyalty Program for Broadway” that was started years ago, in a tri-partisan partnership between the major theater chains (which ain’t such an easy thing to broker, by the way).

As a member of Audience Rewards, you earn points, you save money, you get freebies.  Bingo, bango, bongo . . . who doesn’t want that?

Don’t misunderstand, AR is a vibrant program with a ton of members.  But why doesn’t it feel like an Airline or Hotel loyalty program, which has entire websites dedicated to how to earn more points, hacking VIP status, and more?

In other words, why aren’t YOU a member?

It didn’t take me too long to realize one of the answers.  You see, AR is an “industry” loyalty program, not a brand-specific loyalty program.

You’re probably a member of a whole bunch of loyalty programs:  American Airlines, Marriot, Hertz, Chili’s, your nail salon, poke bowl place, etc, etc.

You’re probably NOT a member of these loyalty programs:  Travel, Hotels, American Chain Restaurants, Beauty Salons, Fast Food Fads, etc.

See what I mean?  Industry vs. Specific Brand.

In fact, our loyalty program is probably one of the FEW industry-wide loyalty programs out there (again, a testament to the power brokers who negotiated this deal – because it’s somewhat unprecedented).

I’m so thankful for Audience Rewards, because it gives our fans something to hang their loyalty on, and for us Producers, it puts butts in seats.

But what I’d like to see is more show-specific loyalty programs.

What punch card can you offer your most loyal fans for coming back more than once . . . or even better, recommending your show to others?  What type of upgrades can you offer to the audience members who pay full price rather than discount? What non-advertised secret clubs can you create that people can aspire to get an invite to (see American Airlines Concierge Key program).

If you’re not rewarding your customers for their loyalty to you and your brand, then you are missing out on one of the most important parts of your marketing campaigns.  Because keeping the customers you have happy is so much easier than acquiring new ones.

So just because our industry has a terrific loyalty program, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one too.

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Learn more marketing tips live and in-person from some of the best in the Broadway biz here.

 

 

 

What I loved about the Harry Potter Times Square Takeover.

In case you missed it, on September 5th, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child did cast a spell over all the digital billboards in Times Square.

As you can see in this clip,  it was the largest advertising “takeover” in NYC on record . . . and probably the world.

Why did I love this marketing move so much?

Is it because of all the “traditional” forms of media still being used today, Outdoor has held its value, while print, tv and more have dropped precipitously?

Is it because it was a “back to Hogwarts” campaign that was calendar-synced to our back to school week . . . and timing your campaigns with what is on the mind of your consumer always strengthens your impression?

Is it because while Potter continues to do good biz, there has been some chatter about why it isn’t bigger than Hamilton and others, with the brand it has (I’d say it’s the doubleheader – which is never easy for a US audience to embrace)?  This stunt answered the question of its size, especially with the coincided announcements of productions in San Francisco, Toronto and Hamburg.

Is it because Sarah Jessica Parker was there?

I loved it for all of those things . . . and for one other.

I’m positive that when the idea came up in the advertising meeting of taking over every billboard in Times Square, someone said or at the very least thought . . . “That’s impossible.”

And then, someone whipped open their spellbook, gave that person the head of a donkey with no tongue, and made this takeover effin’ happen.

It probably cost a small fortune.  It probably was a giant pain in the a$$.

But the best marketing (and the best everything!) is what hasn’t been done before.  And things that haven’t been done require passion and perseverance.

And, they always pay off.  Always (even though sometimes you can’t see it right away).

Kudos to the Producers, the Ad Agency, the Press Rep and to everyone on the Potter team for doing/imagining the impossible and making it a reality.

Now, if they could only make quidditch a real sport.

 

 

 

Here’s something to take to the beach . . . and a lesson too.

I got an email from a reader recently saying, “Ken!  Where’s your podcast?!?!?  What happened?”

In case you’ve been wondering the same, fear not, dear podcast-listeners, we’re just on a summer hiatus, and we’ll be back with a brand new season in only a few weeks.  (If you want to be the first to know when the season begins, sign up here!)

When I told this to the panicked emailer, she wasn’t having it.  “But I need a theater-biz-fix now!”

So, I decided to do some data digging for her and give her the list of the Top 10 Most Listened To podcasts, in case she missed a few along the way.  And, since I decided to share the list with her, I thought I’d share it with you as well . . . in case you wanted something to listen to and learn from while you’re at the beach this weekend, or on the treadmill.

The list is below . . . and honestly, I was shocked to see the composition of it . . . and it taught us a few things about the podcast, and what you all like listening to.  And there’s no doubt there’s stuff we can learn from looking at this list to make sure we’re delivering the stuff you want in our upcoming seasons.

See, too often marketers and business owners only look at what isn’t working and try and fix whatever that thing is.  Do you know what is a better strategy?

Take a look at what is working and do more of that.

So in our upcoming season of Podcasts, and with everything that we do, we will.

In the meantime, on this last few weekends of summer – enjoy these 10 Most Popular Producers Perspective Podcasts!

See any trends?  Let me know what you see in the comments below.

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Want to hear more wisdom from Broadway A-listers but live and in person?  Join 500 other TheaterMakers and fans at our SuperConference.  Click here for more info.

How a TV Ad Got Me to Buy This, but I Still Won’t Buy TV Ads

I bought a car last week.

(Makes no sense having a car in the city, I know, I know, but you have a kid and a dream about driving her to a water park and see how quickly you’re visiting TrueCar.com.)

And with a car comes . . . insurance.

Ahhh, insurance, an industry that spends more on advertising than most.

So this is the story of how advertising got me to buy a specific brand of car insurance.  (Side note:  One of the best ways I learn how to be a better marketer is to take a moment before I make a purchase and ask myself, “How did marketing get me to the cash register?”)

When I knew I was getting a car, I set out to get three insurance quotes to compare.  Now, guess which insurance companies I choose for those quotes?

Go on, guess.  Seriously.

Would you be surprised to hear that I got quotes from:

  1. Geico
  2. Progressive
  3. Allstate

You got at least two out of three, didn’t you? And probably the top two.

Why?

Because Geico and Progressive not only advertise all the time on Television, but they also have the most unique ads in the insurance space.  (Flo, the Progressive lady, and in Geico’s case, just plain lunacy.)

So bam . . . for a guy who doesn’t watch that much TV, I narrowed my choice down to the two companies that advertised the most and in the most clever way.  (Allstate is right up there as well – and I had used them in a previous life.)

What does this say about marketing?

TV advertising DOES still work.  Commercials seep into your brain over time, and when you’re ready to make a purchase, that product can be top of mind . . . whether you realize it or not.

So you’d think this Jekyll & Hyde-like self-experiment would have me buying TV ads for my Broadway shows, right?

Wrong.

Actually, the opposite.

After several years of buying TV ads for my shows, I can tell you right here and now, I won’t do it . . . ever again.

Why not?  Especially when it worked on me for car insurance?

That’s the point.

Geico has been making me laugh for years.  And so has Progressive Flo (Side note: Comedy converts).

Key word?  Years.

Years are what big awareness campaigns like TV advertising need to make the number of impressions a company needs to make a sale.  The consumer has to see that soft-sell ad so many times for a product of top of mind.  And because the profit margins of insurance companies (and other big brands) are higher than ours, and because their products can be purchased and used anywhere, as opposed to Broadway, which is consumed in one place, these companies can afford to keep advertising and just wait, wait, wait, until you need them.

In my case, it took years.

But they got me in the end.  And now, I’ll be a customer for years.  Not just for one night out.

New Broadway shows aren’t insurance companies.  They are startups.  They are brand new to the market.  They don’t have years to wait for a consumer to need them.  And, no one ever needs a show like they need insurance, food, etc.  We’re optional.

Awareness bombs like TV are wasted on new products of any kind, but especially niche ones like Broadway shows.  What we need is a targeted approach to getting the right people to see a show and fast.

Now look, I love the medium of telling your story through video to capture a sale . . . but traditional TV advertising is way too expensive to justify for 90% of Broadway shows.

So I’m done.

If it were cheaper?  Sure.  If it were more targeted (hello, Programmatic TV buying through the Hulus of the world), sure, sure.

But as an awareness builder?

We don’t have time or money for those kinds of campaigns.

For a new show, you’re much better off putting that money into something more trackable and sales-focused (on Once On This Island we skipped traditional TV in the lead up to the first performance and opened with the same advance that we expected to have with TV).

Huh.

I just realized something.

I wrote a similar blog about print advertising a few years back.

It looks like TV is the next traditional form of media to fall.


Want to hear other Broadway A-list experts chime in on this and more marketing matters?  Click here.

Six Says “Suck It” to Traditional Development Path, Which Is Sick! (In a Good Way)

People ask me all the time why Broadway doesn’t change.  The answer is the same as to why most things don’t change.

Fear.

See, our business model is super fragile.  It’s like carrying around an egg, while you’re walking on a sheet of ice . . . wearing slippers made of ice.  And because of that, we trudge very, very slowly, taking very small steps towards our goals, for fear of not only dropping the egg, but of falling on our face and breaking our a$$ (dollar signs intended).

So whenever the question comes up of bucking a traditional way of doing something, most of us (including me, a ton of the time) say, “We’ll just do it the way that it has been done . . . because it can work that way.”

But that doesn’t mean that’s the BEST way for it to work.

Take bringing a new show to Broadway, for example.

The “what’s always been done” approach is the reading to the workshop to the out of town tryout to Broadway.  (Click here to access a free webinar on “The Road to Broadway” if you want a more in-depth description of this path).

The “what’s always been frowned upon” approach is putting shows in lesser markets or exposing the title to the regions before launching on Broadway.   “It’ll lessen the brand,” “You gotta save it for the tour,” or “You have to show everyone you are first class and first class only!”

Blah, blah.

Then, along comes the courageous producers of Six, including Kevin McCollum (who is no stranger to trying new things – who, with his partners, moved Avenue Q to Broadway when everyone said it wasn’t a Broadway show, then downsized it to Off-Broadway with a Tony Award in tow to get another ten years out of it), and Kenny Wax (who has built an empire on a little show called The Play That Goes Wrong and its spinoffs – a strategy that hasn’t worked on any other show since Nunsense) to say . . . “Eff the traditional model!  We’re going to do something different!

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Earlier this week, the buzzy West End smash that tells the story of the six wives of Henry VII as a pop concert announced that it’s opening on Broadway in the Spring.

But the show isn’t coming direct from the West End.  It’s playing both Boston and Chicago this summer.

“Ok, ok, that’s not soooooo crazy.”

But then they announced they were going to Australia.

“Before Broadway?  Huh. What are they . . . ”

And then they announced that they are going BACK to Chicago next summer.

“Now why . . .”

And THEN they announced that they are going to play cruise ships.  Cruise ships, I tell you!  Cruise ships!  Where other shows wouldn’t even consider playing.

If you heard that sound, it was the system . . . getting bucked.

And I love it.

Why?

Six has a ton of buzz, great reviews and audience response . . . but it’s not yet a brand.  It’s not a Hollywood movie turned musical.  It’s doesn’t have a songbook with 147 Top Ten hits.

And because Broadway is a brand snob these days, it would have been challenging to bring it in the usual way.

So, these uber-smart Producers are building its brand . . . before they arrive.

The show is already getting press.  It’s already getting talked about (some folks are even blogging (!) about it).

And most importantly, by the time the show opens, more people will have seen it!  With all of these productions, the Producers are putting more marketing foot soldiers on the streets to sell tickets through word of mouth. #Brill

They’ve smartly checked their egos at the box office and planned a path that could lead not only to Broadway success but to global success as well, with a title that came out of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it started.

But now, I’m predicting big “sick” things for Six.


If you want to check out the webinar on the path shows take to get to Broadway, click here for free access.

Speaking of shows coming out of festivals, do you have your tickets to a RAVE show yet?  Many shows are SOLD OUT already!  Come support new theater!  Who knows, the next Six may be just a few blocks away!  Click here.

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