Tag Archives: marketing strategy

Your Theatre is an Entertainment Niche

In June of 2009, the NEA released the results of their Arts Participation Survey (download).  The overall results shows that arts participation has continued to decline among adults in America since the survey was first conducted in 1982.   Attendance for non-musicals was listed at 9.4% and attendance for musicals was 16.7%.  That means only 1 out of 10 Americans will see a play and only 1 out of 6 will see a musical.  Now, compare these statistics to Neilsen’s latest Three Screen Report (download) that came out in May of 2009.  The average American watches 153 hours of television a month.

Everyone knows that people watch more television that theatre, so the data is not surprising.  But let’s look at the difference in how the data is measured.  Theater going is measured almost in a binary format.  Did you or did you not attend.  Television is measured in volume.  To compare the two reports, you actually have to get the data on the same scale.  So, let’s say the average person attending the theatre subscribes to a regional theatre for 6 shows a year and sees 2 broadway musicals a year.  About 8 shows a year with an average duration of 2 hours a show for about 16 hours of theatre going.  But only 1 out of 6 peple are attending any kind of performance, so you get an overall average of maybe 3 hours of theatre watching a year or about 15 min. each month.  Compare 15 min. of monthly theatre going to 153 hours of television waching, you get about a 1 to 600 ratio.  And I’m only comparing television to theatre.  If we included music, video games, movies, and sporting events, the entertainment landscape would be immensely huge and theatre only a small spec on the horizon.  But by comparing like data sets, it might change how theatre marketers think about their strategy.

Theatre marketers are asking primarily one of two questions:  “how do I get our exisiting audience to return next year?” and “how do I develop a new audience?”.  The problem is that the artistic mission of most theatres, which defines the companies niche within the theatre community, also ends up influencing the marketing.   If the theatre’s mission is “We do heightened language plays” or “We do physical ensemble theatre”, you will see similar statements in the marketing material.  What this does is ends up constraining the strategy.  The theatre ends up marketing their stylistic approach to the existing theatre audience rather then marketing their theatre in the wider entertainment landscape.

If theatres want to truely grow their audience, they need to see that theatre is a very small entertainment niche.  That niche can expand, but only by marketing the uniqueness of not just their particular show or style, but the uniqueness of theatre-going itself.  Why does the music-lover, video-gamer or sports fanatic want to attend the theatre instead of their usual past-time?  Asking that fundamental question might be a better way to develop a new audience that fuels the fire behind new social media campaigns.

So if you are involved with a theatre, remember that you don’t have a niche in the theatre, your theatre is an entertainment niche.

Don’t Let the Social Media Treadmill Run You Over

I was at the gym this morning running on the tread mill.  Since I’ve been doing a lot of weight training recently, I now have extra strength in my leg muscles that makes running much easier.  I quickly found myself running at the front of the treadmill, as if my feet were gripping the tread and pulling it back.  This is much different than the way I had been running, in the middle of the treadmill, touching the tread as it ran under me.  I then experimented with running at the back of the treadmill – which felt like trying to catch up.  Sometimes, it can even be a little scary because it feels like you might fall off.

The funny thing is, in all three instances I was actually running at the same speed.  But the difference of my mental state between being at the front, center or back was significant.  These three positions serve as a good metaphor for how you define you or your organization’s relationship to social media.  Let’s look at all three:


Running at the center of the treadmill is a reactive position.  You are basically letting the treadmill run you.  Something happens, you respond.  It’s the position of being the follower or the fan.  It’s the marketer who says, “Yeah, we got that facebook thing covered.  We’ll post our PR and discounts there as well”.  Or it’s the impulse to use idea from a competitor instead of finding a unique application of social media for your organization.  When you run your social media marketing campaign in a reactive way, you aren’t taking full advantage of the medium.  You’re watching the road go by.  You might not fall behind, but you’re not going to get ahead.  If you approach social media with this attitude, you won’t gain any advantage from it that your competitors don’t have as well.


We’ve all been here at some point in our lives, just trying to keep up with things.  This is the organization who might have a facebook page, but hasn’t updated it in months, or updates it as an after thought.  If you or your organization is behind on embracing and using social media, the only thing you can do to recover is to make it a priority.  The further you fall behind, the harder it will be to get something going.  The effort required is actually less than you imagine.  The most difficult part is changing your “we’re behind” mental state.  Yet it’s that mental state that prevents you from exerting the effort to get on top of it.  Just as having a company website is just now part of the regular cost of doing business, so is having a social media presence.  If you don’t, your business will slowly decline and you’ll fall off the treadmill.


The amount of energy it takes to run at the front is actually the same as the center or the back.  Marketing work is marketing work. The only difference is that someone at the front took a few moments to accelerate their speed to get there.  Taking some time to get up to speed with social media tools and strategize how to use them is the most critical thing you can do.  Marketing is about creating buzz and social media tools enable marketers to innovate.  You can create new buzz in a whole new way!  When you take the lead position, you are instigating the social media cycle.  You aren’t just responding, you are contributing the media stream.  You build followers and fans.  And once you are innovating, it gets easier to keep innovating, because you will be buoyed by the responses to your work.

Remember, it’s not about how fast you are running – every marketer feels like they are running.  It’s about where you run.  If you aren’t running at the front, you’re letting the treadmill run you.  And if you let that go long enough, the social media treadmill will run you over.

Tip #1: Share the Process

One of the best ways to use social media is to include your community in the process of your organization.  Let’s say, for example, you have a local bakery and you just started to sell cupcake versions of your popular carrot cake.  A traditional approach would be to show a picture and say “Now get your favorite carrot cake in cup cake size.  $2.25 each – only $1.50 if you say ‘Tweetcake’.  There’s nothing there to differ it from  regular website or email marketing.  With music and video, we’d call it a TV or radio spot.  But if you want to make it social, start early by sharing the process.  Post a picture of the batter being stirred followed by the muffins coming out of the oven with a cute message “Mmmm….piping hot muffins…don’t eat them yet – they still need frosting.”  A few posts like that and you’ll have people’s mouths watering. You will have pre-sold the muffins because people will have been thinking about them all day, not just at the end.  This is true for almost any product that is made.  The longer the process, the more opportunities you will have to connect with your customers.

Don’t Lose the “Social” in Social Marketing

With the rapid rise of corporate marketing on Facebook and Twitter, I am seeing an increase in traditional marketing.  I’m referring to posts about free giveaways, discount codes, press annoucements, etc.  Using these techniques are certainly valid, but they aren’t taking full advantage of new social aspects of the platform.  Marketers are often approaching these interactive mediums with the same broadcast mentality.  “I have  X number of followers/fans that received this message.”  Now one advantage with the Internet is you can track your clicks, etc. so you can measure your ROI more closely, unlike radio or tv.  But what makes social media different isn’t the click tracking or the network effects of re-tweeting – it’s the whole “social” mind set.

What people love about Facebook is that they can share their lives with friends – photos, status updates, etc.  Twitter started out the same way, with posts like “I just got out of bed…where’s the coffee?”  You can understand with posts like that, how the average busy adult might dismiss Twitter.  Who has time to keep track of their fifty closest friends caffeine intake?  And yet at the same time, what people love about social media is exactly that – the little trivialities of daily life that keep you connected to friends and family.  And it’s this same love that also has people already decrying the loss of authenticity and the rise of corporatism in social media.

If you are a marketer, you need to avoid alienating your audience when you enter the social media space.  You need to conceive of your marketing strategy with a social mindset.  Your plans needs to make a unique social connection with your audience that also leverages the power of social media for your business.  Don’t just broadcast announcements and deals with the hope that people will read them.  At the same time, be wary of trying to hard to be authentic.  People can easily detect phony attempts at seeming real.  If you were the CEO of Chevron or Shell and you posted, “Bought a solar powered calculator, made me feel good to conserve” I think people would see right through the PR department’s closely managed plan.

So, from an organizational stand point, this brings up a lot of questions.  How do you leverage the social qualities of your organization to create a unique interactive message?  How do you develop an authentic voice for the organization that socializes with your audience?  How do you allocate resources on social interaction that provide a real impact on your business?

That’s what I will be addressing next week.  Each day next week, I will post a different tactic about how you can develop a social mindset for your organization as your develop your social marketing strategy.