The Wall Street Journal has a story today about movie theaters offering money-back guarantees, among other gimmicks, in an effort to stimulate attendance.
Hate the Flick? Some Theaters Offer Refunds
By KATE KELLY Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL June 29, 2005; Page B1
Faced with sagging box-office revenue, studios and theater chains are testing out novel strategies for getting the public back into movie seats.
Those tactics will be in full force during the coming Independence Day holiday weekend. Continuing a promotion unveiled last weekend, AMC Entertainment Inc.'s theaters plan to offer full-ticket refunds to moviegoers who don't like "Cinderella Man" -- a flick that opened to disappointing attendance.
The no-hassle money-back guarantee is a rarity in the business, where fans who sit through awful flicks usually leave with little more than bad memories. But AMC's results are encouraging enough that CinemarkInc., another big exhibitor, is planning a similar promotion for the three-day weekend.
This morning Kerwin and I walked into a Prescott Starbucks and both ordered their strong-brew coffee of the day to then find it was free. The barista at the cash register motioned over to a gentleman sitting in an animated discussion with a group of about six others, and said, “Your coffee is on Mr. Perez this morning.” As Kerwin stirred cream and sugar into his coffee, we read a poster on the wall right above the condiment station with a picture of Mr. Perez’s smiling face explaining that every Wednesday morning from 8:30am-9:30am he buys coffee at that Starbucks for all his customers and anyone else who wants to talk story with him about investment banking and Prescott’s promising future. Why offer free coffee in your office waiting room, when you can use Starbucks? This Starbucks in Prescott is clearly a happening place, and one of those coffeeshop locations where there is unlimited parking and lots of café table seating available inside as a respite from the Arizona heat. One glance at him holding court and you could see that Mr. Perez is brilliant. He was also enjoying himself immensely. What a great way to work.
The second idea comes from The Gap (via BusinessBits). When The Gap started redesigning stores in Colorado, they did this:
On April 15, tax day, all parking meters in downtown Denver were free. The bags over the meters said: Change is good. Keep yours. Pardon our dust, the Gap.
Now neither of these two ideas are terribly expensive. But I bet they were remembered by many people long afterwards. Imagine if a Broadway or off-Broadway show bought everyone coffee one morning during the early morning rush at the Starbucks next door to the theatre (pretty soon, there WILL be a Starbucks next door to EVERY theatre, it's just a matter of time). Hand each person a flyer that says "while you enjoy your free cup of coffee, we hope you'll take a minute to read what the critics are saying about our show." Now every time they walk into that Starbucks, they're going to remember the time you bought their coffee for them. And every time they pass your theatre, they're going to think twice about the nice folks inside, and maybe take an extra second or two to actually read all that stuff posted on the walls and doors. And they're also likely to tell people about you as well.
There are probably lots of other examples: pay tolls one morning for the bridge and tunnel crowd on their commute into the city(Chitty Chitty Bang Bang); pay library fines for a day (The Color Purple); pay for marriage licenses for a day (Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding); hair cuts (Steel Magnolias, Sweeney Todd); shoe shines (Stomp).
However, it's the interaction between blogs that makes them so interesting and influential. A single blog can be akin to a ranting madman on the corner. However, when linked together into massive intertwining communities, they have the vibrancy and passion of a massive street market, with information, opinions and whispers exchanging hands at light speed. And it's no longer confined to techy chats. Conversations about every conceivable subject take place. And as the quantity and quality of these conversations grows, so does the blogosphere's influence beyond the internet, including the commercial sector.
"Now, a growing number of marketers are using new technology to analyze blogs and other 'consumer-generated media' -- a category that includes chat groups, message boards and electronic forums -- to hear what is being said online about new products, old ad campaigns and aging brands. Purveyors of the new methodology and their clients say blog-watching can be cheaper, faster and less biased than such staples of consumer research as focus groups and surveys."
Congratulations to Signature Theatre for getting Time Warner to underwrite their 15th Anniversary Season to the extent that they'll be able to sell every ticket for just $15! (See The New York Times announcement here). Hopefully if they're able to give Time Warner enough prominence and credit, other potential sponsors will take note and this will become more the rule than the exception.
Though I think this is pretty big news, I find it interesting that it was posted on TalkinBroadway (THE theatre chat site) over 12 hours ago and no one has commented on it yet. Major works by major playwrights for just $15. Come on people! What does it take?!
One of my heroes, Joe Jaffee, has a post today about the GM Employee Discount. He takes exception with it, but I must say, I love it. Surely you've seen the commercials where a GM employee promises that new car buyers will now get the Employee Discount, so "you pay what we pay, not a cent more."
As reported in Ad Age, promotion has found the hearts and minds of consumers and GM's competitors are reacting/retaliating:
GM's "employee discount" hype on all its 2005 models is attracting more consumers who had Ford, Chrysler or other non-GM brands on their shopping lists, according to CNW Marketing/Research. CNW found that while 57% of all people who entered a GM dealership last June were already GM "intenders," just 37% were intenders this June. That means, CNW President Art Spinella explained, that the new program is drawing increased numbers of non-GM consumers, and that the showroom traffic is less reliant on those who already own GM vehicles.
For our purposes, theater tickets at staff discount rates are generally 25-50% of full price. I'm not sure how such a promotion would work for an intangible like a theatre ticket where there is no limit to how low you can discount, but I sure like the idea behind the campaign. And if I was in the market for a new car, I'd like knowing that GM was going to give me their best price without all the gimmicks.
Now that press releases are dead (see yesterday's post), can we please also retire the phrase "outside the box"? If I've heard that once, I've heard it a million times from clients who really mean, "I'm looking for a magic pill to make my show a hit because I don't have enough money to advertise it adequately." Most clients can't afford to be in the box, much less out of it.
For the traditional show, there are tried and true techniques that work and that can generate an audience during the preview period to start building word-of-mouth (think direct mail). Then, when the reviews hit and if the word-of-mouth is positive a build will begin...usually a long, slow build. It can sometimes take a show 3 months to a year before it starts breaking even on a weekly basis. You've got to cover the basics before you can start playing outside of the box on marginal, untested ideas. [Note: in most cases, outside the box to many people means something about as "groundbreaking" and "bold" as sending a CD sampler of a new musical. They don't know what "outside the box" means, but they think they've got to be there.]
But I digress. Back to killing off the box. Fast Company has the inside story.
The Press Release is Dead (Will Somebody Please Tell the Clients?) by Sally Saville HodgeJune 21, 2005
In competing for a piece of business not too long ago, my public relations firm was asked to supply three samples, each, of recent clips, bylined articles we'd authored for clients and press releases.
For two of the three requirements, the issue was our embarrassment of riches. But for press releases, we were hard-pressed. These days, we write fewer and fewer press releases—most are the obligatory personnel announcements, with the periodic feature release sprinkled in between. We just don't see them as being as important a tool for PR as they once were.
Yes, there are exceptions. For disclosure purposes, news releases are mandatory for occurrences or developments that could materially impact a publicly held company. And some businesses have real "news" to report, even if they're not publicly held, that may lend itself to distribution via news release.
But despite the popular image of PR firms as press release factories and their account personnel as pitching machines (and the regrettable fact that many still churn them out and indiscriminately blanket the media with releases that have little or no relevance), the reality is that the press release is pretty much dead as a piece of the strategic communications arsenal.
Think about it. As a society, we've gone from the era of mass production, mass merchandising and mass marketing to one where customization is king.
OK, I thought this was the idea of some marketing genius. Turns out, it took a 6-year-old to come up with the idea. Still, I think it's great! (Source: BoingBoing and RealCities.com)
In a promotion for Microsoft Xbox, the first two innings of a game between two minor-league baseball teams will be played virtually -- by two fans. Those in attendance at the stadium will watch on the park's giant screen. The game announcers will give play-by-play calls of the game just as they would with live action players. At the start of the third inning, the gamers will put down their controls, the scores will stand, and the two teams will take the field and pick up play exactly where the gamers left off.
So what if it was the idea of a 6-year-old? She's going to go far. It's already making the rounds in cyberspace, and I know that before the July 16th match, the two minor league teams and Microsoft will have all have gotten a huge amount of buzz about this.
Mike Stone, commissioner of the minor-league baseball Northern League, said the idea “brings new meaning to the term ‘fan involvement.’”
Adam Balkin of NY1 previews RadioTime.com, which hopes to do for radio what TiVO did for TV. The new Web-based service "consolidates radio programming from all around the globe - music and talk - and makes it very easy to find, and then listen to it when you like and where you like."
I got excited at the prospect of catching up on all the old episodes of A Prairie Home Companion and Fresh Air, until I went to the NPR website and realized that pretty much all of those shows are already available online.