Is current theatre marketing to similar to cinema marketing.

• What are the unique selling points of theatre?

• What are the unique selling points of Cinema?

• How can we take theatre to new markets?

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All of the above are very valid points.

I think like anything- if the product is one that people want then they'll find it. Even if it's marketed for 30-40 year olds, if it's good, everyone will want to see it.

It's difficult to compare theatre with cinema because most of the public are excited, addicted and unthreatened by going to the cinema. But, if you offer them a night at the theatre they are unexcited, put-off and feel threatened. In order to get away from that attitude, theatre needs to be sold in a different way- preferably without the word 'theatre' in it!

Site specific, interactive experiences and some sort of pay-off (whether that's getting a good deal for the tickets or feeling that they've gained in some way or other). This is the way to a new audience (in my opinion anyway!)
This maybe veering off the initial questions of this discussion, but...

As Bethan says, there are many valid points in this discussion. As a recent marketing graduate and theatre and arts fanatic, a major problem I've found is that target audiences are never segmented in an effective manner. Many professional companies rely on blanket advertising and treat 'theatre goers' as one general market segment; this is, in my opinion, one of the major problems with theatre marketing today as we are all aware that the theatre offers customers one of the vastest levels of product offerings out there.

For example, there are ardent theatre goers who will give anything a try, there are customers who will only watch comedies, customers who wish to be challenged, those who want mind-numbing entertainment, those who like musicals, or physical theatre etc etc. The successful marketing of theatre as a whole is quite literally a veritable minefield that requires expertise in market research, planning, and above all controlled and evaluated execution. I’m not saying you can’t get customers to watch something they think they may not like, but the basic segmentation must exist in order to build the message and grab the attention of the passive audience.

There is also a broader responsibility I feel for all theatre marketers to help improve the overall perception of the theatre in the publics’ minds. We’ve all undoubtedly come across negative perceptions of the theatre; the most extreme I’ve found, living in the South Wales Valleys, is the fantastic ‘theatre is for poofs’ notion of many men, or ‘the theatre is only for the rich’. However, when I’ve actually managed to cajole these people into our local theatre they tend to have a fantastic night and totally change their outlook. It is these grass roots opinions that need to be tackled if theatre as an art form is to survive against competition from the cinema, DVD, and the internet etc.

Unfortunately a significant problem I have come across (I may get shot down for this comment) is that in some cases theatre marketers have little or no knowledge of even basic marketing techniques (such as the marketing mix). They appear to have been employed on the basis of their theatrical experience as opposed to any marketing experience. This often results in companies wondering why they’ve only sold 30 seats for a 200 hundred seat auditorium… when the simple answer is, what can you expect when the only marketing effort has been to slap up a few posters, hand out some flyers, and put up a Facebook group, instead of trying to specifically target the desired audience type through the best available means.

Of course, all thoughts and debates aside, the most significant problem facing theatre marketing has surely to be that of funding. Most theatre companies simply do not have the funds to invest in substantial marketing campaigns, and therefore very often have low ticket sales… which perpetuates the problem further as the next time around there will be even less money for marketing.

Anyway… I’ll stop typing now as I’m sure I’ve bored you all enough by now, and if I don’t stop myself I could write about this subject all night.
No, Lee, far from being boring I think you're right. Funding aside what some Little Theatres in the region face is apathy. When it is so easy to be entertained by popping a dvd in the machine, sitting back and watching, the question begs to be asked: 'since when does a machine have a pulse?'

I know from experience, having worked with the same group of people as yourself, how often it can seem like bashing your head against a brick wall when you're dying to try something new and broaden not only the outlook of the group, or Theatre concerned, but also that of its audiences and all you face is: 'Well audiences won't like that, so let's do what we always do, and play safe'. In that way they hope it'll be bums on seats time, and for a while it is. But does there come a time when the tried and tested becomes the bored and predictable?

And what happenes when you try something a little different?
I remember directing many years ago on the floor of a theatre you know very well, I believe, with seating laid out on three sides, like the Swan. The production was geared to this. What happened? Everyone sat at one end leaving the sides free. They really enjoyed the evening (Merchant of Venice - adapt for a Thursday 'Club' night)and the feed back after was fantastic, but the effect I wanted to achieve, that of the audience being involved by being in the court for the trial, was lost and they became just an audience.
But that should be the role of the 'club' night. A way of trying out new ideas, giving actors the chance to try new roles outside their comfort zone; perhaps trying out new writing, and also a means of etting people to come along and try it, before committing to a major production. But that requires commitment from those involved in presenting something alive, vital and with a pulse. Who wants to come and see something that's dead?

Sometimes audiences surprise you. Last year I co-directed a Shakespeare evening for a local drama group in Cardiff. It was something new and we didn't know how it would be received; nor how many would turn up. We abandoned the usual staging, re-arranged the stage design, changed the seating to form three sides of the 'Wooden O' and, basically, went for it. We half expected a handful to turn up: over 40 came. And it was a terrific evening of three minute adaptations and workshop-styled performances.

There are the hard core audiences who'll come and watch anything and everything you stage; often sitting in the same seats on the same night every single time. Great! As long as they go away and tell others about it, there's no harm in this and they should be actively encouraged to bring a friend (or three) next time.
There are those who will only watch musicals, or comedies and seem reluctant to try anything out of their comfort zones. I took a friend to see an RSC play, 'The Herbal Bed' when it came to Swansea on tour many moons ago. He was used to working backstage on musicals and coming to a play was something he wasn't used to. It blew him away.

Surely one problem is in the company themselves. It can only take one negative reaction to a bad night's rehearsal for word to spread; and a bad word can spread a lot faster than a good one.
I feel sorry for those who, through sour grapes in not being cast in a play, feel they have to deride those in it. It should be the responsibility of anyone and everyone connected with a production to advertise it, using word of mouth if necessary; for one thing it's cheaper and can be far more effective. But it works both ways, doesn't it? Positivity can sell seats: negativity in theatre can be a killer.

Lee, I totally agree with your approach as an individual - that's something we need to harness, using ground level advocates. I love theatre but I can't see everything everywhere so I have to make choices based on 1. what I want to see, 2. who will come to see it with me, 3, how much it costs, 4. when is it on. I'm more likely to go to something if it's recommended by someone I trust, if I can afford it and if I can actually get myself there.

Absolutely Kenon - can't beat a good 'copycat', I say. Early adapters can often win in the longer term as they have the benefit of learning from others mistakes as well as piggy-backing their successes!

Having said that, I am a fan of experimenting too. Sometimes you just need to add one innovative piece into a tried & tested, or even, copycat mix to make the whole thing sing. And I think Bethan illustrates that well with suggestions of 'Site specific, interactive experiences and some sort of pay-off'.

And Lee, do not worry, there's not a boring thought in your post! Grabbing 'the attention of the passive audience', as you put it, is a critical challenge for theatre's evolution; as is progressive segmentation.Socio-economic groupings are a bit too simplistic thesedays. Community-of-interest groupings appear to be stealing the show (bad pun, I know!).
very true... the older,simpler ways of segmenting customers via simple demographic groupings such as age, gender, income etc I don't think have ever been that valid with regards to arts, and are even less valid in modern society. Even geo-demographics aren't much good these days as in areas such as Cardiff Bay and Swansea's SA1 development for example, every standard demographic variable is probably accounted for within a relatively small area... which makes succesfully targeting any direct marketing campaign that has limited funds, almost impossible.

As you say Deborah, community-of-interest groups are 'stealing the show' (loved the pun so just wanted 2 use it again!! hehe!!)and are very possibly (I never say definitely, particularly with regard to the arts)the way forward. By segmenting via a customers 'main' interest, relationship building can begin, which will ultimately aid in informing and persuading these customers about other art forms or theatre types they may have previosly not considered.
Every piece of audience research for theatre that I've seen over the last 30+ years suggests that the most powerful form of promotion is word of mouth. Time and again, in response to the question: "How did you find out about this show?", the majority respond with "Someone told me/a friend". I have long argued for the development of a database of people's friends - it would save so much money on advertising, print and the other traditional methods of promotion! But, more seriously, NTW can only gain if the momentum of this site is maintained and the sense of excitement grows as a new player emerges onto Wales' stages. So: let's keep telling our friends.
For me, what is most exciting and special about live theatre and performance is the fact that it is transient and truly influenced by the various factors which are specific to each performance - audience, weather, actor's performances, venue, etc. So I think the phrase "you have / had to be there" is a key element in how to sell the NTW experience.
This may work by using people's experiences and contact with NTW as a way of enticing others to come along. I don't ever like missing out and feel frustrated when I hear about something fabulous that I didn't get to see or be involved with - surely I'm not alone.
I also think that NTW is in a unique position, as a new company, to be innovative and forward thinking in its development of responsible, sustainable marketing initiatives. Most obviously this could be through technology, but maybe we could develop a scheme which encourages our audiences to recycle their theatre ticket after seeing a show by passing it onto someone who hasn’t been to an NTW production before, allowing them to qualify for a discount or free food (always popular!). It needs more work, but I think that harnessing the power of ‘word of mouth’ by encouraging audiences to share their experiences, along with some kind of “special offer” would help us to reach the friends of friends of NTW and maybe alleviate some people’s fears about theatre and what it might involve.
I like that idea of using your ticket as a voucher for a friend Gemma. Would be good to work that up a bit.
I'll have a think about it then and have another chat with you when it is more fully formed. x
Over the last couple of months I've been following the thread on here about theatre marketing.

There has been comments/posts about some of the core features of marketing:
- Market/Audience: Knowledge and understanding about your market/audiences [their needs, wants, perceptions, experiences, behaviour - in addition to their geo-demographic profile]
- Budgets: Role of marketing budgets/funding in resource allocation to marketing activities [does a big budget really mean more effective marketing or lazy marketing???]
- Specific Marketing Activities: The role of the historical [and outdated] 4P framework optimised by marketers which is increasingly of limited use to service/experience based offerings [such as theatre] which function on more intangible and perishable characteristics in the offering.
- Pricing: Importance of pricing and economic [and other external factors] on audience behaviour [i.e., theatre not perceived as a neccessity - as an indulgence, treat]
- Channel Management: Differing channels use to reach and engage audiences/markets - be it through mass [radio], traditional channels [posters] or more engaging conversational channels such offline [Word of mouth] or online social networks]
- Brand/Industry Awareness: Perceptions of the industry/overall category and specific brand offerings in accessibility, experience and entertainment factor.
- Skills: Marketing Skills within/across the industry

There are some great ideas here and the discussion is very rich. I suppose on reading the core question about "What is the USP of theatre over cinema?" my first response is - "What is a USP?" and secondly what criteria should we use to compare the USP of theatre and cinema?

1. What is a USP?

A unique selling proposition is what you do inherently differently or better than your competition. In that you are 'unique', your are 'different', you are 'better' than other competing offerings. In marketing speak we call this 'differentiation'.

So you need to have an understanding of who/what our competition are/do (esp. in brand/category perceptions/awareness) to understand what you/they do 'differently' or better?

2. How do theatre & cinema compete?

Cinema is an indirect competitor to theatre, in that direct competitors for audience time/money are other theatre experiences as they offer very similar offerings in terms of delivery, format, experience to satisfy audience needs, but might differing in time, money, geography.

Where as cinema is indirect, as it is satisfies the same audience needs [entertainment/escapism] as theatre but with a more different offering in delivery, format, experience. Even gaming and sporting events constitute indirect competitors to theatre - we are all competing for share of audiences 'time' and 'wallet'.

So perhaps a basic/crude comparator is: theatre - a live-produced/delivered entertainment experience compared to cinema a pre-produced/recorded entertainment experience. Both delivered in differing formats/venues [dependent on genre/production specifics].

3. So how is theatre unique, better or different from cinema?

Tapping into what each does differently is in terms of a) product features and b) how perceived by market/audience; and c) differing motives for attendance is crucial to tapp into the USP for theatre over cinema.

So here is my stab in the dark at your questions Guto!

a) Features of Product offering:

Cinema - pre-recorded; pre-packaged; Glossy/highly produced; Surround sound; HD/3D technology; mass star awareness/appeal [actors, producers, directors]; highly categorised (e.g., comedy, drama, childrens); mass 'national' marketed [audio/visual channels of prerecorded/edited content = trailers]; large venues; closed/indoor airconditioned venues

Theatre - live experience; rehearsal-bound; live lighting and music technical effects; local/national star appeal; more fluid; local/national marketed; small, medium, large venues; indoor/outdoor venues; localised/more informative 'visual' marketing materials [posters]

b) Perceptions of Markets/Audiences

Cinema: Convenient; More flexible in viewing times; Familiar; More accessible to masses (is for everyone); Less risk; cheaper (2 for one deals such as Orange Wednesdays); Less information process in decision making; higher brand awareness (of both cinema venues and movie offerings); is passive in experience

Theatre: Less convenient; less flexible in viewing times; higher risk; more expensive; Is for theatre lovers, women and elderly; Is more creative, Is more participatory - feel part of (not separate from) performance (as audience is there during process of production/delivery) not just a viewer/audience of a performance/production (as in cinema); is highly intangible (no two performances are the same - even with same actor/production - why sometimes viewed as higher risk); poor awareness/understanding as to what 'theatre' really is about - not just about the mass marketed 'West end' productions.

c) Motives/Reasons for Attendance/participation

Cinema: Escapism, entertaining, social norms - friends/everyone are going; a treat; a date, a night with friends

Theatre: Escapism, entertaining, being part of something creative, a gift, a lover of theatre - part of the industry so keeping up/social networking; a weekend away; a treat, a critic; Because it is real and live!

4. Why is the above important to the question on Marketing Theatre and knowing your USP?

From the above we can now devise an understanding of our core message we want to use to reach our intended market segments according to how each market segment differs in how they a) perceived theatre over cinema; and b) reasons for attending cinema or participate in theatre ....

For me the key message (or USP) is ... we 'attend' the cinema but 'participate' in theatre. So I am an audience member at the cinema but with theatre I am so much closer to the delivery/production 'I feel' apart of it! It is live! It is real!

I also like Gemma's post above - it offers a really great insight!

Hope this helps!

P.S. Here is a blog post about how one 'Small' theatre in Australia on a really small budget, used 'real' social networks to raise awareness and audience numbers ...

P.P.S As for reaching new markets with theatre - this is an entire new discussion and this post is long enough! Hee hee! :)
I think it would be really funny to _really_ copy cinema advertising. So make a video trailer for a production as if it's a Hollywood film, with the booming voice over, fast cutting and the name and rating at the end.

Or have a micro-version of a production as a trailer (not video, a real in person with actors thing) and put it on to run for 5 minutes before another production.

Also more sequels ;-)


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