#TBT: What Live Entertainment Can Learn From Chick-fil-A

Happy #TBT! Here’s an oldie-but-goodie post from Jim: What Live Entertainment Can Learn From Chick-fil-A.

We’ve discussed the phenomenon of using a live event to promote a live event. Jim Royce [formerly of Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles] told us about a successful launch event they did to promote the onsale of Spamalot at the Ahmanson Theater. They took the wacky, silly theme of Monty Python, got a few of their people to dress up in costume and grabbed attention during the onsale. Well, here’s another example of using a live event to promote a live event.

On August 2 [2009] at The Grove in Los Angeles, Cirque du Soleil will give out half-hour samples of six of its Vegas shows.

Sampling is a  really great thing to do. I remember as a little kid that the highlight of any visit to the mall for me (once I’d used my allotment of quarters in the video arcade) was to cruise by Chick-fil-A and see if they were doing the sampling tray. Now, it wasn’t often that I could roust up the $4 or so to actually buy a Chick-fil-A sandwich (which is delicious, by the way, if you’ve never had one), but when I had enough money, believe me, that was my unquestioned choice of mall foods. There was no runner-up in that sweepstakes.

What’s the lesson of that? Suppose that Burger King had done the same thing. Sure, people would take the samples, but what would the impact have been? The fact is that Chick-fil-A has the goods. It’s a delicious and arguably healthy, fresh product. When you taste it, you want it.

But suppose I’d never gotten a chance to taste it in sample form as a nine-year-old. Would I have retained a lifelong preference for it? Who’s to know?

If you’re selling a live show and you believe you’ve got the goods, you also have to find ways to get people to experience what you’re doing. Cirque is doing this free show now, but if you go all the way back to the origin of CDS, you’d see that at one point, they’d simply invade a neighborhood, do their shenanigans and then let people know about their upcoming shows.

And there are other ways, too. If you can’t go to them, bring them to you. Throw a party and invite 1,000 of your closest friends. Contact local community leaders from a social networking site and offer a place to get their group together.

When I worked at Noah’s Bagels, I learned an old retail chestnut that’s true despite being hackneyed: unseen by untold equals unsold. If the potential customer can’t see the product and never hears about the product, there’s literally no way he or she will buy it.

For live entertainment entrepreneurs, that means one thing: You’ve got to get people sampling your wares. If Cirque du Soleil, the most successful performing arts organization in the world, knows that and still does it, you’d better be doing it, too!

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