What’s the Use of a Paper Ticket?

TicketmasterRedesignI really enjoyed this piece, written by Matthew Lew, about the redesign of paper tickets for shows. In it, Matthew suggests some very smart and interesting ways that Ticketmaster specifically can improve the look and usefulness of the paper tickets that it prints.

In our hearts, we know the paper ticket is doomed. Print-at-Home tickets are a temporary solution that in a few years will seem as quaint as paper tickets themselves. You already get tickets on your phone in many instances, and this is even more true with airlines. If we’re willing to concede the point that carrying a powered-up mobile phone is always optimal or possible, then we must accept the possibility that either there will always be a paper ticket or there will be another solution of some kind. The two most frequently discussed possibilities for replacement for a powered-up mobile phone are either a mobile phone that’s powered up or not powered up, which would use some kind of internal sensor that doesn’t require an external power to be able to be scanned at a venue, or some other device, like a bracelet or perhaps even a card that’s completely passive and could be scanned at any time with no additional power.

But I don’t really find all that tremendously interesting. However tickets are delivered, that’ll be the way it is. The question that I want to talk about is the paper ticket, and Matthew’s impulse to figure out how to make these better is one that comes, I believe, from something deeper than either the usefulness of the ticket or whether or not we’re going to need a paper ticket in the future.

It comes from the desire to have a souvenir of an event that’s important enough for us to spend time and money and mental energy devoted to it. In my opinion, the purpose of a beautifully designed paper ticket is less to facilitate entry into a venue, which of course is still important, and far more to provide the person going to the show with the one consummate, authoritative, unique artifact of their attendance at something special to them. This is from a guy who has a box full of ticket stubs. Like Matthew, I’m pretty underwhelmed by a Print-at-Home ticket, and those tickets don’t exactly have a place of pride in my little ticket stub box. They’re even more utilitarian than the old, tiny Ticketmaster tickets that Matthew is talking about here.

What I hope becomes a standard across the industry is that for any show you go to you have the opportunity to have a beautiful artifact uniquely commemorating what you saw when you saw it and where you sat. Many won’t care about this and won’t go to any trouble to get one, but many will. Nonphysical things, like pictures, on your mobile phone are less satisfying than a physical object and don’t convey the information they might want about the show you saw.

Here’s a suggestion to all the venues out there who have the ability to influence their printed ticket stock: Make your tickets something that your patrons want. Emphasize its role as THE souvenir of shows at your venue. Give it some individual quirkiness or uniqueness, perhaps even putting the name of the patron on it. In other words, make it something that everyone would want. The result will be that people will come back to your venue because they want to get another one of those cool tickets. If you think this wouldn’t work, you should look at what Starbucks is doing generating loyalty by giving out virtual stars.

Is someone doing this already? I’d love to see what you’re up to, and I will be happy to share it with the Selling Out audience if you are.

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