a cold winter morning in January, and you (and the kids) have cabin fever. You
decide to get out of the house in the afternoon and want to do something fun—but
nothing that requires a ton of energy. (Let’s face it, you’re exhausted from
shoveling the driveway!)
idea strikes: Let’s catch a flick!
Hmmm...Jumanji 2 is playing. Maybe Coco is still in theaters?
quickly type “movies near me” into Google and…]
Voilà! Here we go… [Cue screeching brakes]...Hey, what’s this?
Incredible Predators 3D? Ooh, and it’s at the State Museum. Haven’t been there
in a while. Gosh, I totally forgot that they had a giant screen theater.
quickly start thumbing through webpages, and a few clicks later, have tickets
to the museum and the theater.
organized the 2017 Marketing Symposium to bring challenges of the industry to
the surface and provide expert insights and professional training to address
those challenges. From the onset, the intent for the symposium was to share
innovative techniques or new ways of thinking about marketing, to help
theaters, science centers, museums, producers and distributors identify
opportunities to branch out their efforts.
after conducting surveys and interviewing staff, an even greater need was
discovered. Professionals responsible for marketing and sales for the theaters
needed practical solutions that they could apply in the limited budgets they
have, which meant looking at ways to modify and experiment with the methods
they were already employing.
How might GSCA
members maximize their budgets and staff resources to more effectively engage current
audiences and increase word-of-mouth to gain new audiences?
We interviewed 68 visitors at five case study museum
theaters, and we learned that more than half of them knew that they would see a
film regardless of when they decided to visit. As we dug deeper, we discovered
that these visitors were prompted to purchase tickets after exploring a
museum’s website or receiving recommendations from friends and family. In other
words, they had to know how to find
the museums first, then the theaters,
or had to know someone else who did. It was an indirect path.
asked those same visitors how they would normally learn about movies, of any
kind. Their answers were almost always “Google searches” or “search movies near
for instance the scenario above. If the giant screen film hadn’t appeared in
your search, you likely wouldn’t have purchased tickets. As industry insiders,
it is easy for us to take for granted how often (or how little) our museums,
science centers and theaters actually come to mind when a visitor or member is
planning his or her day.
it’s not bad that some people seek
out the museum first and even show up without a giant screen film in their
plan. Rather, it’s important to recognize that these same visitors may not
remember or realize all that you have to offer—even members! During our
interviews, the visitors who hadn’t decided to see a film in advance (the clear
minority) said their decision was influenced by onsite posters and staff.
It was apparent from our research
that social media, email, web presence, search engine optimization and
frontline sales needed to be focal points for the Marketing Symposium.
into consideration feedback from symposium attendees, here are a few highlights
and insights from the symposium related to those key focal points.
SEO is essential
By experimenting with search
term frequencies and Google Adwords, giant screen theaters and film producers
can elevate the position of their venues and films in simple searches. In a
sense, it’s about meeting people where they are, which is pretty much just
somewhere (anywhere) wondering “what’s playing near me?”
Identify your brand
evangelists and invite them to get involved TODAY
Jackie Huba, author of Monster Loyalty (How Lady Gaga Turns
Followers Into Fanatics), shared a story about the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX, a movie theater famous for having strict rules and high customer
satisfaction. The Alamo Drafthouse focuses their efforts on providing the best
possible customer experience combined with shareable moments (photo-ops!) in
order to create fans or “evangelists.” Jackie encouraged giant screen theaters
to start engaging individuals who frequently take the time to send in comments—even
criticism. If they cared enough to write
in, they are likely evangelists!
Don’t generalize your
of the things we heard over and over again during visitor interviews was that
they would describe giant screen films as educational, even more so than
“family-friendly.” Maybe other potential visitors would too! For example, by
offering specific educational tidbits on social media platforms, such as
focusing on a particular fact about a species featured in a film, you appeal to
an audience’s desire to learn. If you know which audiences you want to reach,
you can focus that content even more!
Everyone working in your
museum or theater is in marketing and sales
Kelsey Van Voorst and Mookie Harris,
our guest improv actors and professional trainers, demonstrated so well the
potential sales opportunities and stumbling blocks that could develop in a
single customer experience. Empowering staff with personal experiences in the
theater and a list of FAQs is a great place to start. Watch Kelsey and Mookie demonstrate a visitor/staff interaction.
The ability to reach new
audiences is dependent on institutional culture
Last, but not least, Doug Harris
from Kaleidoscope Group offered insights on connecting to more diverse
audiences. When seeking new customer relationships, it’s important to consider
how diverse and welcoming your own institutions are. He suggested hiring a more
diverse staff, setting cultural competence standards, sharing relevant content,
conducting focus groups, and aligning with sponsors who know the audience.
Click here for more information about the Marketing Symposium sessions and to access videos of all the presentations (member login required to access symposium materials).
Charity M. Counts is an independent museum consultant with experience in exhibit project management, tour management, event planning, and audience research. Charity and her colleagues at Museum Playbook collaborated with GSCA on the development of the 2017 Marketing Symposium