"And the beat goes on……………."
SIDE NOTE: The world desperately needs optimists and those who know in their hearts that the fight for a just world not only must be waged, but who believe that it can be won. We have lots of those good people within our ranks - none more passionate and eloquent than Arlene Goldbard - who's virtual Department of Culture has issued a call to Creative Action. Click here for her message.
I had a friend, who back in the 70's opened her own cookie company. This was way before the Mrs. Field's gourmet cookie approach. She made pretty good, but not the absolute best chocolate chip cookie I ever had, but she had a gimmick. Her cookies were oversized. About 8 inches in diameter. She even had special jars made that could hold a dozen of them which she provided free to retail outlets that sold her cookies. For about six years, she owned the market up in northern California and her cookies were everywhere. The uniqueness and difference of a Giant cookie was very appealing.
Some years later, in thinking about her venture and her brand, it occurred to me that changing the size of a familiar product was (is) a good formula for success. People seem to respond to the novelty of something bigger or smaller than the norm, and if the product is otherwise of quality, that is a good recipe to succeed. And over the years, I've seen numerous examples of that same approach be successful. The current ubiquitous Slider on restaurant menus is nothing but a miniature hamburger. Changing the size, this time making a known product smaller. The iPod was essentially a new technology that miniaturized the Sony walkman. Ditto the iPad to the laptop. Make it bigger, make it smaller than the standard and it seems to elicit a positive response.
Last week I saw a story on the news about another cookie company using essentially a variation on the same tactic. Martha Olson, a former school teacher, began selling cookies at the Minnesota State Fair back in 1978. Again just chocolate chip cookies. Normal size. And apparently pretty good ones. Her gimmick was she didn't sell single cookies, she sold overfilled buckets of cookies for $15. Looked like you got 20 - 25, or more cookies (and a bucket with a handle to take what you didn't eat home to enjoy). This formula has apparently worked well. Her six ovens turn out 2000 cookies a minute. She only sells her cookies during the 12 days of the fair; she has no other retail outlets - her own or through other venues. No online presence. And, get this, this year she grossed $2 million dollars during those 12 days. Hmmmm. And her principal gimmick is really the overstuffed bucket size. So the cookie stays the same, but the size of the quantity sold changes big time.
Costco has taken this idea and developed the "big box" store concept to great success. Everything is oversized. A while back the fast food industry had at least temporary success with the "super sizing" campaign.
I wonder then if the idea of "bigger or smaller" might somehow work for the Arts. Obviously, we deal less in a physical product and more in a service - i.e., the provision of a performance or exhibition. How can you adapt such a theory of "size" to that reality?
If I were an Opera, or Dance Company or Symphony or Museum, I might try this adaptation: I might raise my ticket price slightly - by maybe ten dollars. But then I would offer this: Buy two tickets to any single performance / exhibition, and get four more for free (to the same performance). That might do a couple of things. It would allow people who bought tickets to invite some friends to go with them, thus making the whole experience more communal and social -- and more fun. Or, it would make the cost very reasonable (even cheap) if split six ways, and still have the social element to it. For the organization, it might be less income - though the increased ten dollar ticket price would offset a little of the loss, and a sold out performance might yield as large a net. It would make it easier to insure full houses and it would likely get new people into the venue. It would also help with the brand and engage the community in a new way, and allow opportunities to convert those new people into regular audience members or more. And it would offer all kinds of possibilities for marketing and advertising
As an experiment, I think were I running the organization, it might be worth the risk. Maybe I would just run it for certain performances each month, but not all.
Or maybe there would be some way to use the other end of the ploy -- miniaturization -- by offering a one hour performance for half the price of a normal two or three hour offering. Again, get more people into the house, expand the audience and end up with some new prospects for ongoing attendance. You could run two or even three performances on a single day perhaps.
I can tell you that the "over or under sizing" of a standard product has worked countless times. Maybe some variation can work for you. It's just a small idea.
Have a great week.