“Empty Room” Branding Opportunities

As  “weekend warrior” musician, I have had many opportunities to merge my passions for music and marketing over the course of 15 years.

I read a story years ago about a famous jazz drummer who, while touring with his self-named ensemble, found himself on stage in front of an almost empty theatre.  After postponing beginning the set for nearly an hour, the frustrated performer finally cued up the band, and halfway through the second number, stood up, thrust both sticks through his snare drum head. and strolled off stage.  On his way out, he grabbed the microphone and announced to the sparse crowd: “That may not have sounded very good to you, but I feel much better.”  Show over.

Conversely, another equally famous jazz drummer touring through a particularly bad winter storm arrived hours late to a similarly sparse theatre.  The storm had delayed their arrival and kept most of the crowd at home.  Th ensemble set up as fast as they could, and before beginning, spoke personally to the fans, expressing gratitude that they would wait so patiently for them to begin.  They band ended up performing an additional hour longer than they normally would have, making a memorable night.

I had a similar experience recently, in which my island-rock group, Soca Jukebox, found ourselves in the physically largest club we’ve ever played, in a relatively new market for us.  The stage was beautifully adorned with professional lights and sound crew provided, and despite colorful flyers promoting our show visible all around the club, the staff far outnumbered the patrons all night long.  We considered starting later, making it a “paid practice session,” or even cutting things short.  However, the response from the few customers who happened in that night was so strong, we made sure each was entertained fully, and spoke to each new fan individually, sending them all home with free schwag and a lasting impression.

There is a lesson for marketers in this series of anecdotes.  It’s easy to become frustrated at low response rates when firms attempt marketing programs.  We tend to measure in terms of number of impressions, market awareness, and of course the almighty ROI.  However, valuing the depth of the impression and engagement is a strong fallback position in the absence of huge throngs of adoring fans.

The brilliant Seth Godin announced in his book The Purple Cow that the days of mass media communication are long dead, and that smart marketers concentrate on the “sneezers,” or opinion leaders, who will sneeze your “idea virus” to the rest of the early adopters.  Some marketers actively seek this strategy, others, may arrive at it accidentally.  For those marketers who may be disappointed in the traditional metrics of their campaigns, perhaps re-examining how well they are connecting with those they reach can provide insight as to why their brand ambassadors truly love them.

As for our results, we ended up with almost 100% of the crowd becoming social media followers, posting photos and video of the event, and even a couple of inquiries to perform at weddings, which pay considerably more than any club performance.  Would we have preferred to have the club filled with dancing, free-spending party people? Certainly.  But we made the most of who came to the party.

Marketers, my advice to you is that “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

Clay Johnston is the Marketing Program Chair and Assistant Professor in the Benedictine College School of Business.   Posts and comments by all contributors are the opinions of the authors themselves and may not necessarily reflect the positions of Benedictine College or the School of Business.


One comment on ““Empty Room” Branding Opportunities

  1. Dave Geenens says:

    They should write a song with that lyric!
    I really struggle with the emotions that accompany a lackluster response. Perhaps that’s a measure of the love and passion one has for the endeavor undertaken. It’s hard to accept that some could care less or won’t take the time to investigate, much less appreciate, an effort that means so much to me.
    I used to be very involved in my church and pushed for pretty radical things (like results!). I was labeled as a ‘bull in China shop.” I countered with, “No, I am a China-lover in a China shop.” I desparately want others to love and appreciate what I love.
    Nevetheless, the maturity that comes with accepting ‘what is’ and using what you do have to its optimum is a very healthy practice. Agreed.

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