Advertising and Promotional Materials
A reason why I am anxious to get the running order and preliminary script for a new show ready as soon as possible, as we discussed in previous issues of Grand Magic, is it affects our advertising. Advertising and promotion should not be left until the last minute. I prefer to get such things going months ahead of time. To do that, I have to have a good grasp on what will be in the show.
Why is this important? It is because advertising and promotion needs to be accurate. People expect to see the same things in the show that they see in brochures and on posters. If your promotional literature shows you doing a levitation, the audience will be disappointed if you do not actually do a levitation.
I learned this the hard way. Early in my career we hired a man and wife team to take pictures of Mary and I for use in our advertising materials. The wife was a professional photographer and the man was a magician. It seemed the perfect combination for what we needed. They offered expertise in photography and a knowledge of the business of the magician.
The man talked me into doing a unique pose with pieces of rope. Rather than showing the traditional Professor’s Nightmare setup, which would have been me holding three different lengths of rope, he had me hold two different lengths of rope in my hands, but then he took the third piece of rope and put it on my shoulder.
He did not just lay it on my shoulder, he put some wire inside the rope and bent it so the rope looked like it was crawling on my shoulder. The picture was impressive. It seemed one of the pieces of rope was animated and had a mind of its own.
The problem was, I could not actually make the little piece of rope do that. After a show in which there were rope tricks, people could say to me, “Why didn’t you do that trick where the rope crawls on your shoulder?” What could I tell them? I did not want to say, “It is just a picture, I can’t really do it.” This would indicate that my promotional materials give a false impression about my abilities.
Not long ago I was talking with an illusionist friend who told of making a similar mistake. Since he owns a version of “Sawing A Lady In Half,” he put a picture of it on his posters. However, since it was a bulky prop and required a large stage, he rarely took it with him for actual use in a show. This led to him getting complaints. Clients actually came up to him, after the show, with the picture in hand, and pointed to the “Sawing In Half.” They said, “Why didn’t you do that trick. We wanted to see it!”
He finally figured out that he had to either use the “Sawing In Half” in every show, or else take it out of his poster.
Since I want to get marketing materials out in a timely manner, I must also make solid decisions about the show in a timely manner.
We now have our show written out thoroughly enough to be sure about a number of illusions that will be used. We also are confident about costuming choices. As always happens, there likely will be a number of changes in our plans between now and when the show opens, but we definitely know the direction we are going and have a good sense about things that will be in the show.
Therefore, we need to get brochures designed and posters up. There are plenty of other marketing concerns as well, but a fundamental aspect issue is determining a general “look” for our promotional efforts. In our next post, we will share some key ideas regarding posters, brochures, and the “look” of marketing materials. There are some specific things we have done both right, and wrong.
As an aside to this: After the first season of our Grand Magic show, we learned that part of the information that we need to put on our posters is the price of tickets. Well meaning individuals, with experience in show business, advised us that, if people see the ticket prices on the posters they will not call to ask about them, which means you will not have the chance to talk them into coming to the show. They told us it was a big mistake to put prices on promotional literature.
We have decided against that approach for our new season. Experience led us to conclude that it is a courtesy and service to let people know the cost up front. It is a matter of “putting ourselves in the shoes of the customer”. If I was a parent who was thinking about taking my kids to a magic show, I would immediately wonder about the cost and whether or not the possibility was within my budget. As an adult trying to make choices about evening entertainment, price is always a primary consideration. We figure, why not let them know the cost right away, it is what we would want to know!
I realize that individual performers should not do this. If you post your prices, a competitor will make his prices a few dollars less so people will come to him first. When working on the basis of booking individual shows, it is wise to wait until direct contact with the client before getting into financial details.
In our situation, where people are making a choice about attending a theatrical performance, we want to help them make good decisions based on necessary information.
Moreover, I do not want to talk anyone into coming to the show. It is much better to promote the value of the show in such a way that, when seeing ticket prices, people think, “That looks like a good deal”. It is my job to ensure that advertising communicates the quality of the show.
The challenge we are dealing with now is designing marketing materials that do what needs to be done. They must convey a good feeling, indicate why seeing us is a great choice to make, and accurately inform potential costumers about what we offer.
The poster on the next page is not perfect. We may change it a bit before going to print. (It will be a large poster, the print will be much bigger than what you see on the page). I share it because it reflects our efforts to use the marketing principles we have learned so far.