How is Your 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 on 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.

Here are some thoughts about posters, brochures, and the “look” of marketing materials.

1. Emphasize what the show will do for the customer.  Far more important than your credentials, or how great the show is, is promoting the benefits that come to people who see the show.  On the next page you will see a sample of the rack card we will use this season.  We are still working on it, so there may be a few changes, but they will be minimal.

The first thing to notice about the card is the caption at the top.  “Have awesome fun.”  This is a better thing to say than “Internationally Awarded” or “Great magic show.”   People want to know what is in it for me.  They are also looking for reasons that will lead them to choosing your attraction over others.

This does not mean that credits such as “internationally awarded” are not of value.  They do help people in making a decision to see your show.  The point is, such things should not be the first things, or the main things emphasized.  The fact that the customer will have “awesome fun” or “make a magical memory” is the concept that should come to their minds first.  You want them to think, Yes, that is exactly what I am looking for and what I want my children and grandchildren to experience.  I need to read more about this.

2. Keep in mind that our generation has become oriented to pictures over text.  The saying, “A picture speaks louder than a thousand words,” has been around for a long time.  Even so, in our time it is especially true.  We are a society that has been raised in front of the TV screen, and younger people have been raised in front of computer monitors and the screens on their phones as well.

Recently I have heard several marketing experts say that YouTube has become the second most used search tool in the world.  Some claim it is even used more than Google (which is claimed to be the number one tool).  When people want to know something, they try to find video about it.  We live in a world that says, “Show me,” rather than “Tell me”.

This means good marketing materials are eye-catching.  For magicians and creative entertainers, there is a need to find photos that say something.  A posed picture that basically is little more than a portrait of the performer is no longer good enough.  It is ok to use such a picture, but only if you surround it with other things that indicate action and which provide texture to the image conveyed.

The reason why we put the photo of Laura and I central on the card is it says a lot.  Our posture is welcoming, the pink headdress and gloves suggests appealing costuming and variety, the attitude of the picture reinforces the idea of “awesome fun.”  The other picture also has personality to it.  There is color, smiles, and the suggestion of excitement and success.

The point is:  Getting a decent picture of yourself and putting it on a brochure will not get the job done.  The need is for pictures that somehow have emotional appeal.  It is not good for advertising to be too busy, but there must be character.

3. Put your website, phone number, or both where they can be quickly seen.  The backside of our rack card will show the phone number.  The website is right there on the front.  The reason this is important is many people now use their phones, more than they do computer screens, to do a search.   If they pick up a rack card, or walk by a poster, they are likely to take out their phone immediately to check you out or gain more information.  You want to make it easy for them to do that.

We must pay attention to how calls, texting and WIFI are a part of modern life.  There is a sense in which “almost everyone is always on the phone”.  Of course, that is a generalization, but as a generalization it says something about reality.  People are going to use the phone to learn more about you.

If you have a website, you want it to be phone friendly.  I am still learning about that.  It is important.

My understanding is that the three keys to a good ad are:

  1. There must be emotional appeal.
  2. It must stand out from the crowd.
  3. It must offer insight based on truth.

Emotional appeal is what we have already mentioned.  The ad should appeal to something people will feel and/or experience.  It should suggest how life will be affected by this opportunity.  On a following page you will see a sample of a poster we are working on for the new season.  Notice it uses the words  “Enjoy a Vegas quality & family friendly”, “Sensational fun”, and “add a magical memory”.  I am not trying to suggest that we are doing everything right.  I am saying that I am paying attention to what I have been taught.  The words on the poster offer benefit to the potential client.  The pictures on the poster give the impression of interesting people, fun times, and amazing happenings.

Standing out from the crowd means thought must be put into what makes you different.  Why would people choose your magic show over the show of another performer (especially if the other performer does not charge as much)?  We use the phrase “internationally awarded” to indicate added value and quality.  We also are fortunate to live in an area where there are no other magic shows to compete with.  Simply because we are Grand Magic, we stand out from the crowd.

For those who do not have a theatrical show, this matter still merits serious consideration.  You do not want your marketing to suggest that you are “just another illusionist” or “you have heard of magicians, I am one too”.  It is better to say, “Producing laughter by magic” (if you are a comedy performer), or “Specializing in the wow-factor”.  Find something to say that makes you seem like the “stand out” choice to make.

Insight based on truth means people need information and the information needs to be true.  The fact that benefits and emotion are important, does not mean specific details do not matter.  Once people decide they are interested in you, they want to know more.

There are some who have under-estimated the importance of truth in advertising.  They call themselves, “Internationally awarded” when they are not.  They speak of “As seen in Las Vegas”, when all they ever did in Las Vegas was show a card trick to a friend.

These people think that all that matters is getting people to come through the door.  Apart from the ethics involved, they do not understand how important repeat business and referrals are to surviving in show business.  If the word gets out that a show does not live up to its own advertising, that gets around quickly and means death for the venture.

Expectations about a show or individual performance must be based on reality.

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.

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