Be Careful Before You Discount

A CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) report  at the end of July took Tesco to task for advertising a discount on some beer of a price that had been temporarily raised. This means you mustn’t claim you are discounting unless you genuinely are. I’m a big fan of dynamic pricing which can mean a price goes up for a while then goes down again and that could be perceived as breaching the CAP rules but only if you deliberately set a high price then tell people you’ve cut it. That’s not dynamic pricing, that’s conning people.
If you set a high price but offer a lower price for early sales or a discount for last minute purchases, that should be okay because the standard/full price is genuinely offered for a prolonged period of time. This is honest and transparent and shouldn’t upset the CAP.
If you have a set number of prices which you apply to seats in varying numbers according to demand, which is a crude form of dynamic pricing, that would seem to be within the CAP rules because you are not claiming to be offering money off.
However if you change the actual prices according to demand, which is true dynamic pricing, then you mustn’t claim that there is a full price which you are discounting because the truth is, there isn’t. Look to the airlines, the supreme dynamic pricers. Do any of us know what the price of a plane seat is? If we buy when there are lots of seats available, we expect to get a lower price; if we buy when there is a lot of demand, we accept that we will pay a higher price.
I think the problem will be for the many theatres in the UK who are stuck on giving all the seat prices in their print. I prefer to get people to want to see a show and then tell them the choice of prices. If this is too drastic for you, then only give ‘Prices from’ information. This approach is essential if you are practising true dynamic pricing.

To Click Or Not To Click

As a marketer I am delighted that I no longer have to push messages at unwilling recipients but the choices the internet has given us extend well beyond shopping and media. We are responsible for our own moral choices.

The hacking and publishing on the internet of a number of celebrities’ private photos has revealed more than these stars’ naughty bits. The incident has brought into the open the truth about modern

Finger on key
To Click Or Not To Click


Where once laws, censorship and peer pressure helped us keep our baser impulses in check, these days we’re on our own. Social network managers and even the FBI may try to control our access to these stolen pictures but the fact is, if we want to, we can find them.

In the modern world, we don’t even expect to tell other people what to do. Complaining about strong language or sex or violence in a TV programme seems almost quaint in a time when you can watch what you want when you want- or not.

If You Want It, You Can Have It

Looked at positively, we have become a more tolerant society, letting almost everything pass us by as long it doesn’t interfere with our own life. Looked at negatively, those who remain intolerant of different taste or behaviour can now be express themselves in the most foul way. Previously they held insulting remarks in check because they would have to be expressed face to face or in green ink in a letter that needed posting. Now someone can use a social network to anonymously threaten to rape an MP because she supports having Jane Austen on a banknote.

Just as there are caveman parts of our brain that haven’t caught up with our civilised life, we have 20th century habits that haven’t caught up with the internet age. For the last few generations, we have been a consumer society. We have been taught that if we want something, we can have it. But those things were what manufacturers pushed at us. The internet changed that.

As a marketer I am delighted that I no longer have to push messages at unwilling recipients. I can offer my wares and let people ‘pull’ out what they were interested in. Truly targeted interactive marketing builds up good relationships between consumer and supplier.

Some marketers haven’t learnt yet. I was fascinated to see that the Sky News iPhone app which used to be so popular now has the lowest possible rating because so many users hate the amount of ads it pushes at them. And of course they can choose to delete the app which many are.

It’s Your Moral Choice

The choices the internet has given us extend well beyond shopping and media. You are responsible for your own moral choices.

‘Pulling’ things into our lives that we know are wrong used to be quite difficult, now it can done in secret without moving from our computer. All that stops us now is our own self censorship.

It’s easy to click the button that brings nude celebrity photos to our screen but it’s our choice. There is no person, agency or God stopping us. Just as when we see an empty car with the engine running, we don’t have to drive it away.

You might even kid yourself that they’re celebrities and that these attention hungry women are getting what they deserve. You might say it wasn’t you that hacked the photos. But, if you know it’s wrong, are you any better than the thieves who stole them in the first place?

This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the Winchester based marketing consultancy Seven Experience. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn. A version appeared on the Daily Echo website.

A Catalogue of Ills

Back in 1988, when I joined the new marketing team at The Mayflower Theatre, just about the first thing we did was redesign the season brochure. (It’s something new people like to do.) We hired a top local designer. Everyone thought it was beautiful. I thought it was beautiful. It was beautiful.

But when I look back, I realise just how poor it was. This was not the designer’s fault. He did as requested and created a brochure that was superb to look at. It was our fault in not understanding that a brochure should be about compelling shows, not corporate classiness.

Since then, I’ve carried out research and I’ve read research, volumes of it. I now know so much that I get called upon for advice by theatres who want to improve the effectiveness of their season brochure. The funny thing is, though, we marketing people often know less than the person in the street about the basics of a good brochure.

There may be a lot of subtle stuff going on regarding the psychology of colours and the science of eye tracking but everyone knows whether the cover made them want to pick it up and read it. Except the marketing people who already have it in their hand.

The public know whether the pictures were attractive or boring, whether the headlines and straplines engaged their attention, whether the copy told a story that made them want to see the show or buy the product.

The reader knows whether he or she could actually read those words. This is a good moment to stop the litany of woes and dwell on this point. To me, it is plain common sense that the text needs to be big enough and contrast enough with the background to be able to be read.

This is without the research that proves comprehension drops dramatically along with smaller type sizes or a change from any colour other than black on white. I don’t entirely blame the designers. They sit in front of their Apple computers which either show the letters magnified when they’re working on detail or as a block when they’re considering the overall design. I do blame you- the marketing guy, the business owner- who should provide the bridge between aesthetics and the real world in which we communicate with customers.

You don’t have to go very far to find this surrender-to-the-designer syndrome. Look at any rack of brochures in a Tourist Information Centre. Tiny red type on a black background or white reversed out of a multi-coloured photo looks lovely, unless you want someone to actually read the it. In these times of reduced funding, arts venues can’t afford to produce print that people can’t read.

The good news is that, as the baby boomers get older, attitudes are changing. I find it interesting that many magazines have got the message that their customers need clear type. Take a look at Woman & Home or the Radio Times now and a year ago and see the difference. Hopefully the rest, including arts venues, will follow their lead.

In a few years’ time, another generation on, it probably won’t matter because we will be looking at electronic forms of brochures where we can zoom in on the type and probably even change the colours if we don’t like them. But in the meantime, brochures with their power to be picked up randomly, sent in the post, browsed through and conveniently left on the coffee table, are still a powerful tool.

If you doubt that, consider that Next have just sent me two telephone directory size hard cover catalogues and even though Argos have cut their catalogue print run from 20 million to 16 million, they still reckon 85% of customers buy from it.

Catalogues, brochures, call them what you will, are not going out of print just yet. So, for the time being, if you’re publishing one, you might as well make sure your audience can read it.


This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the marketing consultancy The Lewis Experience and online retailer Your Life Your Style, and former Head of Marketing and Operations at The Mayflower Theatre. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.




The Power of Nostalgia

Memory Points
Memory Point(s)

‘New’ is a strong force in marketing but nostalgia is even more powerful. One of the most famous scenes in Mad Men was when Don Draper described the new Kodak wheel for projecting a series of photo slides as a ‘time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the Wheel. It’s called a Carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around, and back home again… to a place where we know we are loved.’

I was reminded of this when I went to a performance at the Theatre Royal Winchester last night. Memory Point(s) by Platform 4 is a mystery tour of the theatre in which the audience encounter images and sounds that create and trigger memories. The work is inspired by work done with people with early onset dementia in Southampton and looks at how memories work, the importance of music to memory and what happens as we succumb to dementia.

A small group of us were taken on a disorientating journey through various public and backstage parts of the building. Not knowing exactly where you were made each encounter vivid. It might be opening a locker to reveal a tableau scene, a photo in a frame, a snatch of music on headphones, the glimpse from the lighting box of a musician in the auditorium. Seeing them again, perhaps in a more complete context, sometimes in a fragmentary way, recreated the way in which memory works, particularly when it starts to fade.

To ourselves, our lives are not simple chronological journeys from cradle to grave, a might appear in an obituary, but a jumble of sounds, images and feelings, often from occasions when we were especially happy like a holiday or a wedding, that have no relation to the distance of time involved. Just as Don Draper describes a Kodak slide show.

Like advertisers, our brains use nostalgia to make ourselves feel good. We rewrite our complicated lives as a construct of memories in which life was simpler and happier than it is now or ever really was.

There was one special moment in the show when we came across a doll’s house in which each room opened up and, like one’s brain, was filled randomly with the various old photos (always of people smiling) that we had seen.

If we are unfortunate enough to get Alzheimers, we lose our connection with the recent past and the strong memories from the distant past take over, then they too fade. The climax of Memory Point(s), when our party had arrived on the stage, was a dance that, for me, conjured up the desperation caused by the fragmentation of the memories by which our brain defines who we are.

The power of music to evoke nostalgia is something advertisers were aware of long before researchers discovered its importance to those suffering from dementia. The dancer eventually achieves calmness from the lasting memory of music.

The experience was, and I use the word advisedly, unforgettable.

Memory Point(s) is performing a number of times each day at the Theatre Royal Winchester until Saturday 6 July.

The New Chichester Theatre Brochure Analysed

There’s a debate on LinkedIn about the value of printed brochures. The new Chichester Festival Theatre brochure which came through my letterbox this week shows exactly what a good brochure can do.

It’s not that the CFT doesn’t use other media. ‘Friends’ who pay for priority booking and others, like me, on the theatre’s email list have already received information and may have booked. There’s also been the now familiar activity on the social media. Having done all this, some theatres are clearly thinking, ‘Do we need a brochure? Why not save some money?’

I’m guessing CFT knows that people are 30 times more likely to buy from a brochure than an email. Of course, CFT may only have a postal address for them. Whatever the reason, sales are sure to follow since these are previous ticket buyers, especially when the customer receives a brochure as good as this. CFT’s marketing team obviously realise that there’s no point making a decision to do a mailing, then skimping on it.

Chichester Festival Theatre brochure cover Chichester Festival Theatre Brochure

As always, it’s oversize and on excellent quality paper. Other venues might decide that something smaller and lighter might be bettervalue but the advantage of the CFT brochure is that it conveys the quality of the theatre and it gives space for dramatic layouts and clear type. On this latter point, it never fails to astonish me that arts organisations allow designers to downgrade the importance of the copy by allocating it a tiny font size and using difficult to read colours, as if text is just another block on the design layout. They also make sure we read it by putting the text on the right and the images on the left, because they know we only look at the right unless something pulls our attention to the left.

Chichester acknowledges the importance of words and that most people, but particularly its older audience, appreciate clarity. With the occasional exception (Neville’s Island is white out of rippling waves) all their text is a readable size and has a good contrast. Many pages are actually black out of white- it’s the only fully comprehensible combination and yet one that seems to be an anathema to designers.

The brochure is also written in an engaging way, describing the drama of the play and the other selling points such as cast, author and director in an active way. The only improvement I would only suggest is it should address the reader more by the use of ‘you’.

As is always the case, the marketing people are hampered by lack of production shots but they make up for this with eye-catching images. One innovation is pages that fold out to produce big impact spreads. I would have hesitated to spend the extra on these for the likely return but there’s no denying they make you take notice.

I don’t think the CFT’s 2013 season brochure is perfect. The cover scores by having the theatre name and date right at the top but misses an opportunity to entice the less committed customers people inside because it doesn’t list the contents. And the back page- the second most important page in any brochure- is wasted by being devoted to a list of sponsors.

So, overall 9/10 for an excellent brochure from Chichester Festival Theatre. I’ve booked my tickets for The Pajama Game.

For more tips on how to produce a brochure that sells, click here. If you would like a freecritique of your brochure (no strings attached- I’m not touting for business- I simply like to support the arts), send a copy to Paul Lewis, The Lewis Experience, Southgate Chambers, 37 Southgate Street, Winchester SO23 9EH.