I’ve got a Golden Ticket

Two days ago I talked about the good and bad sides of using interactive seating plans for selling tickets. (If you didn’t see it, check it out here) But the movie, and soon-to-be musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has had me thinking more about the importance of physical tickets.


Hopefully we all know the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Especially the beginning where there is a worldwide frenzy over the search for 5 ‘Golden Tickets’.

Would there have been quite a public frenzy over these tickets if they were sent to your email? Probably not. We see Coke doing these kinds of virtual contests all the time and they barely generate any publicity because the competition happens while people are in front of their computers. It makes the experience less special and less meaningful.

The same can be said for ticketing in the theatre. Currently, most theatre booking agents are moving towards e-tickets because they are cheap to produce and don’t require hiring somebody to stuff letters. But do they cheapen the theatre experience?

I am going to be very nostalgic for a second, so just bear with me . . .

There is something special about receiving a physical ticket. Not only does it give the consumer some prestige over the average passers-by as they are holding onto a slip of paper that lets them through certain doors that are off limits to others, but they are also left with a tangible reminder of their experience.

There is a real culture around saving tickets from shows that you have seen. I don’t know what inspires it, but it has some real potential in encouraging both word-of-mouth promotion and repeat purchase. Let’s start with word-of-mouth.

Everybody loves sharing pictures of what they are doing and where they are going on social media. And the ability to post photos on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook makes word-of-mouth spread much easier and allows it to reach a wider audience. As, to my annoyance, you aren’t allowed to take pictures in the theatre, there are very few options that the consumer has to promote to their friends where they are. So what do you take a picture of?

You can’t take a photo of the curtain, you can’t take a photo of your view in the theatre and you especially can’t take a photo of the ushers. So what are you left with? The program and the ticket. And if you are too cheap to buy a program, then the only tangible item you can take a photo of to provide your friends with physical proof is the ticket.

Now, imagine you had bought an e-ticket. I, personally, have never seen anybody take a screenshot of their blank barcode and session time on their phone and upload it to Facebook. Why? Because it is boring. And if that is the case, then the customers aren’t going to have anything to take a photo of in order to share what they are doing and the theatre/show loses all that word-of-mouth.

Secondly, repeat purchase. This one is simple really. By giving the audience a physical ticket that they treasure and hold onto until they get home and add it to their ticket board/ticket display/ticket pile, they have a physical item which triggers the great time (hopefully!) they had when they saw the show. And what would this do? Encourage them to come back and maybe tell some other friends to come with them. Seems like a good idea!

So, in my opinion ‘If it is good enough for Willy Wonka, it is good enough for all theatre’. Except when it comes to hiring slave labour – I don’t want to see Oompa-Loompas who are paid a pittance ushering me to my seat next time I go to the theatre!