Becoming the Life of the Party

You know that awful feeling you get when you rock up at a party in an awesome outfit only to discover that someone else is wearing . . . . exactly the same thing! Well, the same thing can happen when you hold a party on Broadway.

The Wild Party - Off-Broadway

The Wild Party – Off-Broadway

Back in 1928, American poet Joseph Moncure March wrote a narrative poem entitled The Wild Party. Coincidentally, 71 years later, the poem was adapted into two new shows that debuted during the 1999-2000 Broadway season. One on Broadway, one on off-Broadway, both called The Wild Party!

Would this have been a confusing season or what?

Two rather different takes on the same material, but just think of the marketing. Yes they were significantly different interpretations, but it has to confuse consumers. Those who aren’t aware of the two different shows or are trying to gain an understanding of what they will see with their tickets to the Off Broadway or Broadway production of The Wild Party must have had increased uncertainty in their purchasing decisions.

And you know what uncertainty does, it means that people aren’t willing to risk as much money on tickets if they are unsure whether they will enjoy the production.

I mean, imagine that we didn’t have today’s copyrighting and trademarking laws and there was a second Apple brand. If you weren’t willing to do a lot of research and decipher or separate the two brands then you wouldn’t be willing to fork out the $900 that Apple expects for a new iPhone. Especially if there were two very similar products in the market place.

So what do you do if you are in this situation? One thing . . .

Differentiate.

Yes, the subject matter is the same. Yes, there are going to be similarities between the two. But there are a couple of cues you can give to audiences to help them differentiate.

Firstly, the cast.

Audiences remember celebrities and it also provides a good way to attract people to your posters and ultimately your show. Broadway’s The Wild Party starred Toni Collette and Mandy Patinkin. Off-Broadway’s The Wild Party starred Julia Murney, Idina Menzel, Brian D’Arcy James and Taye Diggs.

Secondly, the design.

The second thing that you can do is make sure that all the promotional material looks completely different to that of the competitor. If audiences can tell which production’s marketing they are looking at from the moment they see it, then they will clearly differentiate the new information they are receiving. The off-Broadway production won this round by hiring the new and hip advertising agency SpotCo which created the incredibly successful advertising for Rent that inspired lots of consumer word-of-mouth advertising.

The Wild Party - Off-Broadway Recording Cover

The Wild Party – Off-Broadway Recording Cover

The Wild Party - Broadway Recording Cover

The Wild Party – Broadway Recording Cover

Thirdly, the opening date.

The saying ‘The early bird catches the worm’ definitely applies here as the production which opens first and receives lots of media coverage is more likely going to be the show consumers remember and recall when they see The Wild Party in an article later on. Even if it happens to be the opening night review of the Broadway production (which opened a month later!).

While the Off-Broadway production seems to have a bit of a leg up over the Broadway one with the same name (despite the Broadway stars it housed), neither production lasted over 70 performances. Could this have been from the high uncertainty in the market when consumers couldn’t differentiate the two shows? Or could it have been another factor entirely? Who knows?

But one thing is for certain. Make yourself unique and differentiated. That way you are only competing against different offerings which appeal to different markets, rather than competing against a product which appeals to the same people!

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