A Compliment Sandwich

Subscription series are fantastic for artistic organisations and their audiences. From an audience perspective, you have found a company who produces work that you appreciate and you get assurance of the same great experience each time you visit. For a company they provide stability and a guarantee of a certain number of tickets sold at each programmed show. But there is one problem . . .


It is difficult to move with the times.

As the provider of a subscription series, your audiences have chosen to subscribe because they love the work which you are producing . . . and generally this isn’t pushing-the-boundaries work. For an orchestra, it is usually a series of favourites. For a theatre company, it is often tried-and-true classics. So how do you move your audiences with the times?

A Compliment Sandwich strategy.

Never heard of the compliment sandwich? It is an effective way to deliver bad news to someone. You sandwich it between two compliments so they start off the conversation in a positive mindset and end the conversation in the same way despite having been given some bad news in the middle. (Not that I am suggesting that boundary-pushing entertainment is bad news!). However, the same concept works.

Take a look at the Production Company. Every year, this organisation presents three phenomenal musical performances in some of the best performing arts venues in Melbourne with a whole cast of exciting established and up-and-coming Australian talent. But in an effort not to simply repeat the old classics year after year, they have taken on board the compliment sandwich strategy. This year’s programming features two tried-and-true shows, Funny Girl and Dusty. These two shows are imbued with great memories for the general subscriber base and will provide enough incentive to purchase a season ticket regardless of the third show – especially since this subscribing audience has faith that the Production Company will always provide a phenomenal experience!

The third show? Curtains. A rather recent Broadway production starring David Hyde Pierce, this production would be rather foreign to the audience. They probably haven’t seen it before, they probably won’t know the songs, but that doesn’t stop them buying a subscription. In fact, it gives the company an opportunity to give them something new – although it does fit with the other two in terms of style. The same thing happened in last year’s program with classics West Side Story and Jerry’s Girls accompanied by the Australian premiere of Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Do you want to move your audience into the 21st century? Then, if they have enough faith in your organisation’s ability to deliver, the compliment sandwich is the most powerful tool at your disposal!