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June 8, 2009

A Look at One Brick and Mortar’s Online Marketing Efforts

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Friday night I danced, bounced and sang to my heart’s content at the 311 concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl. I walked away with great memories, an adrenaline rush and, unexpectedly, a bit of fodder for the blog. Tucked inside the pages of the SB Bowl’s concert program was a page dedicated to getting people involved with their online communities.

I see three great lessons we can take from the Bowl’s online marketing approach, and one looming question for our industry to contemplate.

1. An Integrated Strategy that Speaks to the Audience

megaphone
Photo by altemark via Creative Commons

First and foremost, big props go to the SB Bowl for utilizing online communities popular among their audience. They’re working to drive community involvement online and you gotta love that! On the SB Bowl Twitter account they’re providing useful info like traffic issues and responding to people’s questions about venue rules, as well as letting people know about last-minute special events. They’re encouraging people to review the venue on Yelp and to sign up for their email newsletter. They’ve also got a program with Yahoo and Internet Explorer where users can get the first word about announced shows or tickets that are on sale. And, wisely, they’ve got groups in YouTube and Flickr, although both are severely underutilized and there might be a good reason why. More on that later.

2. Using an Event to Drive Interest Online

old television
Photo by gothopotam via Creative Commons

The next thing that stands out is the Bowl’s strategy of using what awareness people already have to get them to learn more. While the Bowl has a captive audience, they’re using the opportunity to drive more potential interest. Think about it. You’re in the stands, twiddling around on your BlackBerry for lack of something better to do. You notice the brochure in the seat next to you, so you flip through, looking for something to catch your eye. People involved in social media seem to be very interested in info about their trusted networks. (Consider how many stories about Twitter get spread around the microblogging site.) So chances are, the Twitter or Flickr logos on the page will capture interest among readers. It’s a tactic we can see being practiced by mammoth brands like Google and Microsoft following the Wave and Bing media blitzes. If people are looking to you for any reason, see if you can get them to stick around a while longer.

3. No Attempts to Control the Conversation

sound board control panel
Photo by Aud1073cH via Creative Commons

Finally, I’m happy to see that the Santa Barbara Bowl isn’t falling into a common newbie trap of online marketing: the desire to control the content. Sure there are a few big brands that can manage large-scale content control, with the help of a very happy legal team. NBC, for instance, retains control of their video content by policing the Web and hosting the videos on their own video site. But not everyone has the intimidating resources to enforce content ownership. If the Santa Barbara Bowl were to say any video filmed at the venue had to be posted to SBBowl.com, everyone would still be posting their videos to YouTube. Uh… maybe.

So… is the naïve pretense necessary?

I say “maybe” because, as it turns out, no one has posted a video to the SB Bowl’s YouTube group. And while I’m not sure why this is the case, there’s a good chance it has something to do with the big question we’re left with. Why has the Santa Barbara Bowl gone through the trouble of feigning disapproval with photos and videos taken at the venue?

As you can see in the image, the SB Bowl YouTube and Flickr communities are shared with a bit of a disclaimer. The “we know you’d never do it, but if you did…” message leaves me with a question mark hanging over my head. Sure, it’s kind of funny, but is the humor enough to get the audience over the concern that what they’re doing is frowned upon? And if it does, does the humor create more of a positive response than would be driven with a straight-forward call to post pics and vids here? Maybe I’m missing a piece of the puzzle, but it seems like the Bowl is moving in the right direction while the mixed message may be forcing them backward. You tell me. Am I missing something, or is the Bowl?





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