Academic journal article MEIEA Journal

The Path to Loyalty among Theater Patrons: The Importance of Interaction and a Sense of Brand Community

Academic journal article MEIEA Journal

The Path to Loyalty among Theater Patrons: The Importance of Interaction and a Sense of Brand Community

Article excerpt

Introduction

Theater management in more conserv ative, smaller cities, where the larger audience perhaps has less affinity' with the cultural product, is a challenging endeavor.1 The financial modus for theaters in these locations is dependent on the ability' of a theater to create a lineup of (commercially oriented) performances that have a wider audience appeal, and thus are able to attract larger audiences to fill their seats. The theaters also have to be cognizant of satisfying a smaller group of important donors who are often interested in show s that press the artistic and intellectual envelope, and are not as easily accessible to a larger crowd.2 As such, the success of theaters might rise and fall with the quality and selections of the shows they choose to perform or have performed, and their ability to read the needs and wants of their audiences.3 When we review other options that people have at their disposal to spend a leisurely night, theaters seem to be in a tough spot. For instance, where a movie theater has the flexibility- to replace a poor show (i.e., film) immediately with a new product, theaters that depend on live performances have no such flexibility, thus they may suffer much more from a poor product than a movie theater. Moreover, a movie theater is seldom blamed for the quality of the movie, as patrons see the movie theater solely as a medium that allows them to watch an entertainment product. This is different for theaters, where theater directors are held responsible for the selection and quality of the shows.

As Francois Colbert mentioned, a marketing director of a theater has no control over the artistic programming of shows.'1 Therefore, theater directors are similar to sport arena managers who are dependent on the performance of their professional sports teams to sell tickets. Similar to theaters, they have very little flexibility to change the quality of their team, and they too, rise and fall with the success of their product. Therefore, the scholarly field of sport management does offer some interesting insights that theaters might profit from, one that could be illustrated by emphasizing the difference between the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros. Both have been fielding unsuccessful teams for quite some time now, but the Chicago Cubs are maintaining their attendance and are still among the top revenue generators in Major League Baseball, whereas the Houston Astros are struggling and their attendance is among the worst in the league (www.espn.go.com/mlb/attendance). The difference between these two sport teams is interesting, as it shows that entertainment organizations can find ways to commit their patrons to their organization, even if they offer an inferior product. Marketing scholars have discussed this phenomenon through the concept of brand loyalty, which allows us to examine why patrons are loyal to a brand (e.g., the Chicago Cubs).5 This line of research could benefit theaters as it gives them the similar opportunity to examine why certain patrons are loyal to their theater, while others defect.6Pusa and Uusitalo discussed the importance of brands for art museums and provided a discussion of strategies a museum can develop that stretch beyond the mere quality of the product.7 While they provide a valuable insight for organizations who would like to use branding as a strategy to connect to their consumer, it focuses solely on the relationship between the individual and the brand, and does not include a discussion of the relationship between consumers and how these relationships can benefit the organization (brand).

This oversight might be considerable, as one of the most important precursors to loyalty that has been identified is a sense of (brand) community, which provides patrons with a sense of moral responsibility towards the organization and fellow consumers, even in hard times,8 Particularly for entertainment organizations that have little control over the quality of their product (e. …

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