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Archive for October, 2009

Bad Form: Cirque Marketing Dept. slips on its own banana

October 30, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Uncategorized

This morning, several Chicago theater bloggers received a robotic love note from the representatives of Cirque du Soleil, who are opening a show in town that I’m only going to wryly allude to. Because I’m insulted.

Chloe Steve (great use of two first names!) writes in my comments:

Its a great idea.I also take immense joy in sharing with you that Cirque du soleil is in Chicago now………It should be great……..

As actual journalist™ Kris Vire gumshoed a few minutes later after HE got a similar comment on his blog, Chloe appears to be a hired hand posting from India.

Now, I would LOVE to have an actual conversation with Chloe “If that is your real name” Steve about Cirque and the intersection of Chicago and south asian theater. That would be cool, and there’s actually an annual precedent for such a conversation.

And indeed my beef is not with the hired hands. It’s with the promoter, and it’s with folks who would look at their numbers and judge the success of their marketing efforts based on butts in seats and nothing else. What encourages me about the emerging style of DIY arts marketing emerging in Chicago, Vancouver, Austin, and now most notably Baltimore is that it is based on real connection and rich conversation instead of mechanical SEO mumbo-jumbo. It is becoming the art and science of nurturing long-term relationships with your audience instead of cynically treating tickets purchased like a widget that you manufacture.

This is a letter of encouragement I sent to one of my web clients yesterday as they launched their website and thus their marketing campaign for a product they’re selling:

Keyword choices should more or less be happening in your copy, which google pays much more attention to than in your meta keywords. Your copy is already rich in keywords like *blonk*, *sploit*, *aWOOOGA!*, etc. So that’s a good start!

The most effective method of increasing SEO for your site that we’ve found at Marshall Creative will be more challenging for you as a developer of state of the art products – the biggest weight that google gives to a site is when trusted sites link or refer to content on your site. This can be achieved by 1) identifying what the trusted online neighborhoods in your industry are and 2) engaging those neighborhoods in content-rich dialogue as a part of your day-to-day marketing behavior. The more you can engage other blogs as a commenter (or even in some cases twittering thought leaders in your industry), or media outlets as an expert, the more likely those sites will choose to feature content links to your site. As you accrue those connections: Bam. Your site results surge forward in all your major keywords. This isn’t a question of just getting people to link to you in your sidebar – you want the right people TALKING about you online.

And sometimes in other odd keywords, as well. It’s not an exact science – at times it can be like drinking from an intermittent firehose. Thanks to this post on my personal blog, I have somehow become very high in google’s results for hog butchering. Luckily, I also have pretty good results in things I ACTUALLY do as well.

See that? Marketing theater is about talking about MORE THAN THEATER, and saying more than just “Chicago theater is awesome. This show is awesome.” In what specific ways is it awesome? For crying out loud, this is DYING for some creativity here. It’s about connecting the dots from the show to the subject, or the creators, or the sheer weight of the craft that goes in to Cirque’s production of [name omitted]. Think about the genius of Redmoon’s Golden Truffle. It’s a show… and a truffle tasting. And they’re truly integrated experiences. Nothing feels awkward or forced about it, and bam: You have brought an entirely new market segment into your theater. Cirque is better than this.

The really sad thing is that before this, I had a really great story pitch that I could offer to Cirque. You see, Cirque (along with the Mouse) was one of the forces that developed LCS (Level Control Systems), the top-of-the-line sound control system that we use at the Goodman. If qLab is the efficient and affordable Prius of sound control, LCS is the crazy expensive but completely configurable James Bond-mobile, and it’s quite useful with complex sound systems used by, well, Cirque, the Mouse, the Goodman, and several Broadway in Chicago shows (duh nuh nuh nuh! snap snap). The story of LCS, (now renamed D-Mitri after being aquired by top-of-the-line audio manufacturer Meyer Sound) is almost as incredible as what it is capable of, but you won’t hear that story, or the story of mad genius sound designer Jonathan Deans or any of his brilliant apprentices, because instead we get “Chicago theater is great! Including Cirque.”

Dissapointing, isn’t it? If the marketing of a show with a budget this large is this disappointing, well then I’m sure the show will be too.

And to all those who got spammed by cirque: Boycott. Boycott. Boycott. Don’t review, Don’t Go. Until the marketing department changes their ways.

(photo by NitaKang)

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