Steppenwolf Setting the Stage to Attract Millenials

I just LOVE it when I get these kinds of emails:

Dear Rebecca,

I’m an avid reader of your blog, and I love your new look. It’s obvious to me that you haven’t missed a beat and you’re still doing a great job banging the drum about how theater companies can tackle the challenges of marketing in this new world. I have something that I think will help you help them.

Patricia Martin, author, culture analyst and market researcher, teamed up with Steppenwolf Theater Company to surface secrets from top brands that are forging emotional bonds with young people across multiple platforms. The findings are being made available in this fun ebook, Tipping the Culture: How Engaging Millennials will Change Things, that is easily shareable.

Amy Dean, LitLamp Communications

I didn’t even bother playing coy to make it seem like I am a lot cooler than I am, I shot Amy back an immediate and enthusiastic email, downloaded the e-book to my IPhone, read it, and did a phone interview with Patricia all within a week.

And now I get to share it with you!

RC: You are….

PM: Patricia Martin, President of LitLamp Communications in Chicago. I am a cultural  analyst, researcher and the author of Tipping the Culture: How Engaging Millenials will Change Things.

RC: How did this e-book come to be?

PM: Over a year ago, Steppenwolf Theatre’s Ben Cameron  hired me to interview companies like Ford Motor, Google and Red Bull, brands that were famous for marketing to Millennials in an era of social media,  and to provide recommendations on best practices and lessons learned from the field. Steppenwolf generously agreed to share the findings, and we got some support from the Nonprofit Finance Fund so other organizations in the performing arts world and beyond can learn from the findings. The study and the Initiative are made possible by funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

RC: Who are Millenials, and why should we care about them?

PM: Millenials are mostly defined as being in the 15-30 age group. They have won the demographic lottery and quickly overtaking the Baby Boomers as being the largest demographic population in the world. Our study focused on an even smaller slice of Millenials, Cultural Consumers between 22 and 30. It was important to us that we talk to Millenials that were mobile, and had their own disposable income.
What we found about this particular demographic is that they are aggressive producers of their own content, and when they create a really exciting echo effect when they promote something through their own social media.

We also discovered some things about this demographic that might surprise you:

  • they subscribe to the conventions of the theatre (ie: they like to get dressed up, they don’t expect to be Twittering during the show, and they understand the concept of the fourth wall)
  • there is almost no “celebrity culture.” They love to hang out with the actors after the show, but it’s more of a “we’re fellow artists” kind of relationship.

RC: Can you share with us some of your findings?

PM: There were three big ones:

Make a lifestyle connection: Steppenwolf, for example, found out that the beer brand du jour for Millenials was Pabst Blue Ribbon. You can now purchase it  for $3 at the theatre before and after shows and at intermission. It’s just about giving subtle cues that say “we get you.”

Use content to transfer knowledge: we discovered that Millenials love to learn. They also love to pass along their knowledge. For example, if you can find a “maven,” and give them a bunch of tickets so that they can invite their friends, the ripple effect can be great. Other examples include posting scenes from the play online, or allowing them to watch the play from backstage and tweet.

Provide a platform for participation: some brave theatre companies are letting the audience tinker with the content. The New Paradise Laboratories, for example, created a piece called Fatebook, which grew entirely out of Facebook.

RC: For me, one of the thrulines that I’m seeing is that a lot of these methods of engagement require us to give up some of our own control. That can be a real roadblock for a lot of people. Do you have any response to that?

PM: Just try something. Don’t jump into something that you’re not entirely ready for, but try something. We’re giving you the recipe. Feel free to substitute the eggs for something else.

RC: Thanks, Patricia!

You can download Tipping the Culture: How Engaging Millenials will Change Things in either EPUB or PDF format here.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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