Producing Professional Promotions: It takes a focused effort to motivate that sale

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This column is a continuation of a three-part theme dealing with the changing environment and retail applications of concession stands in cinemas. The real implementation of a promotion comes in the form of presenting and promoting the newest arrivals on the scene. Promotions create activation, and that activation mediates your brand recognition, market segmentation, public relations, product launches and marketing strategies. These all play a role in transforming the customer experience from the past to the present and into future expectations.

Before launching any promotion, the operator should understand want people want. Typically, there are three aspects to this: First, innovation—items that influence spontaneous purchasing behaviors. Second, content which lends itself to immediate actions/purchases. Finally, compensation–what is the reward for participating in the purchase? We’re talking about things like high-quality vessels, loyalty points, free goods and discounts—these lead the patron to participate in the promotional campaign. It could be as simple as the smell of freshly popped popcorn, or as complicated as refillable buckets for a period of time.

What’s in it for the exhibitor when they engage in promotions? The idea is to produce higher sales and incidence. A secondary aspect of promotions is exclusivity, which identifies your franchise or brand over the competitive ventures in the zone. Promotions imply the creative nature of the theatre owner and the ability to tie the instruments of film to the movie patron. An immediate concern of every promotional activity is ease of implementation. The overall effort is to blend all four of these facets together to create a profitable, creative concept with exclusive properties that are easy to implement.

These models should have a specific uniqueness and value, as in vessels. Collector cups, popcorn tins or specialty premiums are examples of how theatre owners are now approaching their promotional pursuits. Innovative packaging, combos and value propositions lead the customer to purchases. Visual awareness and inspired displays are the proponents that enhance the promotional features. Therefore, the process enriches the transaction.

Your strategy or plan should have a primary purpose. Are you trying to create loyalty, offer value, or increase participation by your patrons? The tactics should match the operational efficiencies of the theatre in cost of goods, labor expense, direct expenses and other practices. In some cases, the cost of goods may be a higher percentage than a typical concession item, but the dollar profit is double what a candy bar produces.

Professional promotions create a cycle of wellness: increased transactions, leading to selling more products, forwarding to financial gains. Every promotion must start with a purpose, followed by a well-designed plan and finally a payoff.

The triggers begin before the patron even arrives at the theatre. Advertising experts say that the average consumer must see an ad or impression at least three times before they will commit to a purchase. In the cinema industry, it is very challenging to accomplish that feat. However, there is a five-step program that will attempt to make that happen.

Step one involves informing the patron about the promotion outside the building or even in the box office. Social media lends itself to that process. Facebook, Twitter, websites and phone apps all offer the initial impression, but being at the facility and seeing it first-hand creates a deeper imprint. Anything that can be positioned in the box-office area or counter will make the first significant influence. Small coupons for concession items delivered to the patron with the ticket, counter cards, placemats or presell boards accomplish this feat.

Step two is the lobby area itself. Marketing with standees, banners or visual curios makes the second impact. These influence the patron a second time in a passing time frame.

Step three is the concession stand itself. Displaying counter cards with messages, static clings, hangers or placemats creates the third stimulus. Merchandising the product either in the lobby or at the concession point of sale creates that “gotta have” mentality. The consumer must see it before they will buy it!

Step four is the employee salutation. Employees with a script that invites and encourages the patron to participate in the value proposition now create the fourth possible influence in connection and purchase.

Step five is in-theatre messaging. Onscreen ads and reminders cement the promotion in the mind of the buyer. Effective reminders onscreen allow the patron one more option either during the show or on the next visit.

In summary, creating the best promotion begins with a concept, but the follow-through is the most important aspect. How can you bring the buyer to market and then close the sale? All patrons are looking for a value proposition. How you translate that option in the fewest words, in the shortest amount of time, remains the challenge—and then can you repeat that process at least three times in five minutes or less (the average time a patron spends in a theatre lobby)?

In closing, here are five reasons why patrons do not participate in promotions and some suggested solutions.

1.     No Need: Find a need and fill that void. Find a target that stimulates necessity to purchase.

2.     No Money: The promotion must build value, bundling less frequently sold items with high-volume items.

3.     No Hurry: Initiate immediate demand (while supplies last, “today only,” limited supply).

4.     No Desire: Create incentives and appeal to the buyer’s imagination.

5.     No Trust: Instill confidence in quality, branding, consistency and high standards.