Past, Present & Future of Marketing

Nightclub

As those who have put in a decade or more in our industry know all too well, marketing has changed from past to present. The same tactics that were used in the Seventies and Eighties aren’t necessarily as useful when employed today. What hasn’t changed is the importance of an effective marketing strategy. A panel of marketing and industry experts with careers spanning several decades helped attendees understand what’s working today and where marketing will likely be in the future.

Barry Gutin is the principal and co-founder of GuestCounts Hospitality and is also on the board of the non-profit Children Of Restaurant Employees (CORE), the official charity of VIBE. He has been in the industry since 1975 and has worked closely for several years with another member of the panel, Freddie Wyatt. Freddie is the president and CEO of James Town Entertainment and has been in the industry for over 25 years, starting his career in Washington DC and also working in Manhattan, The Hamptons and Miami. Tom Jannarone has been in the industry since 1984 and is a partner and operator of multiple Nightclub & Bar Award winner Bar Anticipation, a partner of Trend Promotions and also a licensed and practicing attorney. Rounding out the panel was Jovan Andow, general manager of Skybar Waikiki. You can check out these and other marketing experts at next year's 2016 Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show!

It’s important to realize that just because a marketing tool was employed in the ‘70s, it doesn’t mean it has become obsolete. Instead, think of marketing as an ever-evolving system that needs to be adapted; it’s liquid. Therefore, tools shouldn’t be discarded, they should be repurposed and updated.

“Today’s communication styles are so quickly evolving we want to know how marketing fundamentals apply today,” said Barry.

First up, posters and flyers. Because posters and flyers make most people think about printing, they’re often viewed as outdated. After all, print is dying, right? Don’t be so quick to write off posters and flyers. The fact is that they can be created very easily and for very little cost with today’s technology. Anyone with a laptop or tablet – and even some smartphones – can create a flyer or poster digitally these days. Jovan also believes that such tools can be used to great effect in smaller markets. In this case, the tool can be used by a broader spectrum of people and for much less cost than in years past.

In keeping with the theme of print, what of print ads? Again, print is dead, is it not? Print publications aren’t dead but the old way of dealing with them has gone the proverbial way of the dodo. Freddie uses them solely for launches and anniversary events while Tom uses leverage to get the most bang for his advertising buck. Tom refuses to spend a dollar on print ads unless he’s guaranteed an editorial and/or review by the publication. When he’s shown a rate sheet for ads, he hands it back and negotiates.

“The fundamentals of marketing haven’t changed. We’re in a very exciting time with the advent of the Internet. The fundamentals are still there, we just now have more vehicles to utilize to get that message out,” said Tom.

One of those vehicles is the street team. Plenty of people have written off the use of the street team by bars and nightclubs but in the right market, implemented properly, this tool is very effective. Everyone has a computer in their pocket these days, a digital umbilical cord most can’t seem to sever from themselves. This means capturing contact information is even more valuable than ever before. A skilled street team can discern the needs of tourists in busy markets and steer locals in smaller markets to your venue, sign them up for a list that can be updated in real-time and capture their names, phone numbers, email addresses and social media profiles within minutes. The difference between this tool in the past and this tool today is adaptation and the adoption of technology.

Surely, however, nobody is using mailers. These days, email is king and snail mail is a dinosaur limping away into the sunset. Or is it? Freddie and Barry have used postal mail to great effect and continue to do so. The key is to create the perception of exclusivity. During one marketing push for 32 Degrees, three tiers of mailers were created. Tier 3 was nothing crazy, just a nice invite to the venue. Tier 2 was nicer: an LED ice cube. But tier 1, reserved for the top percent of the VIP list, received a laminated invitation encased in a block of ice that was shipped to them in a Styrofoam container. The promotion generated the all-too-valuable I’m In and You’re Not Effect. The key to using this tool is to spend more and grab attention from the jump.

In terms of social media, Tom doesn’t believe it’s being utilized correctly by many owners and operators. It would seem that many bars and nightclubs think that just using social media is a cost effective way to market themselves and that, if people are talking about their venues on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, they must be doing well and reaching a massive amount of potential guests. However, Tom believes that approach to be foolish, and he’s guilty of using social media this way as well.

“I don’t think you should look it at as a way of saving money on marketing, I think you should look at it as an opportunity to expand your marketing,” he said.

As for the future of marketing, technology will certainly lead the way. Interestingly enough, the panel believed that marketing would find its way back into the hands of a bar’s first line of defense: the bartenders and bouncers. Word of mouth is still one of the single strongest marketing weapons in any business’ arsenal and technology has only made it more powerful. With video apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Vine and Periscope, bar staff can create short videos while working, sharing what’s going inside the venue in real-time and enticing their followers to come down and see them. No marketing tool should stand alone – embrace each one of these, get creative and become a marketing master.