Some promotions are easy to put into place. The brainstorming process takes merely minutes and the execution is just as swift. Though it goes against all the rules of promotional planning, those exceptions to the rule add to a promotion’s true effect.
That’s how Memphis Taproom in Philadelphia has managed to gain a following when it plays “Twin Peaks,” the now defunct two-season long sci-fi TV show, on its outdoor projection screens.
Taking advantage of a cult following albeit a rabid one can be tricky, but that didn’t seem to worry Owner Leigh Maida.
“We show the (Philadelphia) Phillies games out in the beer garden. When the Phillies games aren’t on, we do Twin Peaks. It was a pretty random choice,” she admits. Her and her husband, Co-owner Brendan Hartranft, thought they should play some movies on off-nights, but Hartranft suggested playing all of the “Twin Peaks” episodes.
That spontaneity is part of the attraction of the Memphis Taproom.
“We never think of anything in advance,” she says.
Instead, it’s about teamwork. “My husband is an ideas factory,” she says, while Maida, herself, takes “his crazy ideas and makes them palatable to people.”
Maida knows that Twin Peaks is an acquired taste, attractive to a niche group of obsessive fans. “It’s a totally cult following,” she says. “… It’s just so weird, and why wouldn’t someone want to drink a beer and watch it.”
Experimenting with ideas
“We’re knuckleheads anyway,” Maida admits, so putting together a promotion to honor a short-lived, early 90s TV show was a natural fit.
Because this is only the second season the beer garden has been opened, it has experimented with how to use its projection screens. “Last year, we did a couple of movie nights,” she says, showing “The Big Lebowski” and “Endless Summer.”
Though, she admits, “last year, we weren’t organized enough. “It was really random … it was ‘What DVDs do we have?’”
So, starting this season, Maida and her husband decided they would show “things we would want to watch if we were sitting outside drinking a beer.”
“The thing about ‘Twin Peaks,’ it does have a cult following,” and in an intimate space like the Memphis Taproom’s beer garden, which has a capacity of approximately 80, it’s something people can truly appreciate, Maida explains.
“It builds a community.”
Attracting a Niche Market
Maida says that no concrete strategy is all part of the strategy at Memphis Taphouse. Maida and her husband create promotions that they “see ourselves doing here.”
The schedule for each episode is “so random,” though the website has an updated calendar of when each episode will air. Even though episodes play between Philly games and not on weekend nights, Maida says that doesn’t stop people from dropping in and staying.
“People are coming out in groups to watch it,” she says. “People make it a point to come because they know (“Twin Peaks”) is going to be on.” During the episodes, guests can enjoy a can of Twin Lakes beer, which is discounted a dollar on “Twin Peaks” nights.
But it’s not about the bottom line, Maida explains. They’re not spending money on anything or staffing extra people when it’s “Twin Peaks” night. At the end of the series, Maida says, “I get to own those DVDs.” But it’s also more than that. “Say we get 50 people here to watch that DVD, that’s $50 in beer,” she says. “It adds to the fun of the place.”
Part of the appeal, she says, is that “Twin Peaks” fans are a small group of obsessive people, and that helps the promotion gain cachet because “it works better when not a ton of people know about it.”
“It’s one of those things,” she says, “that people come out for. It’s not the kind of event—we’re not throwing a big event—it’s just another weird thing we’re doing.”