Who is your show for?

People don’t watch Lion King because they’re interested in animal kings — the show is about the puppets.

When people talk about our shows, they don’t explain the plot (“Joey was a horse that got sent into the war…”), instead they explain what it was like (“It had amazing puppet horses and was so believable..”).

Our shows are funnier, better written, have better music, and are more exciting than our plot outlines suggest — and we should market them on that instead. Marketing copy should give a feel of a production rather than just relay plot.

I’m sure you’ve read advertising copy for hundreds of theatre shows. The formula is something like:

Three sentences about the plot. “Charlie Bucket can’t afford a chocolate bar..”
Two sentences about the lead actor. “Douglas Hodge previously starred in..”
One sentence about who it is for. “Ideal for the whole family..”
One sentence on reviews. “Amazing — The Guardian”

This formula is outdated and doesn’t work in a culture of blockbuster movies and Youtube.

This would be a more successful formula:

One sentence about who it’s for. “A children’s show also suitable for adults..”
Two sentences about why you should see it. “Breathtaking sets and good tunes..”
Two sentences about the plot. “Charlie Bucket can’t afford a chocolate bar..”
Two sentences on it’s reception. “Amazing. — Twitter. **** — The Guardian”

Unlike books, our productions don’t sell on what they’re about, they sell based on what they’re like. Audiences are looking for a comedy show, or a bright musical, or a challenging drama. We should be more upfront about what type of show we are promoting to help them make that choice.

Originally published on June 27, 2013.