Where is Bay Street? Marketing for a Theatre on the East End
By Assistant Marketing Director Jim Vacey
As a “Hamptons Commuter” a common question I get in reply to my new employment with Bay Street Theatre is “Where is that?” which then turns to “Whoa! That’s a far drive; isn’t it?” Nestled in the furthest corner of Sag Harbor right on the Long Wharf is the iconic theatre which is now in its 22nd year of entertainment and pushing ahead stronger than ever. Of course I would reply that I never minded the drive and always appreciated the scenery of Scuttlehole Rd. each morning on my way to work and cordially invite those who are reluctant to travel to Bay Street.
The question is though, which has proven a great challenge to me as a marketer, how do you fill the seats of a theater when many who live west of the Shinnecock Canal have no idea where it is? What is the best way to share with the masses that a spectacular place to sit and be entertained is just over the canal?
As a member of the marketing industry I have learned that bringing awareness of a product to the masses is how you fill seats. A theater needs to consider the branding of the establishment and of course the acts in which it is hosting if it is going to fill those seats.
Brand awareness for Bay Street must take place across several levels. Long gone are the days of Carnival Barkers and simply hanging posters. There are several tools to consider when delivering the message that the show is on. From email blasts to the social networking channels, reaching out to the masses has gotten easier and at the same time more difficult. Emails can be read or forgotten and Facebook wall posts can be lost in a sea of birthday notices and status updates. A great deal of strategy must go into spreading the word welcoming any and all through our doors.
So the ticket buyers know that David Greenspan and Tom Aulino are going to be in The Mystery of Irma Vep at Bay Street. What is the incentive to get them there? Why would someone want to travel to Sag Harbor to see a comedian on a Monday night?
Is the answer simply just to be entertained? Perhaps. For others however, the need to be entertained is the lowest of needs for the theatre experience. With everything digital these days’ people tend to forget that they can have a connection with others without the use of a text message. People who sit in the audience of a Mainstage production want to feel something real.
There is an emotional connection between audience and performer that you can’t get from an ad or an email. This moment is forever engrained in the heart and soul of those who go along with the actor in his or her journey. A performance should be so desirable that people will travel miles to be a part of it. It must come from the moment when the curtain lifts and the lights dim that we can find the part of us that is real.
I’ve learned that marketing for such a place as Bay Street requires total commitment of time and resources to instill a constant reminder in people that a historical staple of the Sag Harbor community still exists. Its reputation and history can speak volumes that no poster or Facebook post ever could but without that constant nudge, a small non-profit could vanish into the wind. However, all of those who have entered the doors of the theatre can say that they too have felt that connection.
However, spreading the word continues at our front door. No matter how far the reach, no matter how colorful the design, in the end what matters most is being an excellent host. Bay Street has and will continue to be warm and welcoming to those who enter through its doors. A great host always leads to great company from all over.
So when someone asks, “Where is Bay Street?” Just reply with a smile, that it is a warm place, nestled in Sag Harbor just over the canal, where some of the best shows are held and the friendliest people are there to serve your every need for a great show and a fun night out.
Feel free to leave a comment on our Facebook page on why you feel that Bay Street has served you well as host and what entertainment you wish to see for next year!
Posted: June 14, 2013