In 1820 Paris opera fans Sauton and Porcher started a unique business. For a fee, they would attend your opera and applaud at a designated time during the performance. This became known as claquing.
The venture was so profitable that the duo expanded and by 1830 claquing had become a key part to the operatic experience. Teams of claques were established that included a chef de claque leading a team of claquers with additional options. There was the pleureuse, who would weep on cue and the bisseur who would belt out encore as the show ended.
Seems kind of ridiculous doesn’t it. After all, opera is such a refined craft in live entertainment. Why would they resort to such antics?
Quite simply, it works.
As author Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. points out in his book Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion. Claquing, much like laugh tracks during sitcoms, creates a social call-and-response. One in which the stimuli. E.g. the claquer lets other opera-goers know. “Hey, now is the time to clap.” Running off of his cue (and that reaffirming positive stimuli) clap…or boo… or scream “encore” they do.
While claquing has all but faded from the operatic experience its far-reaching superpowers can still be witnessed at nearly every live concert you attend. Look around as the band finishes their last song. At this point, many people are wondering “should I stand and applaud?” They survey the other patrons and may notice someone a few rows away rise. Still unsure, they remain seated. However, as the rising crowd encroaches their position something changes. What was a question of “should I stand and applaud” turns to “what will those around me think if I don’t?”
Social influence at its finest.
Claquing demonstrates to us that we aren’t really in total control when within these large social situations. In a previous post, I discussed positive stimuli response and how vital it is during our decision-making process. Dr. Cialdini reminds us that positive stimuli response is so important in a situation such as a concert where we are out of our comfort zones that these stimuli produce (as he calls it) click, whirr moments where we instinctively follow the crowd. This is an important social behavior lesson for operations managers because it gives us insight into how we can use the crowd to create more profitability in our venues. In that same post, I talked about the “see a beer… want a beer” phenomenon. Where concert goers will increasingly move towards the decision to purchase a beer as more people within their proximity hold a frosty brew. If operations managers look for ways to motivate pockets of consumers in highly visible areas to purchase they could reap big rewards. Say, for instance, if a small pocket of scattered patrons the second tier up in the center are sent a mobile coupon for $2 off their beer purchase for the next fifteen minutes. Enough will scurry across their aisle and down or up the steps to the vendor. On the return trip, they are displaying their beer in hand and with it gaining the attention of a collection of consumers looking for a positive stimuli response to go grab a brew. It is quite likely that $2 off bet could pay off big thanks to a click, whirr moment.
Regardless if you are claquing for applause or pushing for more beer sales, social behavior is a powerful strategy in the concert space. Find ways to enact social responses and you could see profitability rise.