Jousts, Right Hands, and Consumer Behavior

 

The following is a postulation I developed after attending a joust at a Renaissance Festival. I noticed something interesting about the crowd and their disproportionate nature at the venue. More data collection and analysis would be needed to prove my theories, but there may be an opportunity for venue owners to consider these two elements of social behavior.

 

Claquing and Social Behavior During the Concert Experience.

 

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.

 

Le claqueur by Honoré Daumier, 1842.

 

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.

Mass Behavior and Social Cues in Live Concert Venues

 

 

Formal Theories of Mass Behavior teaches us that when faced with a decision, the consumer will pull from external stimuli to test their initial hypothesis of what they anticipate the outcome to be. For instance, if you think a glass will break when you drop it. You can let it fall to the ground and see what happens. Then, classify this information for future situations regarding the fragile nature of glass products.

 

The problem arises when the consumer cannot test their initial hypothesis directly and efficiently. In a very timely example, it is cost and time prohibitive for the average voter to determine if candidate “A” will do well for them when in office. To truly gauge the outcome, the voter would need to dive deep into the candidate’s past behavior and history addressing various political issues through historical analysis, observing the party in action, and/or speaking with them directly. All items that require a great deal of decision investment to accomplish.

 

To counteract this problem, the consumer takes part in a social engagement where they ask someone – preferably someone they deem has knowledge of whom will be the best candidate and then they weigh those opinions against their initial hypothesis. If these judgments fall into alignment, the consumer’s decision is re-affirmed and they move forward with their initial opinion. This information is then retained in their decision-psyche to be pulled from in similar future situations. Just like our glass-breaking test.

 

However, if the external stimuli disagree with the consumer’s initial hypothesis. They will likely seek out additional opinions to “break the tie.” This back and forth can follow multiple cycles until the consumer makes a final judgement to abandon their initial decision or stick to their guns.

 

So, what in the heck does this have to do with live entertainment? In a previous post, I discussed a phenomenon I call the “adoption point.” This is when the crowd grows to a comfortable size, which reaffirms the prospect’s decision to “join the pack.” It is rooted in our primal instincts, which happen to form the foundation analyzed by McPhee’s Formal Theories text. A time when the young wolf analyzes what he thinks will happen to him if he goes it alone versus joining the rest of his howling buddies. The larger the pack… the more he feels secure in their collective decision to stick together.

 

This is something I see on a regular basis in the concert world.  One of our venues is an open design where onlookers can stand outside the perimeter of the space and watch the band interact with the crowd.  Constant observations have demonstrated to me that when the onlooker hears the entertainment and stops to investigate. They are less likely to enter the space if they do not see a crowd dancing or otherwise enjoying the music. In addition, monitoring this situation has revealed a direct correlation between the time it takes the prospect to enter the room and the number of persons on the dance floor.  If it is zero, the onlooker is extremely unlikely to enter. In a venue with a capacity of 250, if there are 125 plus on the floor. The prospect will very likely enter the space with their waiting time reduced per every ten or so persons in the venue. It is this author’s hypothesis that this correlation can be defined by McPhee’s analysis.  The prospect arrives at the entrance to the venue with an idea of how they will likely feel about their night out. They weigh these thoughts against the enjoyment they see – more specifically how the other patrons appear to be reacting to the environment. The prospect’s decision to join the group is compounded with each body (one unit of positive stimuli) they see.

 

Of course, there are numerous variables at play in these situations. Style of music, time of night, day of week, look of the crowd, other choices available to the prospect, etc. However, in my opinion, McPhee’s analysis could provide additional evidence as to why dance floors seem to go from “famine to feast” in the blink of an eye.  That being the consumer watching from afar is weighing their internal opinions about the quality of music and if they will enjoy it against the reaffirming stimuli of the group. Since it is easy for them to categorize the size of the crowd against the perceived quality of the act, this decision will become shorter and shorter as the dance floor reaches capacity.

 

Venue managers can use this behavior to both increase the turnout as well as ancillary income such as drink sales. Here are a few ideas.

 

Getting and keeping bodies on the floor:

  • When the band goes on break, do not turn down the music and dim the stage lights. Keep it up and keep it lively.  If the budget permits, hire a DJ to spin during the band breaks. And if you only hire DJs, there should never be a break.
  • Reverse host psychology. Most venues I see typically only hire bottle girls… why do we not use bottle guys as well? Males will appeal to your prime female demographic, which will draw your male demographic at a compounded rate.
  • Hire appealing and personable non-serving hosts with the sole purpose of driving the dance floor. Theories of Mass Behavior show us the business science of having a larger group equates to profitability growing at a compound rate. Really weigh the costs of paying a host against the forecasted returns of a room at regular capacity.
  • You have to do it consistently. You want to condition the group of reaffirms (the people your prospects will look to) to come back on a regular basis. You do this by not making them guess. Give them the same quality entertainment every night. Don’t switch genres or styles once you start to see a following.

 

Once you have a crowd:

  • If you already have a strong crowd or operate a ticketed event that is at capacity such as an amphitheater. You can use social stimuli reinforcement to get people to purchase more drinks, food, and schwag. As anyone of legal drinking age who has been to a concert knows, when the guy next to you sits down with a beer. You suddenly want a beer. The more people sitting down with alcohol in your vicinity, the greater your thirst becomes.
  • Statistics are your friend. Collecting data has never been easier. If you sell food and beer, you should be recording those sales. Make sure sales can be categorized by time stamp as well. Now, make sure you are collecting door data through ticket sales or head counts. Those numbers should be time stamped as well. Look for patterns, seek out the lulls, and initiate “blitz” promos where you reduce costs for an hour or so. This will get beers in people’s hands and as more patrons enter after the promotion dies. They will see a positive stimulus and be more prone to buying beers to “join the pack.”

 

The goal here is to start using a new Key Performance Indicator (KPI) in your business analysis. Since I am from rock n’ roll, I like to call this measure The Bodies on the Floor KPI (in an ode to Drowning Pool).  If you analyze this social reinforcement statistic against your other indicators, you will likely find some secret data that could equate to better profitability for your brand.