The Rob Katz Video

You take a bunch of ads in the usual publications and wait for the people to book.  That’s how Vail Resorts ran its business, until this year, when they pulled 80% of their print budget.


I don’t follow "Ad Age".  And I don’t think any of the people who e-mailed me this video are skiers.  But I wrote about Rob Katz’s Twitter response to my frustration buying a Vail Resorts Mountain Meal Card and these "Ad Age" readers were primed, they now had a sensitivity to this executive, and when they watched this clip they forwarded it to me.

And that, my friend, is how you break an act today.

We don’t find out through the usual channels.  We may even miss your marketing message.  But someone who knows what we like, what we’re interested in, hips us to information, to music, and we check it out.

I already cruise enough sites, I’m not bookmarking "Ad Age".  But it’s on my network’s list, and I’m the beneficiary of their surfing.

Traditionally, ski guests booked their trips four to six months in advance.  Last year, it was frequently two to three weeks in advance.  If you blew your marketing budget months ahead of time, you were screwed.

In other words, the old print game no longer worked.  People now buy on impulse, when they have the desire.  They may be hunting for bargains, or maybe you get a plethora of snow and everybody wants to come at the same time and the price goes up!

So, all departments of your company must work together, and execute a constantly changing plan in real time.

Kind of like when the label rush releases an album when it leaks.

But more interesting are the plans set in stone based on singles breaking.  Then the single stiffs and…  There’s got to be a better way.  Maybe you sit with a bunch of tracks in the can, and when a single hits you rush release an album that very week.  Maybe you dribble out tracks and when you finally have a hit you package three or four at a discount price immediately.  You play by the consumer’s rules, not by the retailers’ rules.

That’s how media companies get screwed up, by worrying first and foremost about placating their old school partners.  Should you really worry about pre-orders when record retail is dying and only star product gets stocked anyway?  Shouldn’t you be driving digital sales?  Won’t physical take care of itself?

But most striking is Rob Katz’s riff on ski porn.  That’s those shots of expert skiers carving powder, hucking cliffs, that even makes it into commercials for other winter products.  This is what sells ski vacations most.  And this is what the Web is best for.

So, rather than spend old money on print, the indie radio promotion for a dying format, Vail goes directly to its consumers and puts a plethora of video on its site.

Unlike the record labels, who are constantly trying to withhold their product from the Web, Vail is using the low cost of the Internet to push the info people want.

But forget the ancient labels, what about the touring business?

Michael Rapino famously says 40% of tickets go unsold.

In other words, just like the family that has a condo is definitely going to the mountains, just like a superstar will sell out, the upside is in those who haven’t decided to come, to the ski resort, to the concert.

Ticketing sites should be a plethora of information.  You should be able to upload pix and videos of your good time at the show.  So surfers will want to partake, will want to be part of the good times.

Every show should have a video clip of the act in concert.  The DVD that the agency creates to close talent buyers should be available to the consumer, the end buyer.  Every venue should have videos of their buildings the same way you can go for a virtual tour of Vail Mountain on the ski resort’s site.  There should be testimonials.  Pix of guys winking at girls, vice versa.

In other words, the Web allows us to sell our product by demonstrating it, at a very low cost, but in the music business, too often the rights holders refuse.  And ticketing companies are so busy working out deals with acts and promoters, finagling kickbacks, that they don’t realize their true job is to sell tickets.  How do you make people want to come?

By music business standards, the "New York Times" Website would consist of a subscription form for the print edition, and nothing more.

Watch this video.  Rob Katz runs a billion dollar business.  And you might say you can’t steal a lift ticket online, but Vail competes against dozens and dozens of ski resorts, with nothing in common other than snow.  If a customer goes to Steamboat, Vail misses out, not only on lift tickets, but lodging, dining, equipment rental/purchase, a whole eco-system.

Furthermore, first class ski resorts are now experimenting with discounting.  Not for desirable days, but when the resort is empty.  They’ve signed up with Liftopia.  Live Nation gives tickets away at the last minute, ski resorts try to book some of that revenue during the sales window, in advance.

Then again, ongoing marketing is a joke in the live business.

Take an ad, sell the tickets.  After that?  More print ads, or nothing at all.

But is the public paying attention to print?

Where’s the Twitter feed for tickets?  Where are the deals?

Acts and promoters believe they’re entitled to the cash, and are stunned when not enough people show up.  Sure, you’ve got to have something desirable, something good.  But first, you’ve got to make people aware of it.  Second, you’ve got to price it properly.  Third, the offer has to be made when the customer is ready to make a decision.  Which now, more than ever, is at the very last minute.

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  3. Pingback by Shouldn’t you be driving digital sales? « Brian Currin | 2009/12/01 at 20:11:30

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