Friday, October 08, 2010

Nightclub Promotion and Competition

Promotion is the sum of ‘activities that communicate the product or service and its merits to target customers and persuade them to buy’ (Kotler, 1994, p.1007).  Hackley and Tiwaskul (2006) discuss the concept of entertainment marketing and promotion as being one that leads to experiential consumption.  Nightclub promotion may be carried out by venues themselves, or by specialist third-party organisations and individuals who are brought in to promote themed nights within the nightclub to potential consumers.  Themed nights are known as club nights, and the organisations and individuals that undertake the task of promoting them to potential consumers are known as promoters (Moss, S, 2009).  KBA (1994) stated that promoters were a very important entity in the nightclub scene, they often set trends and are responsible for generating ideas for events, usually involving some form of entertainment, and often at their own expense.  Moss (2009) identified that promoters were often used where competition between nightclubs was fierce.  So called ‘student-cities’ (those cities that experience a boost in population during ‘term-time’ from college and university students), are one such example where a large demographic of residents of nightclub age are often heavily promoted to by nightclub promoters keen to attract custom.

The nightclub industry is a saturated and highly competitive marketplace (Skinner, Moss, G and Parfitt , 2005), effective target market segmentation, is therefore very important (Dibb, Stern and Wensley, 2002).  Within student cities competition is the most fierce at the beginning of the academic year (in the UK this is usually September), and at the beginning of new terms after vacation periods such as Christmas and Easter.  During this time, promoters are highly active, with many forms of visible promotion in key locations around student cities, such as: outside universities; within halls of residence; and on footpath areas where there are a large number of students passing by.  Such promotion is designed to entice new customers, and to reinforce brand awareness amongst existing customers (Moss, S, 2009).

When promoting products, organisations and events to students, it is important to target new students when they first arrive (Fakharzadeh and Todd, 2010).  This gives the opportunity to develop brand awareness before students form relationships with rival entities.  Useful locations to target students with flyers include ‘dorm halls, dining halls…and next to vending machines’ (Campion Devney, 1991, p.59).  Hayden (2006) additionally suggests student resource centres such as libraries, and university literature racks.

Nightclubs often portray a fun and ‘sexy’ image, which has been capitalised upon by nightclub promoters in their promotional materials, this is demonstrated in the figure below.  This has also been capitalised upon by third party companies who have used nightclubs to showcase their products, some examples include Applebelly and Lycos, who went in to partnership to promote the online dating service Love@Lycos within nightclubs (Anon, 2001).  Sepe, Ling and Glantz (2002) concur, and in their research into tobacco promotions in nightclubs, they found that promoters used ‘very attractive’ dancing girls, and ‘provocative games’ designed to entice young potential smokers, (p.415).  In research by Moss, G, Parfitt and Skinner (2008) into gender and nightclub visitation ‘men identified the opposite sex as the critical factor in the decision to select a venue…in this research one male focus group respondent suggested that the number of women…was important ‘for single lads definitely’’ (p.69).  Shapiro (2006) identified that nightclubs were promiscuous venues where young people would often meet to form sexual unions.  Haralambos and Holborn (2004) identified that the demographic of young people who visit nightclubs as being at an experimental stage in their lives, where risk-taking and adventure form a central part of their behaviour.

Examples of nightclub promotional materials that use sexual imagery.  Source: Santana, (2010).

Nightclubs compete against their rivals on a number of levels, any of the products they have may form the basis of competition.  Refurbishment and reinvention of popular nightclubs is commonplace, this is to maintain interest amongst client groups whose tastes change over time (Haussman, 2008). Keeping repeat customers is especially challenging for nightclubs, particularly with their young adult target market (Nancarrow, Nancarrow and Page, 2002), although continual re-invention is not realistic for many venues, and therefore other means of competing including those related to pricing and promotion are the norm (Moss, G, Parfitt and Skinner, 2008).  However, it has also been found that regular nightclub patrons who are highly involved with a particular club, brand or organisation are less likely to be swayed into visiting competitor venues on the basis of price or drinks promotions (Beatty and Kahle, 1988).  Nightclubs are a service industry, and there is a great deal of service industry marketing literature on the importance of service quality (Skinner, Moss, G and Parfitt , 2005).

The methods by which promoters communicate with potential customers varies from traditional paper based media such as posters and flyers, to electronic media such as social networking websites and email (Moss, S, 2009).  In 2006, London nightclub owner Mint Group shifted its promotional focus from traditional flyers to email marketing, and in doing so appointed a specialist e-marketing company to be responsible for sending out 60,000 emails per week to the Mint group’s customer database (Anon, 2006).  ‘Brand management and communication are evolving at lightning speed’ (Lehu, 2007, p.3), this is exemplified by the relatively recent uptake of online social media (particularly Facebook) by club promoters to build brands based around their club nights and to use social media as a cost-effective and relatively easy way to reach a potential audience with a promotional message.  Those aged 35 and under are the primary target segment of social media marketers (Tiltman, 2009), many of this demographic are also the primary target segment of club promoters, making online social media an ideal promotional medium.  The adoption of such technological marketing mediums gives a modern image, and can lead to increased sales (Anon, 1996).  ‘Kids are interested in the same things they’ve always been interested in, they’re just expressing it via different channels.  Chances are that if you don’t understand today’s consumer, you didn’t really understand yesterday’s’ (Tiltman, 2009).

It is clear that in a highly competitive marketplace a strong promotional strategy is essential for the survival of both nightclubs and club nights, in what has become a buyers-market, where consumers are presented with many choices, by which to spend their leisure pound.  Not only do nightclubs need to compete as physical venues against other venues, promoters need to compete against other promoters in promoting their particular club nights.  Promotional materials are often the primary means by which potential customers may learn of club nights, so therefore adopting a strategy that targets the correct people, using appropriate promotional media is an essential aspect in the business of nightclub and club night promotion.


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Sepe, E., Ling, P.  and Glantz, S.  (2002) Smooth moves: Bar and nightclub tobacco promotions that target young adults.  American Journal of Public Health.  March 2002, Vol.  92, No.3, pp.  414 – 419.

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Tiltman, D.  (2009) Why there’s more to digital than skinny jeans and trips to nightclubs.  Media.  19th November, 2009, p.7.

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