Loyalty and the music festival game…

The great Feargal Quinn, arguably Ireland’s finest retailer, calls it the ‘Boomerang Principle’.

It’s a simple premise. Put as much effort as you can (within reason) in to ensuring that you can get your customer to come back. Listen to them. Appeal to their needs. For it is they, and not the new customers that pass through your doors, that will be the most loyal, and will stick with you when things start to go awry.

There will always be new customers, but those that have stayed with you the longest… they’re the ones to hold on to.

I was reminded of the Boomerang Principle earlier today when reading some of the comments posted on social media by those unable to purchase Electric Picnic tickets on Friday morning (I should preface this by adding I was not one of them).

Obtaining tickets for an in-demand gig is never easy – it requires perseverance, a good internet connection, and a degree of wishful thinking.

But for the many hundreds of devoted festival goers, some of whom might have been to a dozen or more Electric Picnics, a ticketing system that promises and then fails to deliver loyalty, is quite clearly in need of an overhaul.

The final tweet posted here raises a very interesting point.

Electric Picnic, which has just completed its 13th edition, does continue to offer a loyalty scheme (at least in principle), where other festivals may have long since pulled the plug on such ostensibly noble endeavours.

But it is one thing to offer such a scheme, and quite another to operate it properly, and from the negative feedback accrued in the past 24 hours, organisers Festival Republic (and Ticketmaster) appear to have two options: operate a genuine, functional loyalty system next year, or scrap the concept altogether.

First in the Queue

I was reminded recently of a loyalty system operated by Liverpool FC a decade ago (and undoubtedly by many other sports teams since), which went above and beyond to reward allegiance, offering ‘first in the queue’ status to the most committed supporters.

For Liverpool’s Champions League campaign of that year, in which the club reached the final, the principle was simple, if you went to the first home match of the campaign, you got first in line for tickets for the second.

Following the second match, those that had been to both games were duly first in line for the third. Ditto after the next game, and the next.

By the time Liverpool reached the semi final that year, against Chelsea, those that had been the most committed throughout the campaign were, in turn, the most rewarded.

This example does have a ‘sting’ in the tale, however, in that the quantity of ‘superfans’ with full loyalty that were unable to obtain tickets to the final was higher than anticipated, and many missed out on a trip to Athens.

That said, if they are serious about ‘loyalty’, there is nothing to stop Festival Republic from adopting a similar approach to Electric Picnic sales in future.

Ten or more Picnics?

Of all the events in the Irish gig calendar, Electric Picnic is arguably the one with the most loyal customers – the superfans, if you will – and the ticket sales process should reflect that.

Yes, the Picnic is something of a victim of its own success: there are likely enough people with ‘3 or more Picnics’ beside their name to fill the festival twice over. So why not raise the bar?

How about ‘discounts’ for those that have been to five or more Picnics? Or ten?

These are people that have spent the cost of a small car on attending the festival over the years, and deserve to be rewarded for their commitment – granted ‘first in the queue’ status for future events, with a suitable discount to boot.

Next Steps

Following this year’s EP sell out announcement, one of the most common complaints levied against the festival organisers was that they ‘don’t care’, that it’s ‘all about the money’, and ‘they only want to get the kids in’.

But while Festival Republic is indeed in the business of making money, like any other firm, it also understands the need to listen. While it was a while in coming, it did make an effort this year to amend the lineup sufficiently to appeal to regular Picnic goers abashed at its pop-heavy direction.

Reputation, after all, is one of the key pillars on which business it is founded. Looking for a good legacy act to cheer people up? The Prodigy, they’ll do. Or Chic. As I mentioned earlier this week, this year’s Picnic was a belter.

Sadly, the current ticket situation may have eroded that goodwill.

I have no doubt that more tickets will go on sale, and that many of those disgruntled tweeters will bite the bullet and head along to what will no doubt be a fantastic Electric Picnic next year.

But to the organisers, I would offer one piece of advice. Don’t forget the Boomerang Principle.


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