The League of Branson Theatre Owners and Show Producers asked the city of Branson for a “Blue Ribbon Task Force.” It would advise the board about the marketing of Branson’s shows. To no one’s surprise, at its February 9, 2017 Study Session, the Branson Board of Aldermen decided not to make the request an official agenda item.
What was surprising, to an Ole Seagull, was Alderman Mike Booth’s comments at the session.
Booth’s comments are preceded by the letter MB followed by The Ole Sea Gull’s comments, TOSG,:
MB: I haven’t talked to many people because I’ll tell them what I really think.
TOSG: There’s a bunch of one liners there, but let’s not digress.
MB: [Talking about when he was a boy] Traffic at that time was lined up all the way out to the Ford Dealership to get into town. There was two theaters. The people were not coming here for the theatres that’s not what started Branson. I don’t want to break your bubble, it’s not what started Branson, it’s what contributed to Branson, it’s what helped to make Branson grow, but ladies and gentlemen it’s Silver Dollar City that really got Branson going; Shepherd of the Hills Farm, the lakes that were out there…
TOSG: Alderman Booth, an Ole Seagull doesn’t want to “break your bubble,” but your comparison to the Branson then and the Branson today is simply inane. It’s like comparing the Branson in the late 1800s, when the Lynch family bought “Marble Cave” and developed Branson’s first attraction, to the Branson of the 1950’s. That’s when the Herschends first leased it from the Lynch sisters and operated it until they developed and opened Silver Dollar City in May of 1961.
The number of people coming to Branson in the early 1960s, Silver Dollar City, Shepherd of the Hills, lakes and all, pales in comparison to the millions who came to Branson for its music shows starting in the mid-1980s. So many that CBS’s “60 Minutes” declared it, “The live country music capital of the universe” on national TV in 1991. How many millions more have come to Branson to see its shows since?
No, Alderman Booth, the Branson we have today exists because of its shows. Take the shows out and it’s a different Branson. Per the CVB’s own reports, what’s the number one reason people pick Branson as their vacation destination? Is it Silver Dollar City, Shepherd of the Hills, or the lakes? Of course not, but then you already knew that!
MB: I have had the opportunity to watch many of these shows succeed over the years and many of them fail. The reason a lot of them fail, some of it could be marketing, most of it is because the quality of the show is no good. The quality has gone down and therefore the sales have gone down.
TOSG: Shows fail for many reasons. One reason could be quality, but the board was not discussing shows “failing.” It was discussing “marketing.” Booth’s statement, “some of it could be marketing,” is the understatement of the decade. Branson’s in the third year of a marketing campaign intentionally bringing people to Branson who are not inclined to go to shows. How is that a quality issue?
During his comments, Alderman Booth used a dog food analogy.
MB: It was the greatest dog food in the world because they packaged it right, they made the packaging good they marketed it through TV, they marketed on the radio, and everything was great. The sales were phenomenal for two months and then, suddenly, they went down.
TOSG: An Ole Seagull believes the marketing was targeting dog owners. Would it have been as successful if it was targeting those who had little or no interest in feeding dogs?
MB: Finally, when they did the research after it went down, they asked, “What happened?” They said “The dogs didn’t like it.”
TOSG: “The dogs didn’t like it,” but the marketing was successful! People were buying it and feeding it to their dogs. It failed because “the dogs didn’t like it.” That’s all most Branson shows want! Marketing designed to produce an audience inclined to try Branson’s great shows as opposed to one that’s inclined in the opposite direction. They’ll take their chances that once people try their show they’ll like it.
MB: Marketing’s not going to help you. The dogs have go to like the dog food.
TOSG: Of course it will! It’s marketing that gets people to try the product. The products quality then becomes a factor, but even the best quality product will fail if there’s no market for it.
MB: There’s my two cents worth.
TOSG: An the Ole Sea Gull’s too.