Danny Feldman, Managing Director of New York City’s Labyrinth Theatre, was perplexed. He knew that Labyrinth had a strong base of fans who were excited about the theater company, and who rushed to fill the theater every time a celebrity presented on its stages. But the theater wasn’t reaching capacity for other main-stage productions, educational programs, and festivals. Now in his fifth season with the company, he was approaching the second fully-restored three-play main-stage season, and he needed to fill the theater to capacity for all three productions. He wondered how he could leverage popular excitement about Labyrinth and Labyrinth artists to do so, while encouraging those same patrons to keep returning for the company’s paid and free educational programs and festivals.
Feldman knew that patrons who felt a loyalty to Labyrinth Theatre would attend more frequently, providing the financial resources necessary to sustain the institution. Loyal customers were more likely to return to Labyrinth even without extensive or expensive marketing and outreach efforts. They were also more likely to become emotionally invested in the company, recommending Labyrinth to their friends and possibly becoming donors themselves. But the “traditional” approach to customer loyalty – subscriptions or passes – had failed to generate both revenue and repeat audiences for Labyrinth. Instead, he wanted to implement “Friends with Benefits,” a variation on points-based commercial loyalty programs that offered increasing benefits with increased frequency of attendance. Feldman had spent months thinking about how to design the program to appeal to Labyrinth’s fans. He was excited about being one of the first theaters, if not the first, to attempt such an approach to generating audience loyalty. But he didn’t yet have all the program elements in place, nor the resources necessary, to ensure the program’s success.
Feldman couldn’t afford the financial and staffing costs of developing a loyalty program. But he couldn’t afford not to develop one if he wanted Labyrinth Theater to be sustainable. He needed a breakthrough this year. Should he proceed with Friends with Benefits? What would be most effective at generating loyal audiences for Labyrinth?
Publication Date: 2016-05-15
Suggested Citation: Flo Low, "Labyrinth Theatre (2015)," Yale Theater Management Knowledge Base Case Study #14-76, May 15, 2016
Keywords: New York City, Audience, Culturally Specific Organization, Donor Relations, Marketing, Organizational Direction, Small Organization
Teaching Notes: Yes (contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
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