If I had the chance, I would ask Josh Groban …

So as you may or may not know, I have been selected as a #JLCreviewer for the Josh Groban concert on Tuesday night at the John Labatt Centre here in London, Ontario.

As such, being the geek I am, I have been doing my research. Checking out his YouTube Channel, listening to his music, downloading his most recent album, reading various articles I can find on him and his work.

After reading and listening to all of these things about Josh Groban I’ve thought of some questions I would ask if I had the opportunity. They are all pretty standard questions, and probably questions that are frequently asked, but still I’d love to hear what Josh Groban would have to say in a candid environment.

1) When preparing to record Illuminations, what made you choose to use Rick Ruben as the producer for the album. Sure he is a producer of mythical proportions, but he is well-known for producing numerous rock Albums. What did you think he could bring to Illuminations? How did you think his presence would change your recording experience? In retrospect how well did your expectations match the actual experience? Also what made you want to work with Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson?

2) If there was one artist or group that you could perform with or do a cover of, who would it be?

3) What is your most memorable or meaningful accomplishment to this point of your career?

4) You’ve worked with a number of Canadians previously, if you could work with or sing with another Canadian musician, who would you choose? (A question that stumps most non-Canadian acts)

5) What is your musical guilty pleasure? What would your fans be shocked to know is on your iPod?

6) This is your first time writing the majority of one of your albums, is there a specific song of this album that you are most proud of or that means the most to you, or that best represents you as a person, singer, songwriter, etc.

I have other questions in my mind, but those are probably the first that come to mind.  Mostly though, I want to understand the thinking behind the pairing with Rick Ruben because that I think to many seems rather counterintuitive.

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The JLCReviewer – My Take

The JLC has always had excellent marketing, it is something I have admired as someone with a marketing/communications/PR background. Recently in addition to their already strong social media presence they have been making an additional push for engagement using social media.

Before the July 3rd Soundgarden Concert they had a huge giveaway of tickets on Social Media Day and a number of individuals, myself included, were offered a pair of amazing tickets to take in the concert that featured Coheed and Cambria and of course Soundgarden.

I think most of us on Twitter were shocked and amazed to see a venue do something like this. I mean I have won tickets before and know friends who have, but I have never seen a ticket giveaway on this scale before.

Talk about good PR! (PS – Unemployed (or Freelance) Marketing/Communications/PR/Social Media Gal right here if anyone is looking!)

It is said that word of mouth is one of the best tools in PR and this effort definitely capitalized on this, by using word of mouth 2.0, which is word of fingers!

JLC reached out to the wired demographic; the people who are online several hours a day tweeting, facebooking or blogging about anything and everything, and people who have arguably become a voice for the local online community.

By bringing people into the venue for free, the JLC earned some goodwill and created some positive buzz. The people who were invited in were definitely going to tell their friends and share the experience on Facebook, on Twitter or on a Blog. In this world of digital communications the number of people who this news could reach in a limited amount of time was exponentially higher than it would have been if the only tool had been word of mouth, instead of word of fingers.

Giving away the tickets was amazing, but the JLC hasn’t stopped there. They introduced the JLCReviewer for the July 12th Black Keys concert. The JLC asked people who wanted to be JLCReviewers to tweet them and for others to nominate people they think would do a great job. In the end four people were chosen to be JLCReviewers, Laura, Mike, Naomi and Amanda. By the sound of it they were provided with a number of goodies, including tickets to the Black Keys Concert, with opening act Cage the Elephant.

I think this is a fantastic idea! First, this is engagement at a whole new level. The JLC is facilitating an entirely new level of connection with the venue, the music, the performers and well the entire concert going experience. Next this is also a cost-effective way to grow their marketing department (good for them, bad for unemployed (“freelance” as I like to say) me!). The newspaper could write a review, and I’m sure they did, but I don’t think the LFPress is reaching as many people as it once did and if you’re like me you tend to take their reviews with a grain of salt. Also have you ever noticed that when a newspaper writes a review for a concert or a movie it often feels like the person writing the review is the totally wrong person to be writing it? (To me) it often feels like someone from the completely wrong demographic is writing the article,therefore creating a completely inaccessible perspective. We all know the JLC couldn’t write the review themselves because any review of theirs would be presumed to be biased in a favourable direction.

By using Twitter to recruit reviewers the JLC is finding people who are actually interested in the acts, who aren’t presumed to have a bias and who, in my opinion, offer a more accessible voice.

This to me is a shift away from Marketing towards Public Relations which, I think, is the way Marketing is evolving thanks to Social Media.

I am personally looking forward to seeing where the JLC goes with this. I think there is a lot of potential to further position the JLC as a top-notch venue not only provincially, but nationally and beyond.

*** I made a suggestion today on Twitter that the JLC could use the materials generated from the reviews to create art within the JLC. London is a very creative place, I think it would be interesting to see images and review quotes displayed throughout the JLC. I think using those materials as art would really make the JLC feel like a community, rather than a business.***

When Social Media Marketing No Longer Works

This Blog entry will be about a social media pet peeve of mine that has to do with Facebook, “Like”ing and Events.

I am a firm believer in social media marketing. I think it has brilliant potential to reach audiences and connect people. That being said social media marketing only works as long as you are not annoying your audience.

This Blog post will look at something that the John Labatt Centre (and other venues) does in its social media marketing that bothers me. Now let me preface this by saying I love the John Labatt Centre (JLC) and applaud them for embracing social media in their marketing efforts. I have on numerous occasions purchased tickets and attended events at the John Labatt Centre.

I follow the JLC on Twitter and it’s great. I find out about events and concerts and get to offer suggestions when they ask the twittersphere who they should bring to the JLC next. So I have really have no issue with the JLC on twitter.

I “Like” the JLC on Facebook. In a number of ways I’m fine with how the JLC uses their fan page, but there is one aspect of their Facebook marketing that irks me. It’s their use of Events.

Every time that the JLC announces an event (often several at one time) they create an event page for the event and send an event invite to every person who likes their page. I’ve heard that FM96 is guilty of this too, along with other venues, groups and organizations in other locations.

I get the purpose of setting up an “Event Page” for a concert or event happening at the JLC and I don’t have a problem with that. Setting up an event allows people to RSVP and connect with other people attending the event. It allows the JLC to make announcements and updates for the event and from an evaluations standpoint the Facebook Event Page allows the JLC to do a quick analysis of the event attendance: who is attending, male, female, age group, who is interested, who isn’t interested. This information helps them to potentially streamline their other marketing efforts for that event to maximize exposure to the appropriate demographic.

My problem is that the JLC is sending out event invites for (seemingly) every single event. The JLC announces an event, or announces several events and I have little red notification flags and a scrolling list of events running down the right hand side of my Facebook Homepage. I think “Yay I have a message”, or that a friend has invited me to a party and most of the times it is just another JLC announcement that, as of late, means very little to me.

I “Like” the JLC page, so that I get all of their updates. When they announce a show through a wall post on their page, it shows up in my feed. When the JLC shares something it shows up in my feed. If it’s in my feed I can read it (and click on a link) if I want to or  simply scroll past it if I’m not interested. If it’s an event invite I have to clear the notification and RSVP to the event and it’s still in my list of events even after I RSVP “Not Attending”.

Now it’s been a while since I’ve created an event (and maybe this isn’t the case anymore), but I’m pretty sure there is a “Share” Button on the event page, so if the JLC creates an event and clicks “share” that story will then appear in the home feeds of all of the people who “Like” the JLC (providing stories haven’t been filtered by users). It simply appears in the feed, there is no notification, there is no event appearing in the event panel of my homepage, and there is no need for me to RSVP to it if I’m not interested. (If this isn’t an option, my apologies, but I still find these event invites a bit annoying.)

I have no issue with being invited to things by my friends, but being ‘blanket’ invited to absolutely everything a venue or radio station hosts annoys me. My friends are at least inviting me to things they think I will be interested in attending. An organization doing these mass invites though are inviting me because they’re trying to fill the seats and make money not because it is something I will likely be interested in. These mass invites are somewhat off-putting to me and they make my mouse wander towards the “unlike” option on a page.

The JLC hosts a lot of events throughout the year, several events each month typically. Smaller organizations that run a couple of events a year can probably get away with sending out event invites. A large venue such as the JLC that has numerous events annually (attracting diverse and differing groups),  will end up annoying its audience with these never-ending event invites.

The worst part is that it is a catch-22. I want to “Like” the JLC so that I can find out about events, see announcements and interact with other people who attend events, but I don’t want the notifications and event invites every time there is a new event. It makes me want to “Unlike” the JLC and simply rely on the twitter updates (that often get buried in my feed).

Like I said though, I love the JLC, it is a great venue that has brought in some great acts. I have great respect for their marketing department as well, they do a lot of great work, it is just this one little thing that bothers me. The JLC by no means is the only “Page” guilty of doing this, I’ve had friends complain of the same thing from their favourite radio stations or venues in their area.

Social Media is a great communications tool, but it no longer works (or isn’t as effective) if you’re annoying your audience.

What’s in a Name? #JLC

So as many have probably already read in the London Free Press the naming rights of the John Labatt Centre expire in 2012.

With the naming rights of the now John Labatt Centre set to expire in 2012, local big businesses have an open door to step up and rename one of the cities more recognizable landmarks, but is it worth it?

Since opening its doors in 2002 the John Labatt Centre has been referred to by patrons as the John Labatt Centre, the JLC or even at times jokingly as “The John”. By the time the naming rights expire next year the building will have undergone a decade of branding under the John Labatt brand.

The Labatt brand was a well established brand long before the London Arena was erected. The Labatt Brewing Company Ltd. was founded in 1847 in London Ontario and though having changed ownership (now owned by Anheuser-Busch Inbev) it is still a homegrown company that people from the London area are proud of.

So with the naming rights now up for ‘auction’, I can’t help but wonder if a name change will be beneficial for anyone besides the arena owners. After baring the extremely strong Labatt brand for the last 10 years, the first ten years for the building, re-branding could be a challenge.

1) The John Labatt Centre has only ever been the John Labatt Centre. Even if the branding is changed to something else the building will be referred to as the John Labatt Centre or JLC until the buildings target demographic ages out and is replaced by the younger generation who wasn’t aware of “The John Labatt Centre”. Or it will be referred to as the new brand with some disdain, eye rolling and a chuckle because it will always really be “The John Labatt Centre”. Further Labatt’s held the naming rights for a decade. It is possible that the ownership of the arena will only sell naming rights for a decade at a time, to allow for increased income every ten years by hopefully increasing the value of the venue. So if the naming rights can only be maintained for a decade and it takes longer than a decade for the original branding to fade from the memory of the venues patrons then the second round of branding (2012-2022) will be rendered somewhat ineffective or inconsequential at least.

2) Using a local company like Labatt’s creates a local identity for the venue. If someone like TD or Libro comes in and buys the rights, all of the sudden the JLC doesn’t quite feel like ‘our own’. Yes Labatt’s is Canada’s largest brewery, but it is uniquely London. Whereas TD and Libro, while there are branches in London are not uniquely London. It has the feeling of a big city corporation coming in and buying up a piece of our home, stealing a piece of our local identity. It makes the magical venue that houses the Knights and hosts dozens upon dozens of acts throughout the year, seem overly generic and faceless. And even an individual takes over the naming rights, like local developer Shmuel Farhi I think people might view it was a greedy individual seeking power, control and even more money.

3) I can’t help but think of the Skydome, or rather “The Rogers Centre”. The home of the Toronto Blue Jays was known as the Skydome from its opening until 2005 when the name change occurred after a change in ownership transpired. Blue Jays fans from 20 years old and up still refer to the stadium as the Skydome, begrudgingly correcting themselves to call it Rogers Centre, often with an eye roll or grimace. Fans were annoyed when the big corporation of Rogers came in and changed the identity of the beloved home of the Blue Jays. Many fans I know continuously say the stadium will always been the Skydome to them. I would assume many would feel the same about the John Labatt Centre, not wanting to betray the original identity and the memories associated with it.

4) If the naming rights of this arena go up on the auction block every 10 years or so, branding is going to lose value. People are either going to stop caring about the branding all together or they are going to grow annoyed with the branding, which either way, will be of no benefit to the person or company who owns the naming rights at the time or in the future, if it is someone besides Labatt. In turn this could affect the arena itself. People will see the arena as always looking to make a buck instead of caring about the history of the venue and the people who were there for it. It will seem like the venue is disregarding the events that helped to build the brand and reputation that defines the John Labatt Centre

Now renaming could be successful, but the company or individual who buys the naming rights will have to do something to woo the patrons into believing the value of the new brand is worth their support.

Maybe a ” *new name* Summer Bash” (like the Labatt Summer Bash in 2003) would do it, maybe not. But it is for certain merely slapping the new name on the front of the building will not change the name of the John Labatt Centre as far as patrons are concerned.