The stellar promotion of “The Beatles’ 50th at the Bowl” was almost all for naught when it came to delivering on the advertising promise. The audience expected a performance to match the memories and excitement of The Beatles’ show at the Hollywood Bowl a half-century ago. That promise was not fully delivered.
Why the marketing didn’t deliver
The product (i.e., the show itself) fell far below expectations. Everything from the appearance of the performers to their sound was mostly off kilter.
Here’s what happened: The show started off well enough with famed music producer and announcer Bob Eubanks recalling the day 50 years ago that The Beatles prepared to play at the Bowl. He introduced Dave Hull, another popular DJ at that time, who shared inside stories such as how “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” got its name. Eubanks also read a letter from Paul McCartney, which got the audience revved up. The excitement in the crowd was clearly building. Eubanks and Hull told the audience how the original show only lasted about 30 minutes.
The first product delivered at The Beatles 50th at the Bowl was a half-hour performance. Yet, it was nothing like the original one. Instead, it seemed like a vehicle for Dave Stewart to try out new, and sometimes mediocre, singers on an unsuspecting audience. Among these singers were his own children, such as Django Stewart, who had a constant tendency to sing flat. The end result was a mish-mash of amateur singers who looked and played nothing like the Fab Four Beatles who mesmerized the audience 50 years ago. We wanted to see and hear something closer to the original look and feel of The Beatles—not the Dave Stewart’s Family Band. We’re talking here about brand perception.
Country stars sing The Beatles music?
Halfway through the night, the audience had another surprise with Billy Ray Cyrus singing “It’s a Hard Day’s Night.” With his rough growl of a singing voice, he simply wasn’t right for the part. His appearance at this event almost seemed like a half-hearted attempt for Dave Stewart to legitimize his obvious nepotism… Half the singers are my kids, but look! A real-life famous person! Maybe the show organizers should have hired a casting director. The audience obviously wanted English blokes who could look the part and sing like The Beatles. If the show organizers could not find a tribute band that could sing well enough, then maybe they should have auditioned talent from performing arts schools–chock-full of students who can sing and who are raring to find a place on the big stage.
Keeping your word is key
The product you provide is essential to your success as a marketer. In this case, the after-sales service is what made the difference. For many of the audience members, they were left feeling as if they had been had. Good fulfillment of promise attracts new business and helps develop a client base that will be loyal. Many fans who had attended this event at the Bowl appeared to be alienated. To ensure that you keep customers satisfied and coming back for more… you must keep your word. The key thing is consistency in delivering what is promised–every time. No exceptions.
Get to know the real audience
The real issue was that the show planners and performers did not truly know their target audience. They needed “a little help from their friends”— Baby Boomers, teens, and other Beatles fans. If they actually wanted to connect with their audience, they should have taken a giant step back and realized that they were not there to promote the Dave Stewart family or country singers. They were there to put on a performance that truly wowed the target audience. Instead, they were wowing themselves, and delivering some mediocre singing (from the likes of Michelle Branch – who couldn’t seem to harmonize during “Eleanor Rigby” – and a few others).
We expected better. There were a few gems–such as Allen Stone, Martina McCarthy, and even Dave Stewart’s daughter Kaya. Artists such as Liv Warfield and Vanessa Amorosi had impressive and powerful voices, yet their styles simply did not fit The Beatles. A few talented singers and guitarists (including another offspring of Dave Stewart) just couldn’t save this disorganized show.
Mis-connecting with the crowd
If you want to connect with your audience, you really need to focus on understanding who they are, how they think, and what’s truly important to them. The musicians and others who created “The Beatles’ 50th at the Bowl” concert made assumptions. Yet, they didn’t appear to bother checking in with their audience first. It seems that they were blinded by what they believed would sell best for this market. They didn’t consider what the audience at the Bowl that night really wanted. Now it will be a hard day’s night to try to win back this crowd for a future show.
Here’s what we heard around the Bowl
The show creators could have spent a lot less money if they had just started out with a tribute band that looked and felt like The Beatles. (Yes, the guitar playing was excellent in the show. If needed, they could have synced the great guitar music with the veined guitar playing by a tribute band.) They needed to find better male singers, too.
We appreciate the artistry that went into the stage design and the glorious backdrops with illustrations of The Beatles. The effort to put on a show of this magnitude is admirable—as well as the attempt to bring in some powerful performers. These efforts were over-the-top in some instances – albeit misguided – due to lack of adequate research about the target market.
The show organizers and creators will need to do a lot of repair work to regain the trust of this target audience. Otherwise, they may not be getting much or anything back in the future from this disillusioned crowd.
What went wrong with “the 5 Ps”?
Let’s run through the classic marketing basics—the 5 Ps:
Promotion – This drew a sold-out crowd. Check.
Price – The price was right. Check.
Place – The Bowl is convenient and centrally located. Check.
Profit. Yes. Check. Dave Stewart, friends and others likely made a pretty profit on this.
And finally – Presentation. No. Overall, this show did not appear to win the admiration of most audience members. The audience has lost a certain degree of trust and most importantly, loyalty to a future H-Bowl show of this ilk.
Remember, though, that the long-range picture and important piece of the marketing pie is…
Product (and perception of it). Namely, the show itself should meet the need of the customer. It must have the right features:
• Easy-to-use. Sadly, the result was generally not so easy on the ears—-lots of flat singing.
• Of visual interest. Yes, but not the right visuals. (The Beatles themselves–in film clips, in person, or as a cover Band–were noticeably missing!)
• Packaged well. No.
• Served properly. No.
Marketing really encompasses the whole package. If the product fails, then you’re selling an empty promise. This highly anticipated event was marketed as a celebration of The Beatles 50th performance at the Bowl. Essentially, what was delivered was the Dave Stewart family band—along with a patchwork of some known and other not-so-famous artists. It left many people feeling as if they had been hoodwinked. The Beatles song, “Don’t Let Me Down” probably should be have been a rousing chorus sung by this audience.