Are Passes Effective?
by Ben Clissold
Nightclub passes are found everywhere. Shopping centres, uni social offices, mailouts, clubs exits, and anywhere else a promoter can find an empty space. They usually bring a worthwhile discount or drink to the user, but do they really do anything for the club?
In my years of experience every club seems to do it, without even giving it a thought. They beleive it works because people bring about three percent of them back through the door, but is that the case? The answer is that yes is it works, but how well depends on many things. In some cases, it would be cheaper and more effective to use other avenues.
Two things make people take nightclub passes. If a club runs a really good night, the passes for that night will go because people are hunting the passes down for a discount. If a pass is really well done, it will encourage new people into the club, which should be the goal.
So what makes a good pass? It all comes down to the overall marketing program, and what the pass communicates to people. Something really creative looks great, and people will take it for novelty value, but it will only get them to the club if it communicates an image that they want to be. A classic example of this is the old Chevron night Play. It had the most amazing series of passes, like the one left and right. It communicated fun, and colour, so you had a pretty good fun crowd, yet it failed. I suspect, because the pass was not serious enough.
You see, only a handful of people go to clubs for fun. Most go to meet people. Good passes tend to concentrate on attractive people or a feeling that people would like to have. If you want to get technical, it is a high (social) risk product, high involvement product, so communications need to present a transformation. It must say, this is your type of crowd, or your type of night.
After deciding the appeal for the pass, you must make sure that the feeling is attainable in the club. There is no point in trying to convince people that a club in Dandenong is as classy as one in Albert Park, because they just won’t believe it. Over time you may build that image, but not in one hit.
A lot of clubs now just take the conservative option. They just have a flat card with the club logo on it. This is incredibly boring, and does not really pull a crowd, but at the same time, it does not lose a crowd either. People will go to a club they know nothing about, but will not go to a club that tells them something they don’t like. With this situation where you put the cards becomes relevant.
If you put a card that presents an image in a place where people who want that image go, it will perform well. Put it where the wrong people go, no-one will touch it. The other problem I have encountered, is the collectability of cards. Being a promoter during a card collecting craze is a nightmare. At one stage I was moving thousands of cards, and getting less than one percent back. So I asked the shopkeepers what was going on. They said that our passes were the hottest property in the playground. Every kid was asking for them - DOH!
There are a lot of other theories out there. If you put out enough cards, people will eventually collect one, and curiousity will eventually kill the cat, so they will show up is a popular one. I tend to like it, because it puts the name of the club in people’s minds. If they see the name often enough, they will come to know it. If they liked the club on a previous visit, a reminder may bring them back.
This plan definitely works. One club claimed their cards were doing nothing, so I started experimenting. I had a two week holiday, and the passes had the same return rate, but the crowd dropped. The week I started again, the crowd returned, but the passes were stagnant. The club claimed coincidence, so I did it again. A week with no passes, the crowd dropped. Another week of passes the crowd returned, but there was still no variation in pass returns.
The club acknowledged that the passes did work because they reminded people that the club was there. It also strengthened my resolve to never work on commision because I had more impact than the passes reflected.