South Coast Repertory (SCR) is a professional theatre company located in Costa Mesa, CA. With funding support from The James Irvine Foundation, SCR commissioned WolfBrown to conduct a major attitudinal study of its audience with the overall goal of designing and implementing new marketing programs. The initial survey protocol was drafted following extensive input from SCR staff, and two focus group discussions were held to test and refine the questionnaire.

A random sample of 3,000 ticket buyers from the aggregate pool of all SCR ticket buyers over the previous three years was surveyed. In addition, six booster samples of different ticket buyer groups, including multiple single-ticket buyers, lapsed subscribers, Segerstrom subscribers, Argyros subscribers, and TYA subscribers, were added to ensure a representative sample of SCR ticket buyers. The survey was administered both online and via mail. Altogether, a total of 2,531 completed surveys out of 7,469 were received, representing an overall response rate of 34%.

Overall, data analysis unearthed distinct segments of SCR customers with different motivations, tastes, and engagement approaches, informing new education, engagement, fundraising and marketing initiatives. In particular, a large amount of ‘latent demand’ or ‘unfulfilled interest’ was discovered as the average SCR ticket buyer demonstrated a desire to see an additional three plays per year. By analyzing a sub-set of latent demand variables, approximately 25% of buyers were identified as having the potential to attend one more SCR play per year, and thus increasing this cohort’s frequency was determined to be an appropriate focus of future marketing activity. A cluster analysis was also performed on a sub-set of attitudinal variables relating to knowledge of theatre, relationship with SCR, breadth of involvement in the art form, risk tolerance, engagement preferences, motivations for attending, and purchase decision factors. After six different iterations, the cluster analysis produced a six segment customer model: Highly Engaged Adventurers (18%), Open-Minded Review Readers (14%), Loyal Drama Lovers (15%), Price Sensitive Initiators (18%), Curious Title Buyers (18%), and Conservative Comfort Seekers (17%).

Additionally, a factor analysis was performed on 22 different pre- and post-show engagement activities that helped identify five distinct groups: Theatre Arts, Intellectual Reflection, Critical Review, Online Engagement, and Casual Conversation. Data also revealed that a majority of ticket buyers were influenced by reading critical reviews before and after attending, which suggested a strategic need to provide audiences with objective criticism. At the same time, a smaller group of ticket buyers expressed a desire for more educational and active forms of engagement (e.g., reading plays at home and attending post-performance talk-backs). Primarily, this study clearly enabled SCR to better understand specific patron desires, and thus respond more strategically to these desires in the future.

Consultants: Alan Brown, Rebecca Ratzkin
Year Complete: 2009