5 Things I learned from King Tut.
I fell prey to the ton of marketing being done for King Tut in Times Square last week, and headed on down to 43rd Street to check out what treasures the exhibitors had in store for me.
Although it may not seem like it, exhibits like King Tut are forms of live entertainment, shrouded in education. These are multi-million dollar productions with big capitalizations, operating costs, and marketing challenges. In other words, they have to be produced.
So, as I explored the life of King Tut, I also tried to find some gold coins of wisdom that I could apply to what we do.
Here are 5 things I learned from King Tut:
1. It’s not the size of your pyramid. It’s how you use it.
The priceless treasures of the Tut exhibit are currently sitting in . . . a basement. The producers of the exhibit found a non-traditional venue, and with some smart designers, turned it into a theater fit for a king. If you can’t find the perfect space for your show, make it.
2. You can’t touch the mummy. But you can wear his t-shirt.
Man, are these guys good at merch. They get your photo taken on the way in and show it to you on the way out (I almost bought mine . . . they photoshopped pyramids behind me, for Pharaoh’s sake!). Just like the theme parks! And you can’t get out of the building without walking through their super-sized shop of Tut toys and trinkets. Merch is a science, not a hobby. It can help pay for your play. (Remind me to tell you about the time a Company Manager friend of mine paid his load-out crew on a flop with cash from the merch till. When the cash ran out, the crew ran out. Oh, wait, I guess I just told you about it. You don’t have to remind me anymore.)
3. Got your ticket? Good, now, it’s just a couple more bucks for this.
During the check-out process, I got pitched a $5 add-on movie called Mummies. And it was in 3D! Just like Avatar! What’s another $5, I thought, since I already dropped $40, and for something that sounded so cool! In reality, it wasn’t that cool, but what did I know until I got there. And, at only $5, there wasn’t much remorse. Once you’ve got a customer on the hook, getting them to pay for just a little bit more isn’t too difficult, if you ask. Tacking on an extra isn’t tacky, especially when it makes the entire experience better.
4. Egyptians can wear funny hats too.
This is a monumental exhibit. It’s educational. It’s important. And it also knows not to take itself too seriously, evident by the King Tut street team that’s been flyering Times Square wearing King Tut headdresses. You can’t help but smile when you see one, and that’s not a bad thought to have when considering an entertainment option. On top of that, the Tut mask is so well branded that the flyer guy can make the impression on the passerby even without handing them a flyer. This street team strategy reminded me of the Princess Leia/Carrie Fisher team that brilliantly wore those bun-wigs while they were on the street promoting Wishful Drinking. The best street teams think every day is Halloween.
5. King Tut was a teen, and no one cared.
I get a lot of young folks emailing me saying that they are too young to produce, that they could never get a show up at their age. Well, King Tut was 9 when he was crowned and 19 when he died. In that time, he changed the entire Egyptian God structure (which had been set by his father), restored diplomatic relations with neighboring peoples, and married his half-sister. Ok, ok, so he was born into some money. I’m not saying you have to produce a pyramid, but age hasn’t nothing to do with what you do, unless you let it.
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.