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Dallas Aurora 2015 event - How not to market a VIP experience

Aurora VIP Experience

A few tips when offering a VIP experience at your arts event... Provide the benefits you promise, don't discount the tickets to 1/3 of their initial value, and deliver at least acceptable customer service... The people behind Dallas Aurora 2015 failed all of these last Friday, resulting in a less than favorable experience.

First let me get one thing out of the way... the Aurora event itself was great. A large number of immersive art installations, small through bigger than life, within a large traffic free area downtown Dallas, access to exhibitions & buildings, etc.

What went wrong was the marketing of the "VIP Experience" which went completely overboard. Aurora is a free public event attracting a large crowd, so defining a VIP experience shouldn't be that challenging. Crowded events mean long lines (for everything), plastic drink cups, many volunteers who might not always have the time to be friendly and polite when managing the lines, etc. So yes, you will be able to find an audience willing to pay for a different experience at the same event - getting friendly service, avoiding lines, pleasant customer service, nicely served drinks, etc. I guess the Aurora organizers saw an opportunity, and defined their Aurora VIP experience:

  • Exclusive Access to three luxe VIP lounges, open until midnight (and one additional lounge for gold circle members)
  • Open bars featuring signature Snow Leopard cocktails
  • Free appetizers by Wolfgang Puck Catering
  • Dedicated restrooms
  • Late night party featuring COM TRUISE and a TYCHO DJ SET
  • Access to premium parking (to be reserved and paid separately)
  • And all of this for $150 per person

They started selling these VIP tickets through the regular channels, ensured there was plenty of visibility through various contents, and asked their sponsor The Dallas Morning News to widely advertise this "VIP experience".

And this is how they delivered on these promised perks...

  • Anyone trying to get to the designated parking lots got stuck in the traffic jam surrounding the event as there was no clear signage or access to these lots.
  • Instead of three lounges as advertised, there were only two - I guess they didn't sell enough tickets ?
  • Getting a drink (served in a plastic cup) in any of the lounges had an average wait-in-line time of 20 minutes. Seriously a VIP experience to stand in line to order drinks for 20 minutes and more ?
  • Instead of open until midnight (and having access to drinks and food until midnight) the bars stopped operating at 11:30 (and the food before that).
  • Asking the lounge manager to explain why we couldn't get a drink anymore at 11:40, resulted in just nothing than her repeating that there was a last call at 11:30 and now things were closed (don't even mind that nobody outside the immediate bar area was aware or heard that there was something like a non announced last call 30 minutes before closing time).
  • The $150 price per VIP ticket was first discounted to $99 (using Groupon and various discount code offers)... to then be lowered to $50 only (still with all the same benefits) the day of the event...

So dear Aurora... no more... sorry : not your finest organization. These kind of events allow you to reach a broader and different audience than the regular performances, and impress them, attract them to your future events... but showings like these don't cut it...

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