"I Like Theatre" Pledge is a New Kind of Loyalty Card
James Yarker, creator of the scheme, said in a recent report for the Guardian: "A friend - and former company board member - once said that she had never initiated a trip to the theatre but enjoyed going and would unfailingly attend if someone invited her along. I've been in groups of friends emerging from theatre shows who enthuse, 'That was great, we should do this again', and never reconvene. It seems to me there are lots of people who like theatre but are not going as often as they would wish."
The "I Like Theatre" card has been designed to galvanise theatre enthusiasts into making more of an effort to meet up with friends and go to performances together. Unlike more immediate forms of entertainment such as cinema, theatre often requires a little more planning and coordination to get a group of like-minded people together in order to catch a show. The card is a physical reminder to consciously jog people's memory of how much they enjoy the theatre and to get them to organise future trips.
The card's tick list of pledges that the owner makes to themselves is as follows: throughout the course of 2012 they will:
- Attend three or six shows across two venues (one they have never been to before)
- To invite two friends along with them
- To provide one piece of feedback to the venue or company
- To get an actor in a show they've seen to sign the card
Where the scheme differs from traditional loyalty cards is that there isn't a discount to be had or some other form of financial reward for using it. The rewards are the cultural and entertaining experiences, which the card encourages users to organise.
Yarker said: "At a time when a prevalence of discount vouchers makes us look askance at paying full price at a chain restaurant, we are keen that theatre should be confident in its value. This principled stance is bolstered by implausible logistics of orchestrating any kind of discount/rewards scheme with partners across the region."
While "I Like Theatre" cards currently offer no discounts or reduced rates, the experiment has produced compelling results that may well encourage theatre companies to buy into such a scheme in the future with blank cards of their own that allow their owners to keep track of their theatre visits. With two printing runs of 12,000 each time, the distribution of the cards (and the idea) has spread across the West Midlands as well as online with social media awareness efforts. Yarker admits that success is difficult to measure but that does not lessen the concept's potential.
"I Like Theatre is a personal promise that audiences make to themselves so tracking its success is difficult…The key is the card, which people take home and pin up in the kitchen, place on a mantlepiece or window sill, put in their wallets or handbags. It is a nagging little reminder for people to do more of what they like. Empirical evidence is that cards are still being picked up and taken away. Anecdotal evidence is of people rising to the challenge and ticking off their progress towards a year of theatre."
Should theatre companies take note of the project's success, we may well see it reincarnated in a form that more closely resembles more traditional loyalty cards, similar to the plastic printing offerings from supermarkets and high street stores, tangible rewards and all.