Movie Theatre Chain’s Approach to Solving the Texting Problem is Blockbuster Marketing

We have all been there.

You’re at your local cinema, eager to see the latest blockbuster. You spend a good chunk of money on movie tickets, popcorn, snacks and drinks. The lights go down.

Suddenly the darkened auditorium is illuminated by the smartphones of patrons who think it is acceptable to text during a movie.

Despite a prominent “NO TEXTING OR TALKING” message prior to the film, some moviegoers ignore the announcement and text away. It is a huge irritant and a major problem for movie exhibitors.

Years ago, the biggest problems theatres faced were outside food being smuggled in and discouraging customers from talking during a film. Today, smart phones have unleashed a “texting virus” that is having a significant effect on the customer experience.

But there is one movie theatre chain that is taking a unique approach to addressing this problem.

Cinemark Holdings, Inc., the world’s highest-attended motion picture exhibitor, has launched a smart phone solution called CineMode, a new courtesy component located inside the Cinemark app for the iPhone and Google Android phone. It is a unique way to address texting and smart phone distractions in order to improve the customer experience.

When Cinemark customers enter a movie auditorium, the CineMode app enables the customer’s smart phone to dim and the customer is asked to set their phone to vibrate. If the customer keeps the phone in CineMode for the duration of the movie and does not text, Cinemark will send that customer a free digital reward. The rewards can be earned and redeemed for future visits.

I like a lot of things about this innovation:

  • Cinemark is clearly investing in the customer experience. While they did not disclose the costs to develop and implement this app and the rewards program, Cinemark is telling patrons that their customer experience is a priority. That’s a great message, and companies need to put that “front and center” in their marketing. It will resonate with customers.
  • Their approach is positive. Yes, Cinemark could deploy an army of ushers to patrol the theatres to find and admonish texting culprits, but the odds are slim of an usher catching a texter in the act. While theatres need to make sure their ushers are visibly involved in ensuring customers are abiding by general standards of courtesy, incenting customers to change their behavior through positive reinforcement is a great idea.
  • It strengthens their loyalty program. As marketers, we all know that it is far more expensive to attract and acquire a new customer than it is to maintain an existing customer. Reward programs can build stronger customer loyalty. Cinemark will be able to curb a behavior that detracts from the customer experience and use the rewards to create more loyal customers. That’s the equivalent of a “marketing double feature!”

James Meredith, Cinemark’s VP of Marketing and Communications, said, “Our number one priority is the comfort of our guests. It is important to develop tools that maximize and preserve the movie going experience…(and) addresses texting and cell phone issues in our auditoriums.”

I know many movie purists will say that this approach rewards (or “bribes”) the very people who create the disruptions that diminish the magic of going to the movies. I completely disagree.

We live in a smart phone world. The era of “connected commerce” will only grow as part of our consumer culture. Smart phones, tablets and other devices are not going away.

Rather than take a heavy-handed approach that could drive away offending texting customers to a competing theatre chain, Cinemark is using the same smart phone technology to help change customer behavior and reward them as well.

Companies cannot always create a great customer experience by themselves; sometimes you have to collaborate with your customers. Rewarding good behavior, delighting customers and improving loyalty is blockbuster marketing.

What are you doing to improve your company’s customer experience?

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