My mom is a HUGE Judge Judy fan and I will admit it, so am I. However, we are fans for different reasons. My mom likes seeing someone her height take control of a situation. While I admire what the 5′ 1″ judge has done in creating a powerful global brand through the concept of audience compounding.
In fact, I admire her so much that I have created the Judge Judy Principle in regard to how venues can craft a loyal customer following. It works like this.
People are creatures of habit. Our brains have to process so much data each day, that the organ is constantly looking for things it can place on autopilot. This is where habits kick in. We habitually take the same route to work. We instinctively pick-up the same toothpaste without considering dozens of other brands. And for many of us, like Pavlov’s dog, we instantly check our messages when we hear that “ding” from our phones. This is a core part of consumer behavior and many of the top brands seek to utilize it to get their products and services into our auto-consumption routines.
Basically, brands need two things to break into our habits. One, they must always be where we would expect them to be and two, they need to give us the same quality product every time. Judge Judy has been doing this since 1996 and is reaping the rewards.
She has been on the air for 23 seasons and has remained in the same afternoon slot (roughly 3 pm – 5 pm) for that entire time. This is key to habit-forming because her fans know where they can get their Judy fix anywhere in the country with little effort. Second, her product is always the same. Her intro music and logo don’t change. She wears the same robe. The program is always filmed in the same courtroom – they never go anywhere special. Her bailiff, Byrd, always announces her and the case before jumping into a crossword puzzle. This is the second key to her success – she gives her audience the same quality product at each interaction. This prevents people from becoming confused and continually reinforces their positive stimuli response, which strengthens their tie to the habit and feeds the viewership cycle. It also explains why Judge Judy has a fan base of 10 million-plus every weekday and has been the number one syndicated daytime show since 1998. So, how does this apply to the booking of entertainment venues?
Judge Judy’s success is a testament to the importance of establishing a long-term booking strategy and sticking with it. Before the internet, iPhones, social media and streaming, entertainment consumers had fewer options so the onus was on them to seek out their choice of leisure. Technology has shifted this behavior. Consumers now have access to countless opportunities with little cost of engagement such as streaming music on Spotify, viewing videos on TikTok, or binging a whole TV season on Netflix.
Talent buyers and venue bookers must consider consistency in their programming as a way to counteract this challenge. Since the consumer’s cost to see live entertainment is more than, say, streaming Hulu at home, they are in a vulnerable position. And if you operate in a highly competitive live market these “on the fence” consumers have a multitude of options at their disposal as well. This means that anything you do that confuses them could become detrimental to your operations.
This doesn’t mean you need to book the same act each night, but your calendar should be consistent in one way or another. You can hold tight to theme nights such as Latin on Sundays, Karaoke on Wednesdays, and Pop on Fridays. Or you can book one style of entertainment such as an open format DJ regularly. The key is sticking with your decision once your A/B booking testing is complete (more on that later). This will mitigate the fan’s choice apprehension.
It will also fuel an audience compounding strategy that works like this. A customer arrives and digs your vibe, so they come back. If you are consistent and reinforce their stimuli response, they will stay along with the next patron who visits, likes what they see, and decides to come back a second time as well. Over time you will build a core group of promoters for the brand. This will lead to an adoption tipping point that is regularly hit, which will speed the time it takes to fill the venue.
However, if you change your entertainment too often you risk confusing and alienating the customers you have gained. In essence, you will start the whole process over and it will take longer for you to pack the house. Think of it like your 401(k). You put in money consistently every month. Later, you reap rewards with very little effort on your part. However, if you pull money out early it takes longer for those checks to cash. This is why Judge Judy is so successful. She has a solid brand that has delivered a similar quality product consistently for 23 seasons and has reaped the benefits of audience compounding in the process.
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