“Marketing is more than advertising through images … it’s about giving people what they really want,” mused Fall 2019 Voyager Chyven Gadin from the University of Oklahoma at the end of voyagers’ time in Poland. Earlier in the day, in Dr. Brennan Davis’s marketing class, students set out to do just that — discover and give consumers the experience they really want at the Shakespeare Theatre in Gdańsk, Poland.
Davis’s field class, one of the first of the Fall 2019 Voyage, focused on getting students hands-on experience with a marketing plan in order to see how the Shakespeare Theatre is creatively drawing in new international customers. The day started with a tour of the Shakespeare Theatre, which was built only five years ago and designed by Renato Rizzi, an Associate Professor at Universita luav di Venezia. Equal parts architect and philosopher, Rizzi believed that this theatre should not be built to blend in with 14th century architecture, “to mimic a different time,” but to also stand out as a showcase of a new age; a theatre that represents the present and looks forward to Poland’s future.
Like Rizzi, the voyagers believed that the marketing approach for Shakespeare Theatre should follow similar guidelines. “We don’t want this experience to blend in with the traditional Shakespeare experience, we want it to be wholly unique,” Rizzi said. “Something that people travel near and far to see. Much like the ballet in Russia or Broadway in New York.”
After touring the theatre and learning about its construction, Fall 2019 Voyagers were joined by local students from Gdańsk University to brainstorm new marketing ideas.
“The exciting news about Poland is that there’s so much room for growth because marketplaces are so young,” Dr. Davis explained. “Since Poland just left the Soviet Union in the 1990s, and just recently joined the EU, they’re a less mature marketing environment, and therefore, they’re open to different forms of advertising than we traditionally see in the U.S.”
One of the most notable parts of the day was hearing the Shakespeare Theatre marketing team describe, “what I would call guerilla marketing techniques to get people to pay attention to their theatre,” Davis said. This year, on the 400th anniversary of the bard’s passing, 400 volunteers gathered together to mourn the death of Shakespeare. Marching down the streets outside the theatre in period-style dress and makeup, howling and crying, the volunteers commiserated over Shakespeare’s death — while also shining a spotlight on the theatre’s offerings.
“It’s something you we would rarely to never see in the United States, especially on a volunteer level,” Davis finished. “Something of this size would be tremendously expensive to produce, and yet, this theatre finds ways to create these unique campaigns for next to nothing. It’s a unique approach for our students to learn from.”
After their in-person tour, and with a better perspective on the “user experience” of a visitor to the Shakespeare Theatre, voyagers returned to the ship ready to continue communicating with students from Gdańsk University throughout the semester. Their goal for the rest of the voyage? Create a new marketing plan that can generate international interest and engagement.
Learn more about field classes with Semester at Sea here.