Solving marketing challenges for small to mid-sized businesses

Marketing tips from the Edinburgh Fringe


My heart goes out to fledgling Edinburgh Fringe performers. With artists attracted by ‘the dream’ from all over the world, competition for the bums is intense and every marketing decision is a big one.

Reflecting on my visit this year, it’s becoming ever clearer to me, what good Fringe marketing looks like.

A great flyer/poster design

Whilst it’s hard not to worry about the amount of paper on display (some serious recycling required), there’s no doubt that a cracking poster design can help grab attention. The design needs to smack the reader in the face with the core proposition – for a stand up comic this can be as simple as a top notch, creative mug shot – suitably compelling proof points such as review stars and quotes, and the essential details of where and at what time the show takes place. Media owners tell you that repetition and opportunity to see are vital. In Edinburgh this is true and the best creative wins out. It was uncanny how we seemed to notice the same posters, wherever we happened to be in town. The poster design translates to the flyer with a reverse side providing room for a little more detail about the nature of the story that will unfold before your willing eyes.  Flimsy fliers are false economy. Better stock conveys better quality.

A draw you in demo

There are two types of demo in Edinburgh. The one acted out in front of you – usually by the more theatrical of student groups – at regular points along the Royal Mile. And the one offers a bite sized ‘morsel’ of the full menu, at one of the many ‘Best of the Fest’ style shows. Our own particular favourite of these is the Mervyn Stutter ‘Pick of the Fringe’, which is a great way to start your Fringe and help fill in a few gaps in your festival schedule. Some of the best acts we’ve ever seen and who now command our ‘customer loyalty’, were glimpsed at one of these multi-act shows, notably the wonderfully talented Irish stand up, Neil Delamare. These shows also open your eyes to acts that you would otherwise not consider. A short exchange that can morph into a full blown and highly entertaining conversation. “The Ballad of the Bloody Finger” from a few years ago, still lives long in the memory. A ‘pointer’ (very bad pun) to the value of giving your customer some of your best stuff for relatively little, in order to get the relationship underway and lay the foundations for a more profitable exchange, at a later date.

A powerful pitch

Anyone who’s ever been to the Edinburgh Fringe festival knows you can’t sit more than a few minutes at one of the many venue bars and eateries, before, in a manner of speaking, being solicited.  The quality of this pitching spans a huge spectrum! Let’s focus on the good ones:

  • They are done by the performer or performers themselves, with passion, integrity and knowledge. They are not done by hired students who just want to put the leaflet in your hand.

  • They open by establishing your needs as a potential customer. Essentially, they discover if you are open to hearing about the act – because you have time in your schedule and/or because you enjoy this kind of act. A no to either of these means the pitcher can move swiftly on, because time is money.

  • ‘You’ have been targeted because there is something about your demeanour that indicates you are ‘in the market’. You are scanning the main guide, you fit the basic demographic profile of the usual customer or your welcoming eye contact and smile indicates you are receptive to the pitch. Perhaps you and your partner are ignoring each other and look as if you need something that might bring you back together again, or at the very least, clear the air.

  • You are in the right location. You are queuing for a show in the same venue as your pitcher will perform in, or you are queuing for a show that has a similar demographic to that which they perform to. It’s simple, smart targeting.

Rocking reviews

Do the ‘professional’ critics know best? In the new world of easily accessible customer reviews, perhaps the pro reviewers are no longer the only voice in town. But their reviews are the ones that get printed out for the boards and because they are reputedly the experts, their reviews may be trusted more than most. A bad review for your act at the start of the Fringe and it’s likely to be a long month.

Raving referrals

The power of #edfringe is enormous. What shall we go and see? Well let’s see if there are any recommendations. No, I don’t know this person, but they seemed to love this show and it fits our schedule perfectly. About three clicks later and the tickets are booked.

Online is not the only referral channel. The couple that come and join you on your bench in the venue courtyard or waiting area, are only too happy to pass on their ‘hot tips’. It’s just what you do at Edinburgh. Everyone wants everyone else to have as good a time as they are having.. and that includes helping them avoid a long sixty minutes.

So there it is. Just like anything else, you need a good product to start with and then you need to shout about it. And just like in other walks of life, It’s the smart shouting, not the loud shouting that will bring the encores.





August 26, 2019


Nick Wake

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