Marketing and technology fuse together in new spin on pub entertainment

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Related tags: Yates group, Marketing

Flat hats and pints of Boddies are still visible in Bolton's Wine Lodge, but up the road at Yates Group's swish headquarters they are working on...

Flat hats and pints of Boddies are still visible in Bolton's Wine Lodge, but up the road at Yates Group's swish headquarters they are working on something totally trendy.

Over the last few months the operator has adopted a totally new approach to entertainment in its pubs which has resulted in a strategy that fuses marketing and technology.

From the point of view of customers in 60 of the chain's metropolitan outlets, it will mean big screen entertainment and the chance to participate in a Yates's community made possible by internet technology.

According to strategic marketing manager Rob Thompson, the group has turned upside down the way pubs see technology, looking at it from the customer's point of view.

"Pub companies see the need of technology, but they don't see the marketing angle, they don't consider the experience of the end consumer," he said. "So we created a new department that brings together technology and marketing and have spent the last six months looking at everything again."

The result is an audio-visual upgrade of those key 60 venues, introducing Satvision's state-of-the-art Vision 2000 plasma screens and high-tech links with sound and lighting systems.

As important as the hardware, however, is the content it will carry. For Thompson, many young people's pubs fail to fully capitalise on what he calls "the emotional values", meaning the whole mysterious sexual arena that draws boys and girls out drinking on a Friday and Saturday night.

Launching in April, the entertainment concept is branded 18:84, the date that Yates's was founded an a hint at the group's breadth of customer base - though this is more about the 18s than the 84s and the logo has a techie feel.

"Forget video," said Thompson. "This is not Yates TV - that has all the wrong connotations. This is a lifestyle product that tries to develop a relationship with customers, it's not just TV."

While 18:84 sells advertising space through Translucis, the programming is all its own.

Customers will see the emphasis change through the day with a bias towards news in the morning to a hard entertainment content at night.

There are five themes:

  • Life; covering fashion - hosted by style guru Wayne Hemingway - travel, body, home, gadgets and shopping

World; including news, weather, chat, debates and serious community issues

Fun; with film clips, game and video previews and music

Play; bringing together competitions and comedy snippets

Menu, advertising the Yates offer.Each section has its own distinctive colours and graphics to influence the mood, and what appears on the screens will find a link to the Yates web site where customers can continue the pub experience.

"With many pubco websites there is no real reason for customers to go back to them," said Thompson. "That is because they have all fallen into the same trap. They have not asked the question, where is the benefit to the consumer? So we are adding value with elements such as music streaming."

The 18:84 network will also be extended into the music played in Yates's pubs creating a clubbier, community feel.

"We will move away from a corporate sound to music which fits in with the lifestyle of our customers," explain sound and light man Les Farmer. We will play what they want to hear."

The comedy element will be taken into the toilets where people can listen to jokes and bits of sketches from the Laughing Stock company while carrying out the necessary functions.

Lighting, too, will be connected up to whatever's on screen with the possibility of turning the whole pub a single colour to advertise a brand like, say, Red.

The cost of all this will vary from Lodge to Lodge. In many of the pubs it is simply a case of joining up the systems that are already there, in the refurbishment of the new Leicester Square outlet, light and sound systems cost £67,000 out of a total of £250,000 for the scheme.

18:84 is parter of a wider rethink for the Yates brand that followed the group's millennium experience.

"The Victorian pub feel we had preserved until then suddenly felt a lifetime away," said Thompson. "The look, the tradition just wasn't relevant any more. The new technology we are bringing in can itself give us a new USP, built around a competitive marketing strategy that attracts people by giving them things they are interested in.

"We don't really have an understanding of the power of the market we have in those 18 to 24s we have in our pubs. This is a fashion industry - but we don't always act like it is."

Related topics: Entertainment

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