Marketing and the Guthrie

Earlier this week I saw an article on CNN about the new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN. The article Guthrie
basically says that the new theater wants to draw people in see theatrical performances, but also to hang out drinking coffee at the cafe, eating at the fine-dining restaurant or drinking at one of the 13 bars.

The reason for this post is not to publicize the Guthrie, but rather to critique their ads in downtown Minneapolis. Today, I was in the IDS Tower. I noticed a rather large, probably 7’x10′, print ad. Rather than breaking up the ad and showing the versatility of the building, the ad shows a theatrical character and says "The Guthrie Theater" in large letters.

Maybe I am blowing this out of proportion a little, but the IDS Tower is one of the busiest in downtown Minneapolis. It attracts many business people that can afford fine-dining and expensive drinks. Also, it attracts visitors from out of town, but only during the week. These out-of-town visitors are great prospects for checking out the restaurant and bars at the Guthrie, since they are on expense accounts and want to experience the city during their stay.

The Big Deal: Marketing is in the details. Customers and prospects do notice the nuances. While ripping the Guthrie’s marketing team, I do have to compliment their efforts for gaining placement on CNN’s Travel section. This may help their cause more than one print ad in downtown Minneapolis, but I would argue that they are two different audiences.


  1. Late in commenting, Chris, but if I recall correctly, the large-scale ads in the IDS atrium are meant to be rather generic “brand marketing” type ads to give visitors an idea of the cultural organizations in the Twin Cities area, rather than being ads for specific productions or performances. I could be wrong about that. Maybe some organizations use their ad-space in more specific ways and may change their ads more often than others.
    In any case, it seems to me that the Guthrie does a pretty good job of marketing itself. For instance, the recent production of the musical “1776” played to 70,000 people during its run (or so I’ve been told). Not too shabby.
    But your post is certainly correct in one sense, in that the new Guthrie will probably want to do an even better job of marketing its “always open” (8 a.m. to Midnight) message.

  2. I have been to the Guthrie the past two weekends. The crowd was dismal on Labor Day weekend. That is to be expected to some extent. However, there was a Minnesota Gopher football game Saturday evening. After the game, I didn’t see more than a few people walk over to Cue Restaurant, which is a main entrance in the evening for those not attending a performance.
    The main point I was trying to make is that the Guthrie should focus it’s efforts on building alternatives streams of revenue and marketing the versatility of the building rather than the first-class performances. In my mind, the Guthrie has the upper hand compared to other playhouses in the Twin Cities, in terms of performances. It has a strong brand locally, a great facility and a track record of great performances that extends from the old Guthrie. However, a 285,000 square foot facility cannot survive based on revenues from performances alone.
    Rather than seeing it is a downfall of the Guthrie to have many bars and a fine dining restaurant, I see it as a strength that should be leveraged. These types of offerings allow the Guthrie to be affordable to out of town visitors.
    The Guthrie should have ongoing public relations and marketing efforts to gain attention from people both locally and among those out from out of the area.
    Craig Rentmeester


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