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Fan Evangelism: How to Create Unforgettable Experiences

Published on: December 5 2022 by Social Media Examiner

Fan Evangelism: How to Create Unforgettable Experiences

Fan Evangelism: How to Create Unforgettable Experiences

- And then we eliminated all of our sponsorship
in our ballpark, which makes no sense
for a sports team to do.
- Why did you do that?
- Because the name of our company
is Fans First Entertainment, and every decision
we make, is it fans first, and I don't believe
anybody comes to a ballpark to be sold to,
marketed to, or advertised to.
(exciting music) (computer keys clicking)
- Today, I'm very excited to be joined by Jesse Cole.
If you don't know who he is, he's the owner of
the Savannah Bananas baseball team
and founder of Fans First Entertainment.
His brand new book is called "Fans First: Change the Game,
Break the Rules, & Create an Unforgettable Experience,"
and his work has accumulated more than
four million followers across the social channels.
Jesse, welcome to the show.
How you doing today?
- Excited to be with you.
Big, big fan of you and everything you guys
are doing at "Social Media Examiner,"
so excited to be with you, my friend.
- I'm super excited to have you here today.
Today, Jesse and I are gonna explore
how to create unforgettable experiences.
We're gonna tok about, you know, real world experiences,
online experiences, all sorts of fascinating things
that Jesse's doing, but before we go there,
I wanna know your backstory.
How'd you get into, you know, creating experiences?
Like, just start wherever you wanna start,
tell us the whole story, 'cause I know
there's a fun and exciting story here.
- Yeah, I know.
I started as a baseball player.
Baseball was my passion and my life and that was my goal
was to play professional, and then fortunately I tore
my shoulder in college and that opportunity no,
was no longer available for me, and I went into
the front office and started learning with the team
in Gastonia, North Carolina.
There's only $268 in the bank account my first day
as general manager with three full-time employees,
and payroll was on Friday.
So I had to learn pretty quickly how to try
to create excitement and get people wanting to come
to the game and buy tikets or sponsorship,
and so 10 years there, I experimented and went from
just 200 fans a game to selling out games,
and then the biggest journey, when my wife and I
came down to Savannah, Georgia and launched
the Savannah Bananas and had the big vision
of a brand new team, and Michael, I know as you know,
we came here with this big vision to make it successful,
and within three months we've only sold like, two tikets
and by January of 2016, we'd received the phone call
that we overdrafted our account and we were outta money,
we were missing payroll, and my wife and I had to sell
our house and empty out our savings account,
and so that was just a little over six years ago, and I.
- Right, real quick, I wanna know,
how did y'all feel at that moment?
I mean, I wanna know what was going on in your head
at that moment because you're such an optimist,
but it must have challenged you at that point.
- Well, what did we get ourselves into?
You know, we went from zero debt
to over seven figures in debt.
You know, my wife and I were just married with only
a few months at that point and sleeping on an air bed,
and, but we had no options, you know.
We had bought this team and we had to figure it out,
and so we went all in and said just every day show up
and let's figure it out, and that's what we worked on.
- Well, keep telling me the rest of the story.
- Well then, you know, we had to name the team.
So we decided, we told the city,
we don't wanna be like anything else.
We don't wanna be something normal.
So we became a team named after a fruit,
and so we named ourselves the Savannah Bananas,
but we had a bigger vision, Michael.
We wanted to be, you know, could we have
a senior citizen dance team called the Banana Nanas?
You know, could we have a male
cheerleading team called the Mananas?
Could we do music videos to "Can't Stop the Peeling?"
The mascot named Split, so we came up all these ideas,
as you know, it's extending the brand and not just
being a regular baseball team, and so, yeah, we played
our first night in 2016, we somehow convinced 4,000 people
to come to see us probably fail, and we were wearing
green uniforms because we weren't quite ripe, and we played
absolutely terrible. (Michael laughing)
It was true.
We made six errors.
You know, we had all inclusive for every fan
and we failed in that.
I mean, we gave every tiket, all your food,
and people waited for three hours, but they watched
the players dance and they watched our players deliver roses
to little girls in the crowd and they watched
the entertainment experience, and after that night,
they started to tell everybody, and from that moment on,
we spent $0 on marketing, but spent everything
on the experience, and we're so fortunate.
We've sold out every single game since that moment,
and our wait list just passed over 70,000 for tikets,
and now we're traveling all over the world playing games.
So it's a wild journey, and most importantly,
my wife and I are sleeping on a real bed.
So it's really come full circle.
- Well, and I wanna go back to a little bit of your story.
Where did you find inspiration for these crazy thoughts?
Was it the 10 years working in the college front office
or was it some other place because you know,
clearly you didn't come up with a lot of these ideas
just out of the ether, right?
(Jesse chuckling)
- Yeah, I mean, I think number one,
you learn a lot by doing.
You know, that's what Herb Keller said with Southwest.
He said, he was asked,
what's your strategy for building Southwest?
He said, it's called doing things, and it's like,
yes, you learn by doing, so 10 years of doing,
but PT Barnum, Walt Disney, Jeff Bezos, WWE,
Grateful Dead, Cirque de Soleil, constant inspiration
to really think about how to do things differently,
and, you know, we realized we're not
in the baseball business,
we're in the entertainment business.
So that was the number one thing we realized,
and we went all in on the entertainment
and that was really how we were able
to differentiate ourselves.
- So what year was it the first game that you did that,
where you were wearing green?
How many years ago was that?
- 2016.
- Okay, so we're recording this in the middle of 2020.
Share a little bit about like what changed,
like bring us a little bit up to the present
because obviously you figured out how to get people there
on the first day come crick or whatever that phrase is,
right and, but you kept getting them there.
So along the way, there must have been
some interesting things that happened.
I would love to hear a little bit more about that story
and bringing us up to the present
and some of the cool, exciting news
that you've got coming with television.
Let's like, tok a little bit about that.
- Sure, very fortunate, but yeah, so when we started,
it was just, hey, let's get people in the ballpark
and try to put on a show, and then we started
just attacking, you know, all the frustration
and boring parts of baseball, and so,
you know, for many baseball is long, slow, and boring,
and for the baseball purists, I'm sorry, but I'll,
the only owner that will say that, and so we said,
you know, can we have our players do choreographed dances?
Can we have nonstop music, nonstop entertainment?
We started attacking that and after two or three years,
was doing really well, and then we eliminated
all of our sponsorship in our ballpark,
which makes no sense for a sports team to do.
- Why did you do that?
- Because the name of our company
is Fans First Entertainment, and every decision
we make, is it fans first, and I don't believe
anybody comes to a ballpark to be sold to,
marketed to, or advertised to, and so
they go against each other.
Sometimes ads, I mean, I have a four year old son
and every day he's on YouTube.
Dad, skip ads.
Dad, I don't like ads, skip the ads.
I like, literally a four year old knows he doesn't like ads.
So why are we plastering a stadium
and a ballpark experience with ads?
So long term thinking.
So all these moves made people shake their heads
and not understand, why is every tiket all inclusive?
Why are you doing this, and then the biggest move
was the test of banana ball in 2018 and long story short,
Michael, we were taking videotapes and pictures
of our grandstand every 30 minutes,
I had our ushers take this, and we were notiking
fans were leaving the ballpark after two hours,
two and a half hours completely and we said,
we can't just make the game exciting, entertaining.
We have to make the game faster.
So we started experimenting with a game with different rules
and that happened in 2018, and that was the biggest
kind of trajectory because that's really
where all the momentum has happened now,
and I can get into that wherever you want to go.
- Well, okay.
So first of all, all inclusive means what in baseball?
- Well, a lot of things in baseball.
For us, it just means.
- I mean, for you, what does that mean?
'Cause all inclusive, I don't know.
I know what it means when you go to like a resort,
but what does it mean when you come to a Savannah Bananas?
- Yeah, so we took our teams on cruises,
so we really get inspiration from the outside.
So we went to Carnival and we're like, huh.
All your food's covered, all your entertainment's covered.
Why don't we just do the same thing?
And so all your burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches,
soda, water, popcorn, dessert are all included
with no tiket fees, no convenient fees,
no parking fees and it's $20.
- Wow, okay.
That's fascinating.
Now I love the fact that you were taking 30 minute pictures
of the stadium and you were watching that, you know,
hey, we're losing people at certain key juncture points
during the game, and I would imagine in the past
you would solve that with entertainment,
but this time around you solved that with coming up
with a brand new game called banana ball.
So like, what does that mean?
Are you starting like in a brand new league
of banana ball teams or what's going on here?
(Jesse chuckling)
- Yeah, so we started testing with ourselves
and everything we do is a small bet.
You know, I believe in bets and I know you've done
so much with your company as well,
and so we tested it with our fans.
We didn't ask surveys because we'd rather watch how they act
and how they react, and so we tested it at a couple games,
exhibitions, and 98% of our fans stayed
'til the end of the game.
We're like, all right. - Wow.
- We're onto something.
Normally in baseball, it's 50 to 60%,
especially as Major League games get longer.
So we're like, all right.
So then could we test this on the road?
So we did a one city world tour.
Yes, we actually announced it as a one city world tour,
and we had one city, Mobile, Alabama.
They rolled out the yellow carpet in 2021,
and somehow we sold 7,000 tikets in 24 hours,
and again, 98% of the fans stayed to the end
and they didn't wanna leave.
So we're like, huh, we're onto something.
So then last year we did a seven city world tour
and same thing, we sold out seven stadiums,
even a Major League spring training home
where the Astros had 1,000 people for the day game,
and we sold out at 8,000 for the night game.
So like now we're onto something.
So now we're expanding to 25 cities.
We'll have two teams, similar to the Globetrotters
except every game counts, it's a real game.
We take on challengers as well,
and we travel with 120 people, our pep band,
our male cheerleading team, our break dancing coaches.
We bring everything and that's really
the future of the Bananas.
- Okay, so tok to us about how social has played
into this, social media, and also tok to us
a little bit about the TV show.
- Yeah, sure.
Social has become everything for us, and that's why
I was so fired up when you invited me to be on your show
because you know, when we realized,
clarity for us was, we make baseball fun
and I think any company, whatever you do,
what can you be the most of?
And so we are said, hmm, we're not gonna be
the best baseball team in the world,
but can we be the most fun baseball team in the world?
And so we started designing our games
with crazy hitting entrances, guys coming up to bat
with their bats on fire and playing in stilts and kilts
and all these craziness, and we said,
well, why don't we capture that and show that off?
And so our flywheel became our games.
You have the game and then you get an entire video team
to capture it all and then share it on social media,
and so this started in 2020 really heavily,
and we put a lot of emphasis on TikTok
because what we do is tiktokable.
It's very crazy dances in the middle of the game
and all this, and so all of a sudden
we started growing, growing, growing,
and we hit a million followers on TikTok
on March 13th, earlier this year, and now we're about
to hit three million a few months later,
and so we have two million more followers
than any major league baseball team, and Instagram's grown.
YouTube, we have more than every Major League Baseball team
but two, I think right now, and we haven't even
put any emphasis on, we only have 100,000 subscribers,
but it's just because the emphasis on the fun.
So everything we do is, we wanna show the fun, grow fans.
Then they wanna come see games and then
hopefully buy some Bananas merchandise,
and that really is our ecosystem for becoming fans.
- So that really is a form of marketing for you guys then,
right, because clearly people are discovering you
for the first time through the socials,
'cause they're seeing these crazy videos,
and I would imagine some people want to come
and meet these people that are performing, right,
after seeing them on TikTok and Instagram
and all this stuff, right?
- 100%, so yeah, we spend $0 on traditional marketing
and even all in our social, we don't spend
any money on the social.
It's all organic, and that's part of our system.
We learned a lot from "Saturday Night Live."
So every week we get together, we tok about OTTs,
the over the top ideas.
What are the crazy ideas we could put together,
and we write them, we test them.
We rehearse them in front of a live audience,
and then we film them and we produce them,
and it's a real system that we developed to maximize it,
and it's to work out pretty well over the last few months.
- Mention the TV show, what's coming up with that?
(Jesse chuckling)
- So why don't I mention the first,
the 100 rejections first?
You know, again, it sounds like a lot of things
are coming together and yes, they are,
but there was 100 rejections.
So we had producers come up to us in 2018 about the show
and they started doing and started sharing
and everyone's like, no, we don't wanna do these guys.
We don't wanna do these guys, and then "Sportscenter"
did a piece on us in August and it was one of
the most viral "Sportscenter" pieces they did, went nuts,
and so then we pitched them and they're like,
we've never done an episode, show like this.
You're not Major League, you're not Derek Jeter.
You're not Michael Jordan, and they said slim shot,
and then all of a sudden they kept seeing the social media,
the social media, the social media, and the buzz,
and they said, we're gonna give this a shot,
and I remember exactly where I was, I got the phone call
and they said, we're greenlighting this project.
We're sending ESPN on tour with you for the world tour
this spring, and they stayed with us for two months
and yes, we have a show coming out, premiering on ESPN2
in mid-August, and then it's gonna be, you know,
four to five episodes after that premiering on ESPN+.
So we're very excited.
- Congratulations.
Well, first of all, it's an amazing story.
I thank you for sharing it.
There are people right now who are marketers
or entrepreneurs and they may not understand
why creating experiences like what you've created
is so important to business.
Maybe they're a little skeptikal, you know.
What do you wanna say to them?
Why is creating amazing experiences so critikal
to your business and other businesses for that matter?
- Well, I think it's one of the things we all know.
It's just hard to teach and hard to test.
We all know the best form of marketing
is word of mouth marketing,
and you can create that with social.
You know, our team, we don't measure the amount of likes,
the amount of follows.
We don't measure the comments.
We measure the shares.
So when we get together every week we tok,
which video had the most shares, and then we discuss why,
and because that is theoretikally word of mouth marketing.
So if we create a great experience, something very unique,
something fun, something different, then all of a sudden
you get people that wanna share that,
and so I think a lot of companies, we should spend more time
on idea sessions, as we call 'em ideapaloozas,
on those things that they can do, not just,
hey, this is the way we've always done it.
Let's do a marketing campaign, let's try to generate sales.
Why don't we create videos to try to create fans,
and that's really kind of the driver of everything we do.
- Do you get a sense that a lot
of people are returning customers?
- Yes, we're very fortunate.
You know, again, this is something that the Grateful Dead
did better than anyone, and I know we both know
David Meerman Scott and "Marketing Lessons From
the Grateful Dead," and, you know,
they had Deadheads that followed them all around
wherever they go, and we had fans coming to, you know,
West Palm and Kansas City and Montgomery and Birmingham,
and they had signs with checkmarks of every single city
that they were accompanied to, and I was like,
you guys are crazy, and yeah, you know, for me,
that's why every night at our ballpark, we do between
five to 10 things new that we've never done before
in front of a live crowd, because we want them to come
see something they've never seen before,
and we wanna stay relevant.
That's, see and that's very important
to us is staying relevant.
- Well, and you could argue that this is what
makes Walt Disney World and Walt Disneyland unique, right?
Because they always have different things going on,
and try to get season tiket holders or whatever
to come and be part of it so.
Well, first of all, this is awesome,
and I know you've written a book all about some of the stuff
we're gonna tok about, but I would love to hear
at a high level, what is your strategy, and I
really wanna zoom in on your 5E strategy
so that people can be thinking about
how to do this for their businesses.
- Yeah, you know, again, when you start,
you never really have a strategy.
You just start and you start learning, so when we started,
we're just like, can we get anybody to buy tikets?
Can we get anybody to come to our games?
And then once you, you know, start doing things,
you can look back and see, oh, all right.
This makes sense, this makes sense.
So when we started looking back on how we are able
to develop fans in a wait list of over 70,000 for tikets
and, you know, merchandise business that's well
into the millions that is shocking to us.
I don't understand it.
It's based on a lot of the Es that we do, and the system
that we've kind of created in the book "Fans First"
is eliminate friction, entertain always,
experiment constantly, engage deeply, and empower action,
and when you look at all the decisions we make,
they all are involved in those E's, and that's how
we believe companies should stop chasing
customers and start creating fans, and that,
that fits into that whole body.
- So, let's dig into these and do a few of 'em.
First of all, entertain always, you know,
clearly seems to be one of your sweet spots,
and for people that are listening that may not have
a physical location that they go to like you do,
where they come to a stadium, right?
You know, let's tok about first of all,
what is entertain always, and then maybe we can tok
about how this could apply to businesses that are not
just in quote unquote, the entertainment business.
Do you understand where I'm going with that?
- 100%, 100%.
You know, I think what we looked at, and the definition
of entertain is to provide enjoyment.
So, you know, really and P.T. Barnum, one of my mentors,
said the noblest art is that of making others happy.
I think we're all in the entertainment business,
and I think more now than ever, people are hungry
to be entertained, and so if you can change the lens
and say, no matter what you sell, you know,
I spoke to a cybersecurity company this morning
and like, they had me, this crazy guy in a yellow tux,
speak to them about entertaining.
How can they make the experience entertaining?
So for us, you know, we develop our stages and in the book
I share seven stages of the entertainment experience,
and it's basically the customer journey.
You know, for us, it's the first impression.
So whether that's on your website, your social media,
and then the next stage is the parking lot.
So that's coming in and we have parking penguins
and a party, that's a whole nother story.
Then you come into the Plaza where we have
a whole performance, where we have the pep band
and people in banana costumes and the Banana Nanas,
and then you have the Concourse and everyone in the
Concourse in a sporting event,
they're like, you just get food.
No, we have entertainment purposely planned.
We literally have, our pep band will play in bathrooms
in the middle of the game, and people are like,
what is happening in the bathrooms?
So it's all about that.
We have the world's smallest bookstore,
which I put my book into an old closet.
So people take pictures of the world's smallest bookstores
as they walk through the Concourse.
Then you have the grandstand and the seats,
that's the next stage, and then on the field,
which is really the only stage
that Major League Baseball uses,
and then finally the last impression,
and that is a stage that is so important.
I know we probably both know Shep Hyken and you know,
the last impression leaves a lasting impression,
and I, that stayed with me from Shep for many years now,
and it's so key and a social media example,
if you want here, I can share Michael.
So at the end of the games, we have our pep band play.
We also put our arms around each other.
It's very kumbaya in a weird way, but we sing "Stand by Me,"
players, fans, cast, the band's playing.
It's a really cool, it's called our kiss of the night
as Walt Disney would say,
but I realized we were dropping the ball.
Our fans would leave the game, hopefully have
an amazing experience, and the next day
they'd carry on with their life.
We missed a last impression.
So on the world tour, I said, we're gonna do it differently.
So my wife and I, after every night, we'd write
a handwritten letter about the night, about the experience.
We would scan it into our computer.
Our marketing team would send it out the next morning.
Thank you letter from the owners of the Bananas.
So that was a starting point, that's okay,
but the next one I'm really proud of, and so this was a,
I said, what happens a week later?
What's your last, last impression,
and so I remember the song, Michael,
do you remember Barenaked Ladies' "One Week?"
Do you remember that?
♪ It's been one week ♪
Do you remember that song?
- Yeah, yeah, yeah, now that you sang it.
(Michael laughing)
- Yes, yes.
Oh, it's way back.
Like 1996, way back in the day, was an iconic song,
and my thought was like, could we send a video
about one week after experiencing, could we write something,
use our musical team and do something?
And so I send it to our, one of our interns who is now
our videographer, and he wrote a song.
♪ It's been one week since you've seen us play ♪
♪ Watch the Banana Nanas dance in a funny way ♪
And we captured all the video from that weekend,
put it into a video with specific lyrics,
and would send it out to everyone that came
to the game a week later, and then that was that.
- Hold on, I wanna pause on this for a second.
So, what I'm hearing you say is at one point you were like,
okay, we had this great entertainment experience
and everybody left the game feeling good.
Then you decided, all right, we're gonna handwrite
a unique letter every game, and we're gonna actually have it
produced and hand it to people as they left
so they could read it later and have it as a memento,
if you will, of the game, but then you realized,
well, the last impression doesn't need to be
when they leave your parking lot.
The last impression can be whenever you want it to be.
So what I'm hearing you say is that you are capturing,
and you do capture footage throughout the game,
and then your production crew, if you will,
puts together the video clips, and then
you've got the music, that's the same every one,
but you've got this unique, like for lack of better words,
slideshow, but video, right.
Is that kinda what you're doing?
- Yeah, it's oh, it's actually a fully produced video.
Yeah, our team produces it.
- I meant like a slideshow, but it's actually
more than that, obviously, 'cause but the music track
probably remains the same, but you change up the video,
every one based on what happened in the game.
- Every weekend, it's new video footage and even some of
the lyrics change based on which cast members
are involved and what shows.
It takes work, but I think the big key here,
you toked about entertain always.
You brought that up.
We are not selling fans anything.
We don't even have merchandise on that email.
We don't have anything.
It's, the goal is solely to entertain them
and provide something fun for them, and we, as we know this,
people don't wanna be sold.
People wanna buy, and so what happens is indirectly people
just say, I really wanna wear something
that represents this team.
- How, what was the response to
this video idea that you did?
- We, just like our response to invoices,
I mean, we even wrote invoices that are ridiculous.
I mean, people write, they were shocked,
they were surprised, people said, thank you,
that made my day, and we didn't have a game.
It was a week later, so we heard from a lot of,
I mean it was hundreds of views.
So we would each night, you know, we'd have 4,000 people
at our stadium, but you know, we were getting about
probably 40% to actually watch the video,
which is pretty cool.
- Now there's some people listening right now that
are saying, that seems really expensive, Jesse and Mike.
Why would I do that?
You know, what's your reaction to that?
- You're right.
It is.
You probably shouldn't do it.
No, no, the reality is it's part of our video team.
You know, there's no,
we are focused on long-term fans over short-term profits,
and sometimes you have to do the unscalable
to do the scalable and from us calling,
and we were struggling doing that.
We used to do it.
Every fan that bought a tiket,
we called them and thanked them.
Every person that bought merchandise,
we called and thanked them, but when it got
over 150,000 people, we realized that
that was very difficult to do, but that's where I believe
if you start creating fans, then they start telling everyone
about the experience and again, it's why our wait list,
when we announce we're gonna go to a new city,
that wait list jumps in the thousands right away,
and we don't have to spend any marketing on it
because the fans help sell it out.
- Okay, I wanna dig in on the first impression.
We just spent some time toking about the last impression
and why it's so important, and I do believe,
I do believe from my understanding of psychology
and marketing that it's the first and last things
that people tend to remember.
Generally, it's not the stuff in the middle.
You know, it might be a climatik experience in the middle
of the thing, but it's what their very first experience is
is what they're most excited about when they come through
that experience, and then as they leave that experience,
you know, so let's tok about like, what are some things
we can do to create a first impression experience,
practikal things maybe that anyone can do.
I know you do crazy things, but what are some,
you can tok about things you do,
but you can also tok about things anyone can do.
Let's tok about that a little bit.
- Well, so example, so no matter what you do,
you're selling something generally.
If you're a business, you're selling something.
So I think the biggest opportunity every company has
is to go over the top and celebrate when they buy from them.
So whatever it is, most people, you know, and again,
I got a little inspiration from CD Baby back in the day,
but when people buy a tiket from us, you get a video
sent to you, and every year we do a new video,
but like, the first one was like, congrats.
You just made the best decision of your day.
Right now, as your tiket order came in,
a high priority siren went off in our stadium,
and our Bananiacs rushed to the tiket laboratory
to produce your tikets, and then a Banana Nana
slowly walked in and hand selected your tikets,
and we placed them on a silk pillow.
We raised up in the air and sang,
♪ Nah Savena ♪
to celebrate the birth of a new fan,
and then we brought your tikets down to the vault
where they're underneath our stadium,
under maximum security, ready for you to go Bananas,
and people replied back like, what is going on there?
But the reality is, that's the video they get.
You set the tone.
- Right.
- Well, how about this, Michael?
This came from our tiket experience coordinator.
Again, because we have this fans first lens,
before fans come to our game we send 'em a playlist
of music to listen to to hype them up for the game.
So for us, it's "Can't Stop the Peeling,"
it's "Hollaback Girl," which has that, this is bananas,
Gwen Stefani part, and "Hey Baby,"
and so you can set the tone.
If someone buys from you or someone's about to have
a meeting with you, hey, wanna send you this playlist
to get you fired up for this meeting,
and you can have a pre playlist already done.
It's just something that's a little bit fun,
and when they buy from you, celebrate them, make it big,
make it bigger than larger than life,
because that makes people feel special,
and that's the game of the game is make people
feel like they matter, and I, that's what we try to do.
- Okay, this is a crazy question, but how do you
hire someone to help you with this kind of stuff?
'Cause there aren't like fan experience job titles
out there, you understand where I'm going with this.
- 100%, yeah.
Well, I'll tell you right now, if you put Director of WOW
and offer that as a title and say this is,
and offer a decent pay, I think a lot of people get
a lot of desire in out of doing that and making people
feel special, but we've just built it into our ecosystem.
So I learned this from Darren Ross,
the CEO of Magic Castle Hotel, and he said,
we incentivize stories over sales, and I was like, what?
He goes, we'll have a month contest or a quarter contest
with the best story for a guest and we'll give them
a trip on a cruise, and so he's getting all these stories
submitted of amazing things that they're doing
for their guests, and I think companies
always incentivize sales.
You hit this, we'll do a bonus, we'll do this bonus.
Incentivize stories, and so then you start
seeing everything with a lens.
Right now, Michael, I don't see ads anymore.
When I sold sponsorship back with our first team,
I saw every billboard, heard every radio ad.
I paid attention to it 'cause my lens was focused on it.
Now our entire team's lens is focused on,
how do we create these fans first moments?
We see it with everything because we tok about it
after every night, what were the fans first
moments of the night?
- I wanna zoom in on eliminate friction.
I think that when you said earlier,
like one of your E's is eliminate friction.
My guess is you're thinking about friction
in the customer experience.
Is that specifically what we're referring to, or?
- 100%.
- tok to me a little bit about like, how do we know
when there's friction and how do we know
when to eliminate it, because I'm sure there's reasons
why these friction points sometimes exist, you know?
So I'm sure they're put in place for security reasons
maybe in your case or other, I mean, who knows, right?
Like, there's some rationale, somewhere along the way
someone decided this was important, right,
but now it ought to be eliminated.
I'm just like you, I love eliminating friction,
but that's not easy for some people.
So how do we even figure out where the friction is
to eliminate and so on?
- Yeah, you gotta put yourself in their shoes.
I mean, yes, all those friction points that are added
is because one person abused the system.
It's like, why does it say no shoes, no shirt, no service.
Are so many people walking into gas stations
with no shoes, no shirt, like what is happening?
- I know.
- Yeah, exactly, or, you know, but it's,
think about in your life, and this is another thing.
Unfortunately, my wife and I see it everywhere.
You know, when we call our bank and it's like,
dial one for this, dial 12 for this, dial 26,
have your social security number for this.
Are you an organ donor, yes or no?
Like, what are you asking me?
Like, I just wanna speak to someone.
That's all we want.
Give you an example, go on an airline, and always
they're trying to sell that credit card going down.
Like, that is actually a friction point,
but because they sell one a trip, the CEO is like,
oh, this makes millions of dollars, but yet it actually
upsets 99% of the people they're trying to be sold
that credit card over and over again.
So we just have a lens to it.
So for instance, just look at the things that you hate
about either your business or another business
and start writing 'em down and say, how do we not do that?
So giving a point, like you buy tikets at tiketmaster.
You have your tiket fee, and then you have
your convenient fee, which is the most
inconvenient fee in the world.
So a $65 tiket is $92.27, like what are we doing?
So we eliminated it.
Now, is there a lot less money on, in the front end?
100%, but fans are happier.
A $35 shirt should be $35.
It shouldn't be $42.50, and so we eliminated
all of our shipping fees.
So again, we eliminated so much of our short term profits
to create long term fans, but you go,
you put yourself in their shoes.
Walt Disney did this better than anyone else.
He had an apartment above his fire station at Disneyland
and he used to walk the park in disguise.
He would stand in line and he said, whenever I go on a ride,
I'm always asking, what's wrong with this thing
and how can it be improved?
How often do we put ourselves in our customer's shoes
and say, what is wrong with this part of the process,
and how can it be improved?
- I love that.
Okay, experiment always.
- Experiment constantly.
I can't have too many always.
It's like entertain always,
experiment constantly. - Oh, okay.
- The second word.
- Experiment frequently, let's say.
- It's either way, go on and roll.
- But experiment, like a lot of people struggle
with experimenting because it takes a lot of energy
and a lot of effort and it means that
you gotta make room for it.
So tok to us a little bit about why experimenting
is so value and how to deal with the stuff
that doesn't work because most people,
once they do something, they don't ever undo it.
They just keep it there and they just layer it on, right.
So tok to us a little bit about experimenting.
- Yeah, we put so much weight on new experiments.
We put so much weight on these new things
that we're gonna do.
In the scheme of things, it's just small little things.
The more you do, it doesn't, I mean,
we had some terrible promotions at last night's game.
We had toddlerography.
This girl had to teach the players how to dance
and she froze up and stood there and wouldn't dance,
and 4,000 people were watching this and I'm like,
this is as bad as it gets, but then all of a sudden
next inning, we have the sing off,
and then we have, you know, our yellow promotion.
We have all these different things.
So you just get through these experiments.
So the mindset and I look at again, your input affects
your output and I've been fortunate to have so many,
so much good input from some great leaders,
and you could say what you want about him and them,
but with Amazon, they're one of the greatest innovators
of our time, and he, Jeff Bezos said, our success
is a direct function of how many experiments we do per year,
per month, per week, per day, and when we meet
with our team, we ask, what experiments
are they doing for our fans?
And so everything is based on these trial of experiments,
and so I think, you know, when you look at
Amazon Fire phone, it was a $200 million failure.
I mean, the Fire phone was a disaster, but the tiknology
in the Fire phone helped build the Amazon Alexa.
- There you go.
- Built the Echo.
- There you go.
- So it's how you look at the experiments.
So whatever, as bad as toddlerography happened last night,
we learned, always have a backup, be able to do the shift,
have this option, and we learned that we're gonna be better
the next day, and so I think it starts from the top
in actually celebrating experiments.
Can you have an award for an employee or department
who did the most experiments this month, this quarter,
and you start celebrating it and if it doesn't work,
it's okay because that leads to the other one.
So I know this is macro, but I told our Savanah,
who runs our TikTok, I go, every day we post a TikTok.
When we first started in 2020.
- Wait, is her name actually Savanah?
- Yeah, I know it's very confusing, but yes,
her name is Savanah, but we'll stay with it.
We don't call her Savanah Banana.
She's solely Savanah and it's only one N,
but that's a whole 'nother story too.
Very confusing. - Okay.
- We started TikTok in 2020, we had 26 followers,
and I said, post every day.
She goes, what are we gonna post?
I go, I don't know, but if we post every day,
we're gonna learn faster, and so
we started posting every day.
As soon we had one pop, we said, why did that pop?
And we said, because we did this.
Do another one like that, and then do another one like that,
and you know, I think one of the reasons why we've had
so much success is that we're learning faster
than anyone else because we're experimenting more
and doing more than most Major League teams will do.
- Well, and how do you judge whether it's a success or not?
That's an important question, right?
Like obviously, you know when there's a fail,
when someone freezes up on the field,
but there's gotta be a way to judge some,
maybe granular thing like this.
How do you know whether your experiments
you're doing are really working?
What's the metric you, Jesse Cole, are looking for
when you run experiments?
- I wish I had more science to it.
Michael, you're trying to make me sound smarter than I am.
- And it doesn't have to be a metric,
but you're looking for something.
What is it?
What are you looking for?
How do you know when you run an experiment
if you wanna run it again?
What's your thoughts, or maybe you have other people
looking at these things for you, but there's gotta be,
like how do you gauge if it's successful?
- So two things.
So we follow the "SNL" framework,
during "Saturday Night Live," during our games,
and so coming up with all the ideas.
Before our first game on world tour, we bring a VIP,
150 people and they get to watch rehearsals, and yes,
we do rehearsals instead of baseball practike
most of the time, it's very different.
- Oh, okay.
- So we do a full rehearsal, and while Zach,
our director of entertainment, is watching the rehearsal
on the field, how are they doing the dance?
How are they doing this hitting entrance?
How are they doing the scoring celebration?
I'm watching solely the fans reaction, and so I'm watching,
does their phone come up?
Are they laughing, are they cheering?
Are they distracted?
Are they, do they look away, and based on that, we determine
whether we are gonna roll with that and do it again.
In regards to on social media,
it's very easy because of the metrics that you see.
The biggest experiment we did this past season
was called the 322, and in the middle of the game,
on the third inning, on the second batter,
on the second pitch, three, two, two, our pitcher,
second baseman, shortstop, and center fielder
would do a choreographed dance, a TikTok dance, or a trend,
and then throw the ball in the middle of the game,
and we tested this our first game in March
and we did the drop challenge, the TikTok challenge,
so he dropped all the way down, held his arm up.
They all did it in unison, and then that night
it got 20 million views, thousands of shares.
We said, wow, disrupting the game and doing something
in the middle of the game is huge.
The next week we did a bigger dance, got 30 million views,
then 50 million views, then 80 million views
and hundreds of thousands of shares.
That test proved that we kept putting the gas on,
and that's where we went with it.
- Absolutely fascinating.
It's almost like a flash mob in the middle of a game
or something like that, right.
- People have never seen it, yeah.
We didn't know if it was gonna work.
We're like, and A, can he actually throw a strike,
and our pitchers have learned how to throw strikes
and get guys out with the middle of a dance in a game,
and you know, I think that those as a whole have got
over 250 million views just this spring.
- Fascinating, so okay.
You mentioned a couple times that you're inspired
by "Saturday Night Live" and not a lot of people know
what you know about "Saturday Night Live,"
'cause you've studied what they do, but I would love you
to share a little bit more about like where,
how you come together as a team and come up with ideas
because it sounds like you guys are super intentional
about it, and maybe a lot of people could learn
from your methodologies here because I'll be honest.
Like, you know, I've got a decent size team,
you've got a decent size team, you know,
but I think unless I'm intentional about like,
doing something to cultivate these ideas,
which it seems you do, I don't think they're ever
gonna get to me, you know, or I'm not gonna
have time to process them.
So, what is it about the way that you do what you do
that others could learn from as far as idea generation?
- I appreciate, this is tough.
You know, in the opening of the show, there's a clip
that I saw, a clip.
It's something like, we're just kids running a baseball team
and that's what makes it fun, and that's how I still feel.
We're just kids running a baseball team,
trying an experiment so I appreciate going into our ideology
of how we do things, but yeah, following "SNL" very,
to be unbelievably creative, you have to actually put
boundaries and constraints, which is crazy.
If you ask great creators, they want deadlines
because they won't just get, they need a deadline,
and yes, they'll probably stay up 'til five in the morning,
three in the morning getting it done,
but they need that deadline, and so what "SNL" did,
they set up pitch sessions on Monday where you pitch
the new host and Lorne Michaels what some of the ideas are.
Then you start writing Tuesday.
You write through the night on Tuesday, which is crazy.
Then Wednesday, you have a table read in front of everyone
and you see which ones are liked.
They narrow it down to about 40.
They start building sets, they start testing them out,
and then on Friday, and then Friday they do more rehearsals.
Saturday, they do in front of a live audience,
the VIP at eight o'clock, and then they cut three to four
to get to their final show.
That is their methodology.
- Oh wow, okay.
Seriously, I didn't know that.
So wait, what you're saying.
"Saturday Night Live" is actually edited.
You only see the best skits on Saturday.
The live audience sees everything, no?
- No, it's live.
So what they do is at eight o'clock they do, say, 15 skits.
- I see.
- And then they, three of 'em that didn't go well,
they cut those from the live show at 11:30
and they will choose the best 10, the best 12,
whatever that number is.
- Fascinating, so how did you, it's very,
I love the process, so now how did you
apply this to your company?
- So we started the same thing.
Monday morning's called our OTT meetings.
So we get together our creative team and come up
with over the top ideas.
We don't have a marketing plan, but we have
an attention plan for our team, and so it starts
with creating over the top outrageous ideas
that make baseball fun.
So this is where we come up with, we had a batter come up
to the plate and do an actual split in the batter's box.
You know, this is where we'll have a player do ballet
while he is pitching and coaching and all these ideas
of things that happen.
We come up with these, coming on in a motorcycle
and et cetera, and so we'll come up with those
and then we'll say, can we pull it off,
and we'll put it into the script.
We'll do a table read with our whole marketing team
and say, these are the crazy OTTs.
Then we'll start thinking of, how are we gonna film it?
How are we gonna capture it?
We start rehearsals Thursday.
Friday, we do the live rehearsal in front of VIP.
We choose what we're gonna do officially and do it
in the game, and I would say 50% don't work that well,
but the ones that do work that you end up seeing
usually work really well, and I think Michael,
you asked a question a little while ago,
but how do you do this, and so, if you asked
my executive rockstar and that's, I like titles,
so instead of executive assistant, executive rockstar,
to look at my schedule, I would say 40% of my time
is actually idea sessions with our team.
Heavy on Monday, I always wanna start the week
with them moving forward, and then I usually have two more
throughout the week where we get together
and it's 30 minutes to an hour dedicated on solely ideas
for our show, and I think leaders,
they think ideas is a waste of time.
I think it's the best use of time because that's
what really moves the needle in making big change
and making an impact.
- I love this because I mean, you know, as the CEO
of my company, if I'm intellectually honest,
a lot of the ideas I get by listening to podcasts
or watching documentaries, and then I come in
with these ideas and then my team gets overwhelmed
because they haven't been programmed to have flexibility to,
and I'm sure that's probably how it started with you, right?
- 100%, 100%. (Michael laughing)
- So how did, so you had to slowly rejigger everything,
right, in order to like get, or did you have to hire
special people to be able to like, do this?
- You need executors, you need executors.
Allen Fahden wrote a great book, "Innovation on Demand,"
and he set up the CARE assessment, and there's four types
of people, creators, advances, refiners, and executors,
and me and one other person on our entire staff
are thoroughbred creators.
Then you need the advancers, the refiners to say,
oh, this might not work, and then the executors
to finally make it happen.
So you find out all the people on your team,
and I knew, wow, we need some executors.
We got some good advancers, but executors
that can finish it and finalize it.
So our director of entertainment is one of
the best executors there is.
We have a creative director who, the title
is creative director, but he's really an executor,
and so in our meetings, it's me, another creator,
and an advancer and two executors, and so just the five
of us, we can actually come up with an idea and know
how to make it happen and execute it within that time,
and I think that's so key.
We come up with ideas as leaders say, hey guys,
we're gonna do this, but you don't have the right people
in the room or they don't know how to do it,
but if you're all in the room together, you figure out
how to do it together and you get to throw in the new ideas.
The refiner might can say, ooh, change this, adjust this.
Jeff Bezos is a creator-refiner.
So he actually can create and refine all together,
and then he gives it to an executor to make happen,
and so that's how we were able to do it,
and I think if you put not just yourself, Michael,
but if you have a team together to do it,
that's when the magic happens.
- You must allocate time during your two and a half hour
or however long your games are by design that this is
always gonna be something new in this gap,
or do you have somebody who's really good at kind of saying,
all right, we've done this one too much.
It's time to pull that one out.
I mean, like, because like if I put myself through
any customer experience for any product,
there's only so many touchpoints and so many opportunities
you have to be in front of that customer,
and generally speaking, if you're gonna insert
something new, you've got to stop something.
I often call it a stopping list, right,
inside of my company, but how do you,
do you engineer that into your entire agenda as far as like,
we always are gonna have like a, you know,
this slot is always going to be new.
I mean, like how do you, you understand
what I'm asking because?
- Exactly, so in our script, are we gonna have spots for new
because we already have stuff that's our hits,
the favorites? - That you know works.
Yeah, exactly.
- Yeah, and great timing, because last night
we got ambitious and we put like, four brand new promotions
in the middle of the game, and to the fans,
it was probably an A show.
To me, it was a D- show because we were doing four things
and it was, we had dogs on the field and peanut butter
and we had family fetch and just some weird games
that didn't make any sense.
We were testing too much.
We got a little cocky, I guess you could say,
on our execution, and so I walked,
after every game I walk with our director of entertainment.
We do laps around the field, usually walk another mile,
which is crazy at 11 o'clock at night, but we go through
every promotion and what we said last night said,
hey, we're gonna do tons of crazy hitting entrances,
walk up entrances, pre-game stuff.
We'll do our 10 new things, but only one main promotion
during the game on the field will be brand new.
Let's have our favorites, let's our habits.
Let's have that somewhere in the fifth inning,
fifth or sixth inning, so we can have
our hits, which rotate.
We have 300 promotions which rotate.
- Okay, what is a promotion,
'cause when you say promotion, marketers think.
- Yeah, sorry, a promotion is an on-field skit,
an on-field game, so thank you.
- Yes, yes.
- That's, it's we call it promotions,
but yeah, on-field game, and then yes,
we are gonna have, we learned last night,
do one brand new experiment we've never done
in front of live crowd on the field during a game
as a promotion skit and then keep the favorites
and the hits moving around and we learned
we went a little overboard and I think that's important.
You can't try to do everything.
You're in trouble if you try to.
- Well, and I would imagine if people haven't engineered
such a experience like you have where they have a slot
for something new, then they gotta go through the process
of figuring out what to eliminate, right.
What to not just eliminate, maybe what to just experiment
with cutting it and trying something new
and see if it works, right?
- 1,000%.
I mean, every baseball game you've probably been to
in the world, what are they playing in the seventh inning?
"Take Me Out to The Ball Game."
All right, come on, like why?
And so we've had a, we've done a second inning stretch
instead where we had a Richard Simmons impersonator
and the whole stadium stretching, which was weird,
but then this past year we said, I saw where fans sing
like at football stadium, they all sing a song,
and I said "Yellow" by Coldplay.
If everybody can sing, look at the stars,
like how they shine for you and everything was yellow,
and everyone's holding up their flashlights,
and so now the seventh inning stretch,
we eliminated "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
for something that everyone, people are like,
you gotta sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
I was like, nah, we don't really have to,
and we tested it and it's better.
So sometimes you have to eliminate something
that is such a mainstay that people are used to
to try something new because it can be become even greater.
- Jesse Cole, this has been a fascinating discussion
that we've had covering all sorts of things that I think
our audience is gonna absolutely love.
If people want to get your new book "Fans First,"
I would imagine it's everywhere you can get books,
but if they want to reach out to you and-or your team
on the socials, is there a preferred social platform,
and if they want to go to a website and check out
your Savannah Bananas, where do you wanna send them?
How do they find you all?
- Yeah, we're pretty easy to find.
I was told if you just search yellow tux, you'll find me,
'cause yes, I am in a yellow tux a lot,
and yellow tux is my thing.
So I'm easy to find.
I spend most of my time on LinkedIn.
I'm impressed by you and so many of the marketers
that are part of this channel that dominates
so many of the different platforms.
I personally just write on LinkedIn.
That's my clarity.
I write kind of what we're doing from a business sense
and the team, yeah, I mean, we're,
TikTok's our biggest platform.
Then you go Instagram and then we're kind of
going down there, but as far as our team,
we've learned that we learn more by toking about
what we're doing and teaching and trying
to grow and ask questions.
So our team is very accessible, probably to a fault,
but if you have any questions, we'd love to help.
- And then if somebody wants to catch the game,
is it theSavannahBananas.com or is there some other website?
- Yes, jump on the wait list, priority list,
and we actually have a list for cities to come to.
We're gonna be announcing probably early October
the 25 new cities will be taking banana ball to next year
and we can't wait.
It's gonna be fun.
- Jesse Cole, on behalf of all of my audience,
I just wanna say thank you so much for choosing to share
what you've learned in this book and in today's interview.
We're better because of it.
- Thank you, Michael.
Big fan, love what you guys do.