How a terribly expensive accident became excellent free marketing.
I can’t imagine how Alex Mugnaioni, the lead actor playing the titular role of ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ felt when he left a priceless 129-year-old mandolin on a train during rehearsals in London.
Having worked as a Stage Manager in theatre in a past life, if an actor came into rehearsal to fess up to losing a traditional, round back, century old, tricky to source, crazily expensive musical instrument I don’t think I could have helped being pretty cross and may have had a tiny breakdown. A quick look on eBay will tell you that these bad boys retail for up to £350. Definitely not a small chunk of the props budget and probably a large percentage of the overall production budget
But this production coproduced from Neil Laidlaw, Church & State Productions, Rose Theatre Kingston and the Birmingham REP took it in their stride creating the perfect masterplan for how to use this nightmare event and use it as a marketing advantage.
At the post show talk at the Birmingham REP actor Kate Spencer explained that when this news was passed around their cast WhatsApp group she thought it was a publicity stunt. Well, it may have been an accident, but the team definitely used it to their advantage.
So exactly what did they do?
As soon as the incident came to light the company put out announcements across popular news platforms in London, a desperate and genuine appeal for its safe return. This almost immediately went viral not only locally but webpages and newspapers nationwide, across the theatre-verse and even reaching viewers and listeners at the BBC. After all there’s nothing the UK public love more than story that is so steeped in hilarious irony: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Lost on Train.
I can see what you’re thinking, technically they didn’t do much, they just let the news travel along the grapevine, but that’s not all they did! They went out guns blazing with the best marketing weapon they had available to them: Alex Mugnaioni. That’s right, who better to tell the story of how the mandolin went missing? Actors are natural born storytellers, so it made perfect sense to send him out on interviews. He was able to comically relay the unfortunate tale and spend the remainder of the time hyping up the show.
Whatever they did it seemed to have work as on 4th July 2019 ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ began a run at the Harold Pinter Theatre on the West End. And if you get the chance you should see it, it is a simple, beautiful yet incredibly powerful interpretation of the story.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say the only reason ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ have been able to transfer to the West End is because of that lost mandolin. It helps that it is a great play written by the fabulous creative writer Rona Munro. It is a collaboratively produced piece which means it is well funded and has a much wider existing fanbase to market to reaching wide across the UK. It is based on one of the bestselling love stories of all time (with a massive 1.5 million copies sold internationally at last count). I don’t think anyone hasn’t attended at least one wedding which quoted the book in a reading: ‘Love is a temporary madness…’. And finally, despite being set during the second world war, a time of death and despair it ends with an over whelming feeling of hope, something that everyone needs at this current moment in time.
As P. T. Barnum said: ‘There is no such thing as bad publicity’ which is the lesson to be learnt from this. Turn negatives into positives. Turn misdemeanours into online content. After all, a bad day is always a great story!
Have you ever turned a blip into a success story? We’d love to hear from you! Just whack it in the comments below.
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