Guestlists, comp lists, promoters lists, vip lists, rsvp lists, mvp lists. Everyone wants to be on the list. Just going somewhere isn't enough anymore. You must be on the list. Doing a lot of local club and bar promotion over the years, I quite often find myself receiving emails and phone calls from long lost friends and acquaintances asking to be "put on the list" for some random club night or special event. No sweat off of my back, I do it happily most times. It makes me a star in the eyes of the venue for bringing more bodies to the event, and it makes my friends feel like VIPs. In the end, we all get to feel vaguely important for a minute.
So what is it about the list? Because truth be told, nine times out of ten, this "list" gets the listee nothing more than that feeling of importance. List or not, it is a safe bet that at most bars and clubs will have no issue letting you past the velvet rope and hulking bald man as long as you abide by the dress code and have money to burn. So what is it then? Is it really just the shared feeling of importance on both sides of the transaction that keeps these "lists" alive? Do people just need the extra status and social validation of coming to the doorman and uttering that one phrase that just reeks of both self-importance and self-doubt at the same time? "I'm on the list".
So let's assume that this is the case. That people just like to feel important and create some sense of exclusivity whether it exists or not. And since I am on the never ending quest to think of more ways to entice people to go to certain bars, clubs, and events...let's ratchet this thinking up a notch.
Playing on that need and that insecurity, it would be interesting to promote an event where being on the list was not only advantageous, but necessary. You would need an invitation to attend, and that invitation had to come from someone who had already been invited themselves. The idea is simple in concept, and is already being executed online to some degree - but not with the level of exclusivity I am proposing here. eVite and others have simple invite tools that allow for public and private invites to public and private events, and other sites reward you for telling friends about public events, but no one that I know of is limiting admission to events in such a manner as this.
To begin the process, there would be a small seed group of socially connected and active individuals (Maclom Gladwell calls them "Mavens" in the Tipping Point) who would be given a set of invitations and asked to distribute them carefully to other people who they feel would not only attend the event, but also invite their friends as well. These people in turn would be asked to do the same and the cycle would continue until the appropriate number of invitations spread throughout the network. Attendance at the event would be limited ONLY to those who had received an invitation from another guest, and there would be no exceptions.
The idea is not complicated, but involves a sharp change in thinking and approach versus the traditional means of marketing in the club world as well as a small leap of faith for the club owner and head promoter. Fill your club by telling people they can't go. On the surface, this this flies in the face of the normal marketing done by most nightclubs which typically involves printing mass amounts of flyers and sticking them under thousands of windshield wipers in hopes of seeing a 1% return. To put it in better perspective, think about the manner in which Google's Gmail or Orkut are/were marketed. A limited number of invites were distributed to a small group of individuals, and you could only gain access to the systems by receiving an invite from an existing member. This created instant and incredible buzz, not to mention a brief booming market on ebay for Gmail invites. People were killing each other to get into Gmail, not because it was the best email client out there, but because it was exclusive. It was the it item for tech-geek status on the web. It fostered that need for people to feel important, no matter how baseless it was.
Realistically I don't see any local bars or clubs coming to me and allowing me to try and execute this idea. Having dealt with many of them, I understand that it is hard enough to explain any level of non-traditional marketing to them, let alone telling them I have this great idea where I tell people they can't come to their club. Should I ever get the chance to give this a shot, I will post the findings...