What I Learned about the Secret Sauce of Event Marketing from the Cincinnati Music Hall Surplus Tag Sale

Last week, I joined about 300 other antique and Cincinnati Music Hall fans to check out the beautiful artifacts that were now surplus from the Music Hall Restoration. One of our great local antique shops, the Wooden Nickel, was given the role of putting these treasures into the hands of new owners who will love them.

I’d talked to the several of the Wooden Nickel people in advance, both the owners Mike and Patty, to know what a tag sale means. Prices are on the items. You go in knowing your desired item’s number so you can walk in, find it and find a cashier. We had previewed the items online and knew we wanted one of the moderately priced and mid-sized chandeliers.

Friday afternoon, I left work early to take my place in the line that was forming outside of the Wooden Nickel warehouse where the sale would be. About 9 other people were already there, making me #10. The sun was shining. It was 70 degrees, a gorgeous November day. I had two folding chairs in my trunk for the occasion so I shared one with the man in line in front of me (#9). He was a retired conductor and had taken violin lessons at Music Hall. He wanted one of the bamboo chairs that he had sat upon for those lessons. I shared my own memories of watching my daughter and son fall under the spell of magic at their first Nutcracker ballet, years ago.

The lady in front of him (#8) was there for one of the BIG chandeliers, the eight foot diameter ones. She was getting it for her mom’s house in, you guessed it, Indian Hill. The two of them talked about music and the arts.

The ladies who joined the line behind me (#11, 12) were there just to see the event. Every person in line was making a $25 donation in the form of a ticket purchase to the Music Hall Restoration. Pretty cool way to give, eh?

Cincinnati Music Hall Chandelier
Cincinnati Music Hall Chandelier the big ones

Being a work day, I did have some calls to make. The ladies behind me we kind enough to hold my place in line and I took them from my car. Talk about multi-tasking. Around 4:00 the Wooden Nickel team came out and gave everyone numbers to hold their place in line. We were then free to leave and come back at 5:30 before entering at 6:00. But many people stayed in the outdoor waiting area lined with chairs. It was a beautiful day and excitement was in the air.

My husband met me in the warehouse lot by then and we stepped over to Washington Park to have a drink at one of our favorite bars, Sundry and Vine.

At 5:30, back at the Wooden Nickel Warehouse, there were now about 300 people meandering in the parking lot and talking about their coveted items.

Most interesting of all, we had a conversation with Mike, the owner. We’ve always felt an affinity for Mr. Hoffman, the man who restored our 1870s Italianate home, though we never knew him. We were telling Mike about the chandelier we wanted and that we lived in Wyoming, Ohio. He said they had once done an auction at a brick house with a broad lawn. I said “That’s the place.” He knew Mr. Hoffman well. He shared that Mr. Hoffman had paid his way through law school by buying up stained glass windows in houses that were about to be torn down. He would sell them off but keep one from each sale for himself. After Mr. Hoffman passed away, they had helped Ms. Hoffman find new homes for the collection. It was fascinating to get a window into Mr. Hoffman’s life.

Cincinnati Music Hall Chandeliers on sale

Back in the line, we waited for the doors to open at 6:00. People told stories about events they had seen at Music Hall and also a TV show they’d watched on Music Hall ghosts. Everyone was sharing stories. The line felt like a party.  

At 6:00 the doors opened, people helped each other find their items. I cheered when one of the first dudes in line (#3) got the Rocco mirror he wanted. The items were easy to find and most everyone got what they came for.

Cincinnati Music Hall Chandeliers at Wooden Nickel Warehouse

And here’s the secret sauce of Event Marketing, we all shared an experience, a fleeting moment of time. By creating the event, publicizing it and organizing it, the Music Hall Restoration team and the Wooden Nickel fed all of our needs to celebrate the past. We briefly connected with others who felt the same, who wanted to share in a part of our city’s history. In a way the surplus sale was magic. I’ll always have a gaudy, ornate chandeliers to honor our city past and my own memories of seeing the Nutcracker with my wide eyed kids at Music Hall.

Cincinnati Music Hall Chandeliers still for sale

Some event marketing basics that were excellently executed at this event:

1.      Create the landing page and promote the event well in advance.
2.      Invest time in courting the media. On a side note, I once heard the executive team at Tom+Chee speak and they shared that they spent an entire year courting Shark Tank, which still yields huge returns every time it re-runs. So spend time on the media.
3.      Make directions clear to reduce questions. Making things easy allows people to focus on anticipating the event itself.
4.      At the event, create a way to connect with each other such as a line or an area for people to gather in advance of the opening.
5.      Have staff on hand to socialize and answer questions.

6.      Make it memorable. The team at the Wooden Nickel hung chandeliers and sconces at the entry way under a big tent. This set the scene. 


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