Loyalty Lessons From Austin City Limits

Austin City Limits (ACL) knows a thing or two about building customer loyalty.

ACL is the longest-running popular music series in American television history. Since 1974, ACL has hosted iconic performers who, in turn, have delivered memorable music experiences (and lifetime bragging rights) for their lucky audiences.

Last week I met a key Loyalty Maker: Scott Newton, ACL’s exclusive in-house photographer for over 30 years. I stood in rapt attention as Scott toured Austin Convention & Visitor Bureau guests and me through his stunning photographs of lengendary artists performing on the revered ACL stage. (The photo gallery is part of the new state-of-art ACL performance hall adjacent to the W Hotel in downtown Austin.)

From such greats as Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson and B.B. King to contemporary performers including Coldplay, John Mayer, Elvis Costello, Pearl Jam, and Nora Jones, Scott’s photographs exude the excitement and energy of these uber-talented performers.

As the tour continued and Scott shared his insights, I realized I was in the presence of a gifted Loyalty Maker whose photography made it possible for all of us to experience a magical on-stage moment from a legendary performer.

Scott describes his calling this way:

Scott Newton“To come up with an image that conveys as much as possible what the experience was like, on our stage, during the performance. All of this with one final image, rendered into two dimensions of height and breath, and unlike video without the benefit of time and moving images. And oh, most importantly, come up with a good likeness that the artist and his management would approve of.”

 

Here are a few “experience” lessons I learned from Scott:

1. Think: “decisive moments” when capturing experiences. Scott shared that, on stage, Ray Charles used the idea that he didn’t know what he looked like to get very exaggerated with his body as he danced to make the spirit moving through him visible to every one. Says Scott, “When I was out of position, I saw him briefly arch his back and stomp his foot, singing triumphantly, visually encapsulating all that he was. I waited for him to do it again. I still remember that click as if it were yesterday.”

2. See the experience “deliverers” as one organic whole. Says Scott, “When I am crafting a band-shot, I try to see all the members as one organic whole, connected by invisible strings of music. As photographer, you have to be aware of everyone, and it helps if you can feel the beat they’re moving to so you can anticipate exactly when the decisive moment will come, there’s an art to it. I try to take occasional breaks and do little dances, to get in synch, but that’s me.”

3. Break some rules. Says Scott, “John Fogerty is a ball of energy and fire. To me, it’s like his spirit is just too big for his body when he is performing. The music is amazing, and then he starts bounding up and down while belting it out. So I looked for a moment where he was literally coming out of the top of the frame and, click, there he is, pushing the edge of the envelope.”

4. Work for It. Scott shared that he often shoots 2,000 pictures to get the “one.” He sets his bar high, and diligently works to nail an extraordinary shot.

Loyalty Lesson: Creating memorable customer experiences that inspire buyers to return again and again is critical to building customer loyalty.

Look in unexpected places for Loyalty Makers. And learn from them. That’s often where the freshest, newest insights for building customer experiences reside.

 

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