The Cubs as Case Study, Again: A Better Product Means Better Sales

Ask any honest advertising or marketing professional what the number one way to increase sales is, and the answer will always be the same: sell a better product. With the Cubs Convention in Chicago this weekend, it seems like the perfect time to review this topic.

There are other ways, to be sure. And bad marketing can hurt the sales of even the best product. But the baseline reality is, if you want to sell a product, you need the product to be something people want.

Speaking of baselines, what a great year 2015 was for the Chicago Cubs!

Readers may remember some pointed criticism after the 2014 season, when the Cubs branding efforts were trying to sell a party experience at Wrigley Field instead of a baseball experience. (That's not an exaggeration: the tagline for the ad campaign promoting Wrigley Field's 100th year as a stadium was "The Party of the Century.")

2014 was, to put it bluntly, a failure. The Cubs finished eight games under .500 and--more critically from a marketing/sales perspective--huge swaths of seats went unfilled for much of the season.

Not to put too fine a point on it, when you've got one of the most beloved names in baseball with one of the most loyal fan bases in all of sports, on a celebratory anniversary year, the stands behind home plate should never look like this:

What a relief 2015 was after all that!

The Cubs went 97-65 in the regular season and put in a strong postseason effort that saw them to the National League Championship Series. And the stands reflected the performance on the field: average game day attendance at Wrigley went from 32,742 in 2014 to 36,540 in 2015. Total yearly attendance jumped by more than 300,000 seats filled. That's a lot of ticket sales!

It's also a lot of in-park beer, food, and merchandise. And the sales didn't stop at the ballpark. Two of the top-selling MLB jerseys in 2015 came from the Cubs (Anthony Rizzo at #10 and Kris Bryant at #2, just below the Giants' Madison Bumgarner). The #FlyTheW hashtag went viral, taking sales of the Cubs' iconic "W" flags with.

At the core of all those sales: a stronger product.

Cubs fans are famously loyal. No one can question that. Chicago's wearers of the blue will always cheer on the good days and moan good-naturedly on the bad ones, year in and year out (for 108 years!). But in terms of turning that loyalty into paying customers in stadium seats? Even the Cubs need a good product.

In 2015, the franchise delivered. The strong game on the field turned into strong sales off it. As the Cubs and their fans, and season ticket holders like me, look forward to 2016 with great anticipation, their blueprint is a great one for any business to follow.

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