At the IAAPA Convention in Orlando this year I was part of what we believe was the first seminar ever given at IAAPA about attracting the adult market, called Growing Your Revenue with Adults. We presented data on why the family market is on the decline and why it is more lucrative to go after the adult market at community entertainment venues compared to the family market and discussed what it takes to be a successful adult center.
This is a completely new idea for most of what is called the family entertainment center (FEC) industry. And that is exactly why it is such a new idea, as for over two decades, community entertainment venues have been labeled as FECs. So everyone assumes centers have to target families, which means adults and children.
This has created a paradigm paralysis in the industry about who the target market needs to be due to the FEC label, basically, a little bit of something for everyone. And that is exactly why so many centers are marginally successful at best.
I didn’t fully realize how incredibly powerful labels are to our thinking until over this past weekend I read Adam Alter’s book Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think. There’s an entire chapter about the subconscious, invisible, involuntary ways that labels affect the way we think, feel, and behave. Alter cites extensive research showing how immensely powerful labels are in shaping how we see the world and react to it, how labels craft the images that populate our thoughts. It’s sort of what could be called a linguistic Heisenberg principle: as soon as you label a concept, you change how people perceive it.
So the bottom line is that every industry magazine, every industry trade organization, every industry seminar program that talks about the family entertainment center industry is doing the entire industry a disservice, as the family label is perpetuating the paradigm that centers have to be designed to attract families. The family label is precluding most developers and owners from considering what is now proving to be the more successful approach of developing entertainment centers for adults. We need to change the industry name to something like entertainment centers or community entertainment venues to break the stranglehold the family label has on the industry’s development and future success.
P.S. What most people in the entertainment industry don’t understand is that when you design and operate a center for adults, you still get many families, but when you design and operate for families, you don’t get the adults.