WWE’s Stephanie McMahon recently spoke with The Wall Street Journal, where she spoke about WWE’s audience, how the company wants to listen and learn from them, and much more.
Check out some of the highlights below:
On trying emerging platforms:
The bottom line is that we want to be where our audience is. We keep an eye on up-and-coming platforms and test them. For example, my husband (Paul “Triple H” Levesque) and I have gone on Clubhouse, an audio chat app, and experimented with that. Digital and social media have always allowed brands to test and learn quickly, but especially in this COVID era, brands are feeling the permission to do that even more. You can’t be afraid to fail—try something, and if it doesn’t work, that’s okay. Now more than ever, consumers want to be a part of your brand, and social media allows them to do that very easily. If they are willing to spend their time and money—their most valuable resources—on your brand, they want to feel connected to it. Ask your consumers questions, and listen to them. Then thank them for helping you.
On how the rise of social media affected the way WWE listens to fans:
At live events, we have always known in the moment what fans care about or, perhaps more important, what they don’t care about. Cheers are good; boos are good. Silence is not so good, unless it’s a moment in which you’re trying to engender shock and awe. Digital and social media have enabled us to engage with our audience even when they’re not live in the arena and giving us that feedback. We’re able to distribute our content much more broadly, listen and respond to fans in a different way, and build on the connections we already have.
For example, audience feedback drove some of the significant changes we’ve made to our women’s division. In 2015, we had a tag-team match with female competitors—part of what was then called the Divas division—that lasted all of 30 seconds out of a three-hour show. Our fans wanted more, and they started a hashtag called #GiveDivasAChance. They were calling for more character development, better storylines, more athleticism, and longer matches, and the hashtag trended worldwide for three days. We knew how important it was for us to respond, so we announced several changes. We rebranded the Divas division as the Women’s division, unveiled a new championship belt, and announced that our women would be called Superstars, just like their male counterparts. Since that time, women have regularly headlined our pay-per-view programming, including WrestleMania, our biggest event.
On how COVID-19 affected how WWE interacts with fans:
Like many organizations, we had to turn on a dime. We had trucks on the way to Detroit for “Friday Night SmackDown,” and they literally had to turn around. After that, we transformed our WWE Performance Center, which is our training facility in Orlando, Fla., into a television studio. It’s essentially a warehouse, so it was very bare-bones in terms of production; we didn’t even pipe in audio at first. A typical WWE event is a spectacle, so it was a particularly challenging environment for our performers, who feed off the crowd’s energy.
After a few months of shows in the Performance Center, we decided to invest in our production capabilities and launched the WWE Thunderdome, a virtual event set. It allows us to bring in—virtually—nearly 1,000 fans for live productions, and they become part of the show. It’s set up in the round, like an arena, and fans appear on video boards. We mix in audio and have been able to experiment with lasers, pyrotechnics, drone cameras, and augmented reality in ways we’ve never been able to before. It was imperative for us to bring the spectacle back to WWE, and that’s what we did.
Now we are thrilled to be planning for WrestleMania and working with local partners to bring fans back into the stadium and make it as safe as possible for them.