Frederick Olmstead was a brilliant landscape architect responsible for such masterpieces as Central Park in NYC and the grounds at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (aka The Chicago World’s Fair). Here are his thoughts on drawing more attendees to the Word’s Fair in June of 1893:
“This is the advertising now most important to be developed; that of high-strung, contagious enthusiasm, growing from actual excellence: the question being not whether people shall be satisfied, but how much they shall be carried away with admiration, and infect others by their unexpected enjoyment of what they found.”
-Frederick Law Olmstead, 1893
What Olmstead had done first was LISTEN. According to Erik Larson’s The Devil In The White City, after completing his contributions the fair’s grounds and landscaping, Olmstead was busy working on other projects in New York, North Carolina, and Texas. Across the land, people told him of their apprehension about traveling to Chicago due to the recent downturn in the economy, high cost of travel, and the even higher cost of restaurant meals in Chicago (sound familiar?).
This lead Olmstead to tell his colleagues that the way to turn these attitudes around was via the sharing of fair experiences in Chicago by attendees’ with the folks back home. They focused on improvements “most likely to increase the gleam” in the stories people took home.
Did it work? Yes! After the first few months of disappointing attendance, the second half of the fair season saw record-breaking crowds. Word of mouth had indeed spread from awestruck attendees about the must-see wonders introduced in Chicago such as Tesla’s electricity, moving pictures, neon lights, the massive Ferris Wheel, hamburgers, and Scott Joplin’s music.