Have you ever been tempted by a credit card company giving away free blankets or t-shirts at a football game in exchange for a credit card application? Have you been approached by a skimpily-dressed young woman offering samples of fruity alcohol at a local bar? Have you been lucky enough to find yourself suddenly surrounded by a flash mob put on by the local theater company in a crowded mall? Each of these unique experiences offers a glimpse at what twenty-first century event marketing can be.
Event marketing strategies leave a lasting, brand-focused impression of fun by grabbing the attention of a group of people who are gathered together. If executed successfully, event marketing will provide each of them with an experience that will resonate in their minds.
Event marketing is entering a guerrilla era where the physical and the virtual cross paths, offering new options for marketing professionals who create buzz over a service or product.
What is Event Marketing?
Event marketing is a promotional strategy that involves face-to-face contact between companies and their customers at special events like concerts, fairs, and sporting events. Brands use event marketing entertainment (like shows, contests, or parties) to reach consumers through direct hand-to-hand sampling or interactive displays. The practice works because it engages consumers while they’re in a willing, participatory position.
According to a 2012 study by the Event Marketing Institute:
- 58% of event marketing participants purchased the marketed product after the event
- 86% of these consumers became regular customers
A successful event marketing campaign provides value to attendees beyond information about a product or service. A discount, free sample, charity alignment, or fun event will make customers feel like they are receiving a benefit and not just attending a live-action commercial.
In contrast to traditional advertising, which blasts millions of consumers with the same general television, radio or billboard message, event marketing targets specific individuals or groups at gathering spots, in hopes of making quality individual impressions.
The key to pulling off an effective event marketing campaign is to identify the target audience correctly and create an experience that remains in participants’ memories. By finding an opportunity to interact with the right demographic of people – both current customers and prospective buyers – a brand can build favorable impressions and long-lasting relationships. The best, most creative events create interactions that not only reflect positively on the brand at the time, but generate a buzz long after the event is over.
Who uses Event Marketing?
As long as a business is able to track and identify their target audience, they can find a way to appeal directly to them. For example, if a company sells sporting products, they can market at a sporting event. If they sell technology products, they can offer demonstrations of the latest and greatest technologies at a convention event.
In fact, any company that provides a product can give out samples, as long as it isn’t illegal. Even companies whose products aren’t able to be handed out as samples (like pharmaceutical companies or doctors’ offices) can provide interactive experiences to consumers. For example, a company that manufactures a medication for high blood pressure could set up a machine that takes blood pressure readings next to a booth supplying literature on their drug.
Event marketing shouldn’t take the place of traditional or community marketing, but should be a supplemental tactic to both. If a brand’s national commercials feature a well-known mascot, for example, that mascot could make an appearance at an event and pose for photos with attendees.
How is Event Marketing developed and deployed?
Event marketing is unique because each event must be approached differently – in this respect, a marketing team doesn’t necessarily need an overarching “plan” for their various events. Instead, it is important to base each individual event marketing tactic upon the brand’s overall marketing plan and how it fits into the personality of the event. By approaching each event as a separate chance to make an impression, a brand can tailor their efforts to best impact each audience.
- Host competitions or contests
- Sponsor and/or participate in meet-ups or user groups
- Host an unaffiliated pre-party or after-party for an industry event
- Host a party or networking event during a competitor conference
- Volunteer as an industry speaker
Still, teams must consider three aspects when developing an event marketing plan. First, the company should consider the personality that their brand is trying to convey. A brand like Coca-Cola, who has historically tried to place their product as a harbinger of global peace, happiness, and simple pleasure, made an excellent choice by installing vending machines that dispensed “happiness” along with soft drinks.
Second, company must keep their target audiences in mind. In recent years, grassroots efforts by men’s heath coalitions have popularized “Movember,” a November-long moustache-growing contest to raise awareness of prostate cancer and other cancers affecting men. This initiative would never have taken hold if not for the ironic popularity of moustaches among young men, the audience who could most benefit from men’s cancer awareness.
Third, companies need to consider what lasting impression they wish to leave on their audience. Many people remember the 2005 Sony campaign where the company dropped – and filmed – 250,000 bouncy balls on the streets of San Francisco in order to advertise the color display their new Bravia LCD television was capable of.
Brands can impress event crowds through a variety of creative tactics, not just sheer visual appeal. For example, one tactic that brands use is to create an event within an event. The idea is to create a compelling reason for patrons to stop and explore your brand, not just another booth for them to walk past. At the Sundance film festival, Ray Ban sunglasses put on a truth-or-dare themed campaign, which was fun for participants and also translated into social media shares after the event was over.
Event marketing can also be much more subtle – many companies use QR codes on their posters and branding materials that work to integrate physical and virtual branding. These QR codes can lead users to mobile sites offering discounts and special offers on physical products. Additionally, some companies offer exclusive event benefit coupons to those who ‘like’ them on Facebook.
Who are the Key People for Event Marketing?
An event marketing campaign should be led by a marketing manager with a thorough understanding of the brand, allowing the manager to tailor each event to the audience while still keeping the brand’s identity and mission intact. Typically, marketing managers oversee all activities within a company’s marketing, advertising, and promotional department – not just an event marketing idea. They establish brand guidelines and growth strategies, evaluate customer needs, and then develop creative event marketing ideas based on these goals.
A tour manager is in charge of an event marketing campaign while it is on the road. Even the best-laid plans at a company’s home office can sometimes begin to fall apart when shipping requests, staffing arrangements, and inclement weather threaten to derail them. A quick-thinking tour manager is able to keep event marketing plans on track no matter what the conditions, and is responsible for the success of branding at the event.
An event coordinator is the behind-the-scenes insurance that a marketing event runs smoothly. He or she is responsible for getting the booth, supplies and travel set up, along with procuring any incidentals or collateral that accompanies the campaign. While an event coordinator is usually an entry level position, it is also extremely important to the success of an event, since young people in this position usually have a sense of what tactics will be most successful.