There are few marketing challenges more difficult than connecting with “indies ” consumers who consciously avoid mainstream marketing and pledge allegiance to brands that bubble below the surface.
But the problem is: If your brand has the bucks to buy their attention it’s probably not high on the indie consumer’s list of companies to patronize. But largely because they’re always seeking the next new thing—and therefore tend to be early adopters and influential among their peers—indies remain a hot target for marketers.
Connecting with them at an event can be even more problematic. Branded keychains? Forget it. Prize wheels? Next please. Coupons? Try again.
“When we’re looking at indie consumers we have to understand what’s going to be credible for them ” says Brian Stephenson senior manager-sports and grassroots at Pepsi’s South Beach Beverage brand. “The message that you’re giving those consumers has to come from a place that’s authentic. It has to be seen as real.”
At its sponsored events SoBe offers experiences that eschew in-your-face branding for simple activities that its target consumers will enjoy. So in addition to sampling product consumers can play video games foosball and air hockey. Plus the brand sometimes brings in artists to paint images of the activities as they’re going on.
Three ways to look and feel indie:
1. Match the Mindset. Simple as it sounds perhaps the best way to attract nonconformists is by not conforming. When New Balance was creating its presence at last month’s Winter X Games the company decided that it didn’t want to use the traditional 20-by-20 foot tent the property was requiring sponsors to set up in the sponsorship village. The company negotiated with the property to use the same size space but to design its own environment which featured two ice pillars with New Balance shoes frozen inside them—a unique presence amid a sea of lookalike tents.
“The [property] wanted everyone to use identical tents but that was going against everything that we were trying to achieve ” says Bill Carter partner at Burlington VT-based Fuse Marketing which handled. “We sourced a completely different structure which we think connected with the consumer in a more relevant way.”
2. Enlist Influencers. For a recent event program promoting its Yaris compact Toyota Motor Sales USA tapped artists and crafters in 12 markets to lead do-it-yourself workshops on sewing cooking and photography.
“It absolutely was fundamental to the success of the program ” says Jennifer Savary senior planner-engagement marketing for Yaris. “Not only did those people help us with the formation of the events but they also brought their personal networks and their own social ways of accessing the community that Toyota could never get to without their help.”
3. Show You Belong. The right staff can make or break a connection with the indie crowd which will be able to tell quickly how an individual understands their lifestyle. That’s why Vans often staffs its events with in-house marketing staff who are intimately familiar with the product and who live the same lifestyle that its consumers do.
“We don’t bite off more than we can chew in terms of sponsoring lots of things because we want to be there personally to represent our company ” says Chris Overholser the company’s brand communications manager.