Choosing the Right Technology
There are more high-tech tools and options than ever before in the event industry. The problem for many event marketers isn’t whether or not to use them—it’s which ones to use and how. “The amount of technology out there can be extremely overwhelming,” said Kathy Sulgit, director-corporate events at Cisco, who profiled her team’s use of technology and offered EMS attendees advice on how to turn a world of complex engagement tools into a manageable set of strategies.
Cisco started producing virtual events about four years ago. Since then, it has simplified its decision-making process by breaking technology into two “buckets:” core engagement platforms that everything else works with, like virtual platforms; and white label social networks, interactive applications like widgets and “share this” buttons you license and bring into your event property.
“The first strategy as event marketers was to go where people are, like LinkedIn,” said John Barber, vp-digital strategy at Immersa Marketing, a co-presenter and Cisco technology partner. “But the audience traffic was flowing in the wrong direction, off of [Cisco’s] domain and onto major social networks. The goal is to drive social network traffic to your domain using widgets and tools and APIs.”
To manage the plethora of new tools popping up across the industry, Sulgit’s group takes each technology and methodically groups it by objective. “Look at key functionality—how can you use it to build better audience acquisition or to manage conversations in your events—then begin to look at how tools map to the different functions,” Sulgit said. “You can begin to narrow your choices as you look at where your priorities are as you build out your events.”
Next, look at your business goals. “This gives you what we call a road map for mapping in the right technology,” said Sulgit. “So, extending the conversation and life of the event, or reducing the cost per attendee.”
Sulgit said it’s also important within your own company to define what virtual means to you, be it webcasts, virtual events, gaming, social networks and/or social media. Cisco has been using games, for example, to get people used to the virtual environment. “It’s very non threatening,” Sulgit says. The brand uses scavenger hunts and challenges to tap into the audience’s sense of competition. “Even at an event without a highly technical audience, games are a great way to get them comfortable with it, then start pushing out more serious content,” she added.
Citi’s Global Event in a Box
Citi recognizes that as a global brand, brand consistency on all levels across its conferences and exhibitions is critical.
“It is necessary to have one face in the eyes of our clients,” said Andy Holtzman, director-central marketing services at Citi. “The key is to allow for flexibility to customize and regionalize our message as necessary.”
Citi recently rolled out a two-phased globalization strategy across its expansive worldwide network that it marketed internally as “Event in a Box.” First, it created a consistent, global thematic brand message and graphic package that translates globally that communicated its client-centric messages: “Citi is all about the client” and “Citi has the global capabilities.” Next, it applied that to its event architecture as a series of components for a similar look around the world.
Its roadmap for getting there followed these key steps:
· Create a strong bridge to the regions. Develop “sincere” relationships with them and listen to them.
· Find a vendor that you can call a partner.
· Respect cultural differences. Research and honor them. Be flexible in your brand messaging when necessary.
· Provide a user’s guide for the regions.
· Quantify. Find ways to show long-term thinking and savings.
Business Theater: P&G’s Dance with Dogs
Procter & Gamble’s Pet Care Unit faced two challenges faced by most trade show exhibitors: how to educate its target audience on the features and benefits of its product and how to tell a story about its product and its brand.
It found the solution in its event theme, “The Art and Science of Balance,” which refers to the balance of nutrients in its Iams veterinary formulas. But P&G went beyond those words to create an immersive experience involving the Philobolus modern dance troupe at the 2009 North American Veterinarian Conference in Orlando, FL that brought that theme to life and educated and captivated attendees. Most important, it developed an integrated marketing theme that touched its target audience—veterinarians—at pre- and post-show touch points, as well as at the show itself (GES, Las Vegas, handles).
“We wanted to do something totally different,” said Bud Most, national events manager at Procter & Gamble. “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith.”
The experience began before the show with mailers and emails to its potential audience asking what they would be looking for at the show, along with teasers about the Philobolus video, which featured a dance performance in which the dancers combined themselves behind a screen in a modernistic way to create shadows that looked like dogs. At the show, high-level signage and graphics, a team of acrobats, the dance video, digital sales aids and prizes created excitement. Post-show follow-ups included emails with an embedded survey, post card mailings and personal visits to veterinary practices.
“It was a holistic approach from beginning to end,” Most said.
Among his lessons learned from the experience:
· A trade show booth is more than just an exhibit. “We offered a memorable experience,” Most says. “We were the buzz of the event.”
· Never underestimate the power of the “wow!” factor
Reebok’s High-Flying Press Event
To get the word out about Reebok’s partnership with Cirque de Soleil and a new workout program called JUKARI Fit to Fly, the athletic brand hosted a product launch press event that immersed 80 journalists from around the world in the experience and left them feeling a little bit like they were kids again.
“We wanted to make them feel like children, so the workout didn’t feel like work at all,” said Jill DeCoste, associate manager-events, at Reebok.
DeCoste met that objective by integrating that theme—fun and fitness–seamlessly into the two-day press event, taking the attendees into consideration and making it the best experience possible.
“Think about your attendee and what will inspire them to be creative when writing about your product,” DeCoste added.
Some tips on how to execute a successful press event:
· Start the event off right, wowing attendees right from the beginning. In this case, the journalists were transported from the airport in cute pastel Volkswagens and other similar cars instead of the typical black town car.
· Give the press what they want—interviews. Make access to company executives easy. Provide technical support for computer hook-ups and translators when necessary.
· Go local when possible. It costs less and attendees appreciate the local flavor.
Yahoo!’s “WOM Bomb”
Jason Anello, ideologist-buzz marketing at Yahoo!, stumbled upon the brand’s next big marketing idea pretty much everywhere he went. Whether it was the pizza delivery guy or someone he met halfway across the world, once they knew he worked for Yahoo!, they yodeled the brand’s signature “yahoo!” Using the yodel as the foundation, Anello and his team created a consumer event that was high on personalization for the consumers who tried it and even higher on its ability to generate exponential buzz.
“We wanted to create a consumer event with a wow factor but we were also concerned with creating a relevant experience that would generate word of mouth,” Anello said.
The resulting campaign, called the Yahoo! Yodel Studio, invited consumers into a professional recording studio in Times Square to belt out their own Yahoo! yodel with the help of a live backup band and in front of celebrities like Randy Jackson, Pete Wentz and Jewel. Here, a few ways Anello and his team made the event buzz worthy… and how they dropped the “WOM Bomb:”
· Celebrities. They are always a draw for the mainstream press, but they also fuel buzz on social media networks, which can drive crowds and participation. Once Pete Wentz tweeted he’d be in Times Square, for example, droves of his teenaged fans came to the event. “You want a big crowd because it’s a great p.r. shot,” Anello said. “It drives that engine, but it also works because when you went up to yodel, that’s when you could look out to the crowd who was rooting you on. You feel like a superstar.” The crowd covered the yodelers with cell phones and cameras, fueling further word of mouth. “Those components were thought about specifically as we’re building this event,” Anello added.
· Simplicity. Yahoo!’s online yodel website, where people could watch the Times Square yodelers, submit their own yodel and share it with others via email and other social media sites, had a very simple interface and was extremely easy to use. “We built a really simple site,” Anello said. “It was super, super easy to share [their yodels] wherever they needed to share it. We made it really easy for them to do that.”
The 500 consumers who went through experience and shared it with friends on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter created a spark that fueled the next 29 days of the campaign. There were 20,000 more yodels submitted, 70 million p.r. impressions and four million video views.
Asking consumers to sing about your brand is a tall order. Why did it work? “It didn’t go against the grain because people out there really enjoyed doing it,” said Anello.
Converting Your Existing Events Into Fully Ownable, Monetized Properties
It’s no secret that publishing is suffering, so when Sports Illustrated started to question the viability of its Swimsuit edition, the company turned the 46-year-old issue into an intellectual property and built experiences around it to support it. Andrew Judelson, cmo at Sports Illustrated, discussed some of the key components to upgrading event programs to intellectual properties using the Swimsuit issue as an example.
In February leading up to the issue’s release, SI partnered with other brands, such as SoBe beverages, to run a series of weeklong online and offline events that included a coupon and sweepstakes program. When the results were in—300,000 sweepstakes entries, 100 million video views, 700,000 App downloads and 2.6 million media impressions—the team couldn’t believe that the Swimsuit edition almost got killed.
“Experiential marketing should not be viewed as soft stuff,” said Judelson. “But it’s necessary to educate people internally about the value of experiential as a support for print and online.” Once internal support is established, the objective is to better service client’s needs and consumer wants. Additional takeaways:
· Exploit cutting-edge technology (like moving to the iPad)
· Create year-long buzz via Twitter teasers, and the like
Leveraging The Power Of Influencers
Esperanza Teasdale, senior brand manager at Pepsi, broke down her influencer marketing blueprint with lessons learned on the Sierra Mist Ruby Splash and Tava beverages programs.
Teasdale’s team began by debunking influencer marketing myths with true or false questions:
· Influencers are only effective targeting certain consumer groups: False
· Influencer marketing is scalable: True
· Bloggers are influencers: Trick question, because not all bloggers are influencers
· Influencer marketing is most effective during launches: False
· It requires a big budget: False
· It is measurable: True
Teasdale also pointed out that 77 percent of brand conversations still happen face-to-face, so it’s important to recruit “authentic” local influencers in each market. For Sierra Mist, Teasdale’s strategy included picking 120 people to host “influencer gatherings” based on each individual’s passions, like baseball, music, cooking and more. The programs also offered product delivery options via a hotline or website ordering service. The team’s strategy was to activate as authentically as it could, infiltrating product into peoples lives in the most organic way possible.
“In markets where we had influencers we drove brand awareness much faster than in non-grassroots markets,” said Teasdale, adding that there are some don’ts to consider, too, when recruiting influencers:
· Don’t pay for someone to advocate for your brand.
· Don’t hire a hand raiser who wants free stuff all the time.
· Don’t select people who are repeatedly pulled from an overused database.
U.S. Air Force
Event marketers have long struggled to prove the value of their programs, often fighting for budget with their colleagues in advertising and p.r. that have more established metrics to back them up. Going high tech is an opportunity to get a bigger piece of the pie. “Technology gives event marketers the ability to compete,” said Captain Homero Martinez, chief of event marketing for the U.S. Air Force.
The Air Force’s most recent Project Supercar program pairs Air Force mechanics with Galpin Auto Sports (featured on MTV’s “Pimp My Ride”) to create two high-tech vehicles—a Ford Mustang “X-1” and Dodge Challenger “Vapor”—that show young men and women that the Air Force is much more than just flying planes. Thanks to Galpin’s participation, the campaign got “instant street cred for the target audience we’re trying to go after,” Martinez said. But even more importantly, the technological aspects of the program helped drive data collection that has helped the Air Force meet its recruitment goals early. “We knew we had to be extremely high tech to talk to these kids,” Martinez said.
The program starts in a non-traditional way—it does data collection first, before the consumer experience. Attendees register by taking a “What’s your ride?” survey, a fun interactive quiz that matches their personality with a type of car. The survey segments kids into three buckets based on their level of technical propensity and they get colored wristbands based on that information. They can swipe their wristbands at a digital rewards kiosk or send content to their phone. Recruiters can also engage with them based on their wristband color.
To help determine the best way to integrate bleeding-edge technology into events, Martinez and Kristin Krajecki, director-experiential marketing at GSD&M Idea city, which handles the program, offered these tips:
· Create a map of the experience you want to create. “Sit down and say, for every engagement on site what is the objective of that?” Krajecki suggested. “What is the behavior you’re trying to fuel at that moment?” Then, figure out how your technology can fuel that experience. “Technology is the great enabler,” she added. “Design the experience and then wire it.”
· Create a dashboard. “Once you’re wired, you have insight that is incredible and actionable,” Krajecki said. Dashboards allow you to know what’s going on at your event from your desk at your office and to share it with your upper management, which can result in more buy-in and more budget.
· Change your thinking. Technology is not an add-on. “You have to be wired to win,” she said. “It’s not something to check off the list.”
Sponsorships vs. Proprietary Properties, or Actually… How About Both?
Virgin Mobile doesn’t pick sponsoring events over creating its own properties—it does both. Carter Angus, director-events and sponsorships at Virgin Mobile dove into one of his most successful properties, a free event for 40,000 fans in Baltimore during the summer called Virgin Mobile FreeFest, as well as concert sponsorships of big names like Britney Spears and Lady Gaga. He emphasized that it’s about delivering unique experiences each time.
“Turnkey is a turnoff for us. Though we have a small budget, we do as much as we can with less,” said Angus. “And events create the most opportunity to connect with our consumers.”
Angus offsets his small budget by partnering with other brands like Toyota and LG, which add value to Virgin’s proprietary events by providing real services like shuttling or phone chargers. This strategy also helps amplify the brand message by tapping into the other brands audiences.
Sponsoring a pop artist like Britney Spears amplifies the brand message to a great degree as well. “Britney Spears happened to be the most searched celebrity online at the time, so since we weren’t doing a lot of ads at then, sponsoring her concert really amplified our message.” More than 100,000 people participated in a text-to-win contest to get to go on stage with Britney. Most recently, Virgin teamed up with Lady Gaga to help fight youth homelessness through its Re*Generation initiative, which for every $1 people donate, the singer matched it and fans who donated 13 hours of service received a free ticket to the concert.