Event Marketer was in New Orleans where the weather was hot but the sponsor activations were totally cool at Essence Festival, a celebration of African-American culture that took place July 2-5. The Essence magazine extravaganza drew 500,000 men and women to the Big Easy for fun and frolic, music and dancing, but there was a serious side, too.
The festival this year centered on “Peace, Purpose and Prayer,” and kicked off with a day of service in honor of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, with volunteers participating in activities across the city. The Reverend Al Sharpton delivered a moving keynote on the Black Lives Matter movement, a recurring theme across the four-day event. It all added up to one of the biggest, liveliest and most significant festivals on the planet.
One of the busiest booths, and a fan favorite, was Procter & Gamble’s My Black Is Beautiful where women lined up in droves for free makeovers, product samples, a GIF photo op and a Personal Care Confidence dance area. We spent a few minutes chatting with Grace Janes, brand manager for My Black Is Beautiful, who gave us the inside scoop on the activation.
Event Marketer: What is My Black Is Beautiful?
Grace Janes: My Black Is Beautiful was created almost nine years ago by a group of visionary black women at P&G with the goal to create a community of black women beyond P&G to talk about everything that makes black women beautiful. It is not just beauty on the outside, but beauty on the inside—all the things from different shapes, textures, tones, all for black women by black women. Whenever we felt it was authentic to do so, we would include our brands in the conversation.
EM: What’s going on in your booth here?
GJ: We have 16 makeover stations, which sounds like a lot, but we can’t possibly service every woman who comes through, so it is first come, first served. We have a management system where once you sign up, you get a time slot for your makeover. There’s the GIF photo experience, which looks like a flipbook once it is uploaded onto social media, along with static printouts. And we had a celebrity choreographer, Laurianne Gibson, create a Personal Care Confidence dance surrounding our Venus, Tampax, Always, Head & Shoulders and Secret brands. When you use those products, you can do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do if you weren’t confident about those areas. Bringing music and dancing to life in our booth is something people appreciate.
EM: That sounds like a lot. Anything else?
GJ: We have a social newsroom that was new last year and we liked it so much we made it bigger this year. We love to have celebrities or influencers stop in the social newsroom. We’ll take pictures, ask them to make short statements, and have them answer questions in real time from our online fans. We have a massive online community of more than 2.2 million on Facebook, plus we have a presence on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and our website. We also are doing a social media challenge encouraging fans, celebrities and influencers to upload a video celebrating a woman who is “All Together Beautiful,” then share the video by tagging their friend across social pages using #MBIB and #AllTogetherBeautiful, then challenging that woman to do the same for someone else.
EM: And then there’s the Day Party?
GJ: Yes, that’s every day from 1 to 5 p.m. This year it’s the COVERGIRL Pop of Color Day Party sponsored by My Black Is Beautiful and Walmart. There will be two djs, a lot of fun dancing, a performance by Tank. Celebrity choreographer Laurieanne Gibson will be teaching everyone to dance. We’ll have a Twitter screen, charging stations and COVER GIRL mini-makeover stations.
EM: Is Essence Festival a good chance to do consumer research?
GJ: Yes. We recruit girlfriend groups of four to six people to share their stories in focus groups and you would be amazed at how eager they are to share. Everyone wants to talk about something. We take them to upstairs research rooms and also conduct research online with iPads. We make sure it’s a two-way street. We’re giving them something and they can give us something back. Volunteers who participate in research are given MBIB swag items and beauty products to try out and pamper themselves with.
Look for our complete Essence Festival field report in the August issue of Event Marketer.