MORE THAN EVER people are connected 24/7 via text messaging and the web. Still nothing beats an old fashioned house party for sharing meaningful conversations among friends. As a result more companies are joining the conversation by organizing consumer house parties centered around their brand.
The king of in-home brand events is Irvington NYbased House Party Inc. which matches up brands who want to throw in-home events with its database of 125 000 consumers willing to host them. At houseparty.com participants can pick from a list of upcoming parties to host. House Party sends out a party pack (filled with fun brand related items) to each host a week prior to the event and on event day 1 000 or more simultaneous house parties are held. The host is required to blog and post photos about the event at a program-specific microsite linked from houseparty.com.
Though the company’s claim to fame is intimate parties on a nationwide scale some brands still prefer their own tailor-made house party program. What works best? It depends on your brand’s objectives of course. Here’s a closer look at some 1 000-event blowouts and some targeted gatherings that are equally big on wordof-mouth success.
To excite moms with babies six months and older before the biggest shopping season of the year Fisher-Price in September used House Party to throw mom-friendly events. The objective was to use positive play experiences to get the word out about the brand’s new toys.
“We wanted to connect with our target consumers by tapping into play dates they’re used to having with their babies and their friends’ babies ” says Kirsten DiCarlo senior marketing manager at Fisher-Price. “We held 1 000 parties to offer consumers across the country the opportunity to try our new infant toys in a period of two days. It was great for us to provide a fun hands-on experience for consumers at a time when they were making their purchase decisions for holidays birthdays and other special occasions.”
House parties were also the right strategy for getting women ages 24-34 to give Microsoft Xbox a chance. The parties were themed movie nights that emphasized Xbox Live’s service that can stream Netflix movies through the game system. The women received party packs that included a free membership to the online gaming service.
“Studies show that particularly with the 24- to 34-year-old age group the people they trust most to recommend things are their friends and family ” says Heather Snavely director-Xbox consumer public relations.
TNT threw viewing parties too to get fans primarily women and drama lovers to spread buzz about its show “Saving Grace.” The network also reached out to party hosts on Facebook Twitter and on embraceyourgrace.com. Its party pack included a DVD of the show branded t-shirts and a show discussion guide.
“One of the best ways to drive sampling for a show is to actually have referral from friends. It’s one of the strongest ways to achieve that but it can also be the most challenging to tap into ” says Tricia Melton svp-marketing at Turner Entertainment. “Creating a viewing party like this allows it to be a really fun personal experience with a stamp of approval from somebody a consumer knows and trusts as well as being able to push that message out digitally.”
THE TARGETED GATHERING
St. Ives skincare products have been a hit with high school girls for decades. But what happens after high school? To reach girls all grown up St. Ives last year launched a refined line of products based on natural ingredients. Targeting women 25-40 (30 being the sweet spot) St. Ives teamed up with San Francisco-based Ammo Marketing to host house parties in Chicago Dallas Minneapolis and San Francisco over the course of six weeks. The program kicked off with a brunch for 25 women in each city. There the women picked their party theme: personal chef fashion expert or wine tasting. Hosts and guests received a bag filled with five full-size products.
“We had never done word of mouth before so we decided to try the house parties ” says Lindsey Lewis assistant brand manager at St. Ives. “It’s an effective way of creating loyal consumers for a new product launch because you can make it as personal as you like. We were truly treating our consumers like VIPs. We wanted to show them how much we cared and in turn they were really honorable to that and loyal to us in the initial two months of the launch.”
To promote the Wii console and the WiiFit balance board which comes with the WiiFit software Nintendo did two rounds of house party programs last year to reach influential women and moms. The ideal host was a health conscious blogger which Nintendo tapped into with the help of handling agency A Squared Group (West Hollywood CA) and its database that matches up influencers with brands.
In December Nintendo executed three more highly targeted parties in five markets. The beauty of these parties was that hosts didn’t have to lift a finger. Staff was on hand to do everything from answering game questions to washing the dishes. The meals were catered to personal tastes and diets.
“You can’t mail a kit to someone and throw a Wii Fit party ” says Jamie Dordek relationship manger at A Squared. “We’re not going to 50 000 homes in one night but these parties are so hightouch and one-on-one that they tend to generate lots of buzz because the experience is so amazing.”
Each host and guest received a Wii Fit and other related items. Oh par-tay!