Usually, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of event marketing is tradeshows, conferences, seminars, and exhibitions. There, people with mutual interests – be it in a product or a wider industry – gather together to network, host learning sessions, and exhibit new products.
Recently, however, event marketing has seen something of a transformative rebirth. Businesses and brands are now aiming to offer experiences through event marketing, rather than focusing on generic tradeshows and conferences.
Given that, nowadays, consumers are more sceptical of brands than ever, marketers must work harder to be innovative and stay relevant. So, with this in mind, what does good event marketing look like?
Examples of Event Marketing
It is not easy for brands to create substantial impressions in the digital age. Therefore, event marketing focuses on interacting directly with clients creatively and engagingly, in the hope of the experience staying etched in the consumer's mind and creating favourable connotations. In this way, event marketing becomes experiential marketing, and focuses on stirring genuine, positive emotions amongst customers while immersing them in a fun and memorable experience.
Event marketing allows brands to intrigue, impress and compel customers, too. While some events are live, others can be one-off, impactful installations that last just a few hours. Campaign types vary; they could be festivals, digital events, PR stunts, roadshows, creative samples, or indeed anything else in which potential customers are directly involved. The key purpose is to provoke, challenge, and ultimately convert the audience into brand-loyal consumers.
To illustrate this concept, we have compiled a list of seven companies that have mastered it. Here are some of the top examples of experiential event marketing in action:
1. Aston Martin | Aston Martin On Ice
Aston Martin is one of the most iconic auto manufacturers in the world, known for its sleek range of luxury cars and prominent role in the James Bond movie franchise.
In 2014, a group of Aston Martin owners were offered the opportunity to be like Bond by taking the company’s vehicles and driving them on ice. The company hosted a retreat for these owners where they could also test drive other Aston Martins, and try out a variety of drifting techniques.
The event helped the company expand its brand visibility across various channels, with the campaign heavily promoted on social media; indeed, audiences were so mesmerised with the picturesque campaign, that Aston Martin hosted a similar event the following year, too.
2. Oreo | 3D Oreos
Armed with a loyal and powerful customer base, Oreo is amongst the most recognisable brands in the world.
It leveraged this popularity in 2014 when it hosted an interactive, digital event at the SXSW Festival in Texas. Participants were given an Oreo cookie with a unique flavour made by a 3D printer, and had to determine the biscuit's flavour based on what was trending on Twitter at the time. Oreo's parent company, Mondelez International, described the event as "deliciously hyper-personalised and customised snacks based on real-time data collection", with the combination of innovative, high-end tech with a traditional food product unique and unprecedented. It generated massive buzz for both Oreo and SXSW, creating huge levels of user-generated content and media interest through the challenge.
3. IKEA | Store Sleepover
In 2011, IKEA hosted a mass sleepover in one of its UK stores, after a speculative customer message on Facebook stated publicly the desire to "have a sleepover in IKEA". The Swedish flatpack giant promptly obliged, converting one of its distribution warehouses to host a whopping 100,000 participants.
Each of the attendees got pampered and were able to test out new mattresses available for purchase. In this regard, IKEA was able to directly expose new products to potential customers, while the playfulness of the mass sleepover generated huge buzz for the company in line with its brand identity.
4. Refinery29 | 29Rooms
Entertainment website Refinery29 is a lifestyle brand that seeks out the most creative and innovative ways to market itself to its audience. It is responsible for the conception of several trends, but arguably its most popular is 29Rooms, an annual event that the brand has deemed "an interactive funhouse of style, culture, and technology."
Each year, the event features a different concept, but perhaps its most memorable involves Refinery29 asking attendees to turn the rooms into art. Participants are encouraged to step into each of the rooms and create something unique using only the surroundings, thus allowing customers to become directly involved in how the brand presents itself.
5. Vans | House of Vans
Sports fashion manufacturer Vans has a huge market share of the extreme sports segment, and regularly leverages this through in-person events. The brand hosts various pop-up skateboarding locations in urban locations, for instance, and creates opportunities for skaters to meet, listen to music and, of course, do what they do best – skate.
In this way, the brand effectively channels its target audience and creates an authentic environment that its key consumers are the most interested in visiting. By hosting these pop-ups, Vans is also able to achieve two other key marketing goals: convert its customers into brand ambassadors, and organically generate communities around its products.
6. Google | Impact Challenge: Bay Area
While profit is likely your main goal, some experiential campaigns seek instead to make a social impact on the world. Google is a good example of this, raising over $5.5m for NGOs that are working to improve the San Francisco Bay Area.
Google's campaign addressed the citizens of the area to find out which community issues needed the most attention, and then set up interactive posters around the city to act as makeshift voting booths.
The posters displayed the causes of the different NGOs, so citizens simply had to press on the one they thought was the most vital. Six of these NGOs subsequently received $500,000 each, with the remainder each receiving $250,000. Aside from generating money for good causes, Google's campaign showed that directly engaging an audience and listening to their input can help build a more loyal following.
7. Lean Cuisine | #WeighThis
Lean Cuisine, a healthy frozen meal brand, decided to address an important message in one of its recent experiential campaigns. While the brand's target message usually addresses weight loss, it changed tack after realising that being slim does not necessarily mean being healthy.
As a result, the company set up an installation at Grand Central Station in New York City under the campaign tagline of "If you're going to weigh something, weigh what matters". A sign-painter was on hand to write down the alternative ways that people wanted to be weighed – such as by their love for their family or their commitment to their job – rather than by their physical weight.
Through this event, Lean Cuisine took its product out of the limelight and instead focused on the needs of its consumers – always a wise strategy.
The greatest strength of modern event marketing is its ability to impact and reinforce positive brand association. As Lean Cuisine's example shows, often, the product does not even need to take the spotlight, but rather offer value to consumers and remind them why that very brand is so important in their lives.
When it comes to experiential marketing, it is important to push your boundaries and think big. Creativity is a key driver in creating an impactful, unique, and memorable experiential campaign, and one that these seven organisations have mastered. Hopefully they have given you the inspiration to do the same.
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