Improving connections with consumers

Events are a strong way to forge bonds with a target audience.

Events are a strong way to forge bonds with a target audience.

While events have typically targeted media, consumer events are great ways to connect and develop relationships with a target audience. Adrienne Lenhoff Wise, president of Shazaaam, has noticed increased demand for these events.

"[They've] become a real definitive measurable - especially for consumer packaged goods clients," Wise says. "[With] back-end mechanisms, it's easy for clients to see ROI."

Good ROI depends on a good event - and relevance and preparation are key. Jack Morton Worldwide (JMW) has connected the National September 11th Memorial and Museum Foundation with 50,000 people on its current 25-city tour by reaching out pre-event to four key constituencies: schools, first responders, military, and unions.

"Understand who you're trying to reach," says Steve Mochel, SVP of consumer marketing at JMW. "Experiential marketing is about creating advocacy. One influencer will tell 17.5 people about a brand. If you reach the right people in the right way, the returns can be huge. We know people coming to this event are supporters we want, and we can stay in touch with them. First day [attendance] will be 1,000 to 1,400. The next day [attendance increases] because people tell friends and relatives."

Traci Jenkins, VP in GCI's consumer practice, advises determining target audience priorities, likes, dislikes, and limitations. "Then you can deliver a unique memorable brand experience," she says.

Jeff Snyder, partner and VP business development, RedPeg Marketing, prepares and trains brand ambassadors, who bring in consumer insights and help design experiences.

"It's about relevant lifestyle intersections," he says. "It's not just a logo on a vehicle. Create an experience that can be sustained. People get close [at events]. It gives the ability to tell a story in the right voice."

Morris the cat is a brand icon for RedPeg client 9Lives, which has a consumer base that is inclined to support animal shelters. "Marrying" the brand icon to animal shelters around the country served as the launch pad for a mobile cat adoption center. Integrating the campaign across consumer channels lent deeper credibility.

"The consumer experience doesn't occur in isolation on event day," Snyder notes. "The brand must deliver the experience across the organization to be credible."

Jenkins stresses the importance of using a location that has good traffic and attracts your audience. For a Remy Martin event with a luxury travel theme, she has picked a big space resembling both an airport and a hangar, whereas for Remy Martin music program events, she chooses spaces conducive to live music, such as nightclubs.

"The success point is intersecting with targets where they're willing to be engaged," Mochel explains.

JMW client Procter & Gamble targeted moms for its Prilosec brand. The agency found intersection with Bunco, a dice game played by 20 million women. Women typically drink and eat junk food while playing, making a logical connection to heartburn.

"We created the first world Bunco championship in Las Vegas," Mochel. "Four thousand women paid their way to this event. The event became [ongoing and] the lead for the [medication's] campaign."

Event success is directly tied to promotion. Use creative promotions if funds are tight. For Cotton Incorporated's Dirty Laundry Tour - an interactive mobile marketing event for college students - Mochel's team is using PRSA representatives on-campus to promote the events.

Online social networking has helped Shazaaam clients spread the word, and it has landed on-site event support from consumers at events. "Blogging [is a great way] to break down barriers," Wise says. "Be prepared [to] deal with [high levels of consumer engagement at events]. We [have] roles we can put those consumers in so we embrace them rather than [deny their] help."

Events are fluid, so be sure to have contingency plans in place for everything from technical support to staff. "It is critical to remain nimble," says Snyder. "Make adjustments to ensure you are delivering the appropriate consumer experience. Don't be creative for the sake of creativity. Being unconventional without being relevant [can leave] the consumer remembering the event but disregarding the brand."

Technique tips

Know your audience, make events relevant

Integrate across channels

Create roles for consumers wishing to help

Throw an event you can't promote

Forget to prepare contingency plans

Be unconventional unless it's relevant

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