Digital strategy lessons from Tales of the Cocktail

Tales of the Cocktail is a place for both new and old brands to transform into the must-reach-for bottle on a crowded shelf.

Some call it Sundance for bartenders or the Fashion Week of cocktails, but for the spirits-guzzling community of mixologists, media, and brand managers, it is the go-to event – an overview of what's new in products, preparation, and trends both in the bottle and behind the bar. I'm talking, of course, about Tales of the Cocktail.

Recently wrapping its 9th annual takeover of the French Quarter of New Orleans, Tales is more than consumption and schmoozing. It's a place for both new and old brands to transform into the must-reach-for bottle on an already crowded shelf. As the driver of social media efforts for M Booth's spirit clients, this is a must-attend event for me.

During my week in New Orleans, I observed activations and events that were used to build appreciation and tell the stories of brands in attendance. While all of these ideas can be helpful when planning your next event, they also offer simple means to add value to your brand's digital communication.

Keep it private. The small invite list and private dinners of Tales might come with a cost, but exclusivity can help guarantee you know who will be showing up, with a chance of more waiting to get in. From a digital perspective, the lesson here is to provide value only to a select few, with the knowledge that the message may travel organically, but can create more authentic appreciation for your brand.

Offer a service. Tales is full of freebies, but registering with someone beyond samples can have a lasting impression. One brand provided free pedi-cab rides to and from the main locations, an opportunity to deliver experiential messaging to a captivated audience. The digital takeaway is to always provide value to your online audience through what you say and do.

Embrace the local flavor. With most attendees from out of town, hosts seized the opportunity to serve New Orleans culinary flavors, such as muffaletta sandwiches, allowing those working a chance to be tourists, too. This principle applies to the tech space as well. Social media, as a brand, is a lot like crashing a party. If you're jumping on a trending topic, make sure you completely understand the theme and serve up a bit of what people want.

Find the right voice. Who was the surprise star of Tales? Ron Jeremy. He was everywhere, from small talk to tweets and pics. Teaming up with the right star or influencer can also help get the ball rolling in online conversation. Just remember to capitalize on the chatter and convert conversationalists to fans after your spokesperson's appearance.

Do something together. At least two brands created events around the idea of ‘world's largest' activations. Letting people feel community togetherness creates a personal attachment to a brand. In the digital arena, peer milestone accomplishments can be a great engagement tool, even if Lil Wayne breaks your record (see Oreos).

These represent only a few insights on the similarities between gaining attention in-person and through social media. What types of event activations have you seen that can translate to the overall communication strategy of the brand you represent?

Jamie Falkowski is a digital strategist at M Booth.

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