Aug 8 2013
Events offer a fun way to educate people about your brand while celebrating it. It’s one of the few times you can have controlled, face-to-face conversation with your target audience. But events come at an expense, and usually a steep one, which should be carefully considered before the formal event planning begins.
Speaking from the experience of organizing various events for nonprofits, educational entities and hospitality organizations, the following are the five questions I suggest you ask yourself before deciding to dole out the significant resources that a successful event requires.
Events are fun but that alone isn’t reason enough to host one. The most important question you can ask yourself is: What are you trying to achieve? Then you should ask yourself: Is an event the best way to accomplish your objective?
For example, Girl Scouts of the USA wanted to celebrate the first ever National Girl Scout Cookie Day. The goal was to raise awareness of Girl Scouts’ cookie program, the largest girl-led business in the world, and sell more cookies. After examination, we concluded that the best way to sell more cookies was to host an event in New York City, allowing the public a special opportunity to pre-purchase their cookies. To make the event a success, we recommended that Girl Scouts partner with Sweetery, a mobile bakery, and sell cookies at four high foot-traffic locations throughout the city. The event was a huge success, as we met our goal by selling 4,500+ boxes of cookies.
One of the first things you have to define is your target audience. Who are the people that will be most interested in attending an event hosted by you? How will these people help you meet your end goal? Everything you plan will be based on the people you are trying to reach.
Cambria Suites, a division of Choice Hotels, was making its big debut into the New York market and wanted to host a series of events around three separate groundbreakings: Chelsea, Times Square and White Plains. A big splash in the Big Apple - three properties at once. In a market like New York City, crowded with hotels, Cambria Suites focused on very specific audiences for their events, as they knew only certain target groups would be interested. These groups included Cambria Suites and Choice Hotel executives, the developers, contractors, local dignitaries, White Plains local reporters, as well as hospitality trade and business writers.
To widen their external audience, Cambria Suites not only used their own executives as spokespeople, but they also used their parent company’s executives and CEO as well. This helped Cambria Suites ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and gain the interest of national and New York City business writers.
It’s important to make sure that you have the appropriate spokespeople representing your brand at your events. Remember, your spokespeople are your brand ambassadors. They help build the perception of your brand. You want people who are comfortable speaking publicly, both to individuals and groups. Most importantly, you want people who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about your brand and what it represents.
The Partnership at Drugfree.org wanted to raise awareness of teen prescription drug abuse. They did this by launching the Medicine Abuse Project, a campaign that seeks to prevent half a million teens from abusing medicine within five years. Last year, the first year of this initiative, started with a week-long series of virtual and live events.
The Partnership at Drugfree.org wanted to do something big and open to the public in New York City. We recommended that they host a press conference and a 24-hour event at Grand Central about the launch of this campaign with their national and local spokespeople including Steve Pasierb, CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, actress Melissa Gilbert and New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. All three spokespeople were passionate about the topic and offered different perspectives on the danger of teen medicine abuse.
Events can help your brand differentiate itself from the crowd of competitors. But in order to successfully accomplish this, you need to be educated on the industry landscape. If you know what your competitors and industry comrades have already done, it will only help you be unique in your approach.
Air New Zealand is a great example of this. They do their research, and because of this, they are able to implement unique ideas. Their brand is quirky and they make sure that everything they do reflects this. So when they wanted to educate business and consumer travelers in California that they fly from Los Angeles to London, they invited six travel reporters and other influencers to the airline’s very first in-flight focus group. The attendees tweeted with the hashtag #NoLagtoLondon and Air New Zealand opened up a Twitter contest to the masses, which distributed daily prizes as well as the opportunity for one lucky person to win the Grand Prize, a trip to London flying in Business Premier. This social media component allowed consumers to engage in a small event and helped Air New Zealand grow their @AIRNZUSA following by 12 percent.
The location of your event can contribute to its success or failure. Your audience needs to be willing to go there. Don’t expect people to fly or travel long distances unless you are willing to provide the transportation. Pick a location that is necessary or easy for your target audience to get to. For local events this task is easy, but for national events it gets a bit tricky. When thinking on a national or global scale, you should consider Internet-based events.
Target is doing just that by using different social media avenues to reach its millennial customers. In order to boost the sale of its dorm room products, Target implemented a reality-themed YouTube series that allows online shoppers to virtually interact with YouTube personalities who are spending four days in Target-designed dorm rooms. Consumers can initiate conversation through social media and virtually attend activities such as streamed concerts hosted by MTV.
Events are a great way to rally your audience, differentiate your brand, and distribute your message. While events aren’t always the go-to solution, when you ask yourself these questions, they can help you reach your goal – and be a whole lot of fun.