Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 | 9 min read
Blog posts, ebooks, and white papers can get you in your customer’s inbox. But sometimes you need to take your marketing to the next level and engage your audiences in-person. That’s where event marketing comes in—giving you an opportunity to either host your own occasion or meet people where they’re already gathering.
This might sound kind of daunting, but the payoff can be huge. According to the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers have rated in-person events as their most effective marketing tactic for the past six years, and 81% use it to engage their customers.
To start, there are two key ingredients that go into creating unforgettable event experiences: 1. your unique brand personality, and 2. your desired outcome (i.e. the specific action you want your customers to take).
With these under your belt, you’ll be able to figure out what type of experience you want to create and which technology will allow you to make it happen—whether you’re making your mark at a business conference, runway show, or in-store party.
To see this strategy in action, let’s look at a few brands that have mastered the art of creating memorable events, and break down what you can learn from them.
The TEDx brand is all about inspiring people to think broader, dream bigger, and be their best selves. In that vein, the theme of TEDxPortland’s 2015 conference was “Tomorrows,” which dared audiences to “think up what might be.” In order to build a community around this empowering narrative, the brand knew it had to infuse social media into every aspect of the event. And that’s just what it did.
Leading up to the occasion, Sprinklr partnered with digital agency, Instrument, to create an online social hub that showcased crowdsourced posts from around the world. Taking it a step further, animated social updates were projected onto a nearby building during a 6K TEDxPortland race, catching people’s attention outside of their phones and computers.
On the big day itself, a digital command center displayed visuals of trending social data from TEDxTomorrows and other TED events taking place around the globe. When inspiring speakers delivered their talks, attendees were even able to be part of the production by seeing their social commentaries screened via an animated, on-stage backdrop.
Thanks to these imaginative visualization tactics, the #TEDxTomorrows and #TEDxPDX hashtags generated over 4,000 posts and nearly 845,000 impressions.
What marketers can learn: Event visualization can’t be an afterthought. It’s something that has to be integrated into multiple aspects of your entire event. After all, if you want to drum up participation and get people excited, putting a sign on a wall isn’t going to do the trick. You’d be wise to offer dynamic, real-time visuals, and give attendees an opportunity to be part of your amazing production.
If you saw a magenta-filled Times Square this March, you weren’t going crazy; you were just witnessing T-Mobile’s promotional Samsung event. To build buzz for the launch of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, the phone provider plastered its billboards all over the neighborhood, showcasing a mix branded content and user-generated content, including animated GIFs, videos, and calls to action.
But that wasn’t even the main event. Right on the street, visitors were invited to step into virtual reality booths and take the Gear VR headset for a spin. One attendee, for instance, was immersed in a first-person skiing adventure.
“My guide told me I was wading left and right, as though I was actually skiing — even though I didn’t notice it in the moment,” he wrote. “I had to catch my breath every time the skier took a leap and went full burst down a steep, snow-laden slope.”
The brand also hired photographers to capture influencers and VIP guests at the event, and post their experiences on social media for others to see.
What marketers can learn: Go for that “wow” factor—or even that “What on Earth is that?!” factor. T-Mobile needed to stop people in their tracks as they crossed through one of the busiest and most populated neighborhoods in the world. And they did it by setting up a pretty strange sight: virtual reality booths in the middle of the road. Still, this wasn’t just spectacle; it was an opportunity for people to try an innovative T-Mobile product for themselves, and share its cool experience with others.
Twitter is the place to be for real-time conversations around live events. That’s why the Twitter Government & Elections team (@gov) wanted to be prepared for the second Democratic Presidential Debate this year, and ready to engage audiences in new and exciting ways. For instance, they were eager to integrate Twitter into the live broadcast and even the debate itself.
In partnership with Sprinklr, Twitter was able to visualize social data and surface key trends during the big event. They were then able to use that data to curate relevant content on the CBS News livestream and arm the CBS News anchors with the latest analyses. The set of the “Spin Room” even featured an 18-foot wall of audience social posts, as well as smaller displays of content from the candidates.
In fact, one of the toughest questions of the debate came from a home viewer on Twitter. After seeing a #DemDebate tweet about campaign financing, a CBS moderator shared it on air, putting Hillary Clinton in the hot seat. As Slate reported, it was “the first good use of social media in debate history.”
What marketers can learn: Use data to create customized experiences. If you know your audience is going to be active on social media, then you automatically have access to a treasure trove of consumer commentary, questions, and behaviors. You might as well use it! By breaking down this data in real-time, you can drive more engaging conversations and even incorporate feedback into your events, giving viewers a voice where they didn’t have one before.
Last year, the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship was set to be played at the AT&T Stadium in North Texas, replacing the old Bowl Championship Series. Since it would kick-off this new style of play, the inaugural game had to be something people would never forget.
That’s why the CFP wanted to pull out all the stops and make the fans part of the playoff experience. With 3,200 digital screens—including a 60-yard HD display—within the venue, there were plenty of opportunities to do so.
Together, Postano and Sprinklr created four fan activation areas, 22 different social visualizations, and displays for over 50 screens in five days that the stadium.
Leading up to the championship, CFP offered family activities, live concerts from Sting and Lenny Kravitz, and a range of digital experiences. At the tailgate party, for instance, a 19-foot social tower showcased animated fan posts on a 10×10 screen.
Taking fan participation to the next level, the CFP even launched two Twitter voting apps. On one, people were invited to vote for which song they wanted to play in the third quarter. On the other, it was a battle of the hashtags, as fans were encouraged to cheer on their team with either #GoDucks or #GoBucks.
Altogether, the CFP generated over 560,000 social posts from Twitter and Instagram, leading to an estimated 118 million impressions.
What marketers can learn: Incorporate contests. By running a fun competition, you can get people invested in your brand’s activities, and offer them a chance to share their own thoughts and creations. If you encourage people to tweet with a hashtag or submit an Instagram image, you’ll also be treated to free, user-generated content that will help spread the word about your event.
Customer engagement isn’t just about meeting your audience online. It’s also about providing opportunities to entertain and inform them through in-person events. Whether you’re a B2C retail brand or a B2B software brand, there are plenty of exciting ways to bring your community together. Just remember to stay on-brand and create activities that will drive the engagement you’re looking for.
With proper planning and the right technology, you’ll be able to delight your customers with unforgettable experiences and build strong relationships with the people that matter most.