Your events marketing need to be strategic, too

Philippine Daily Inquirer Business Features Section, October 22, 2004

THE CHALLENGE to bring brands closer to the consumer has spawned a plethora of events and an industry of event organizers.

Where brand experience is the cornerstone of events, it is not uncommon for marketers to fall into the execution trap, overwhelmed by the design, roster of personalities and the seemingly glitz and glamour of events while failing to understand, and even overlooking the brand’s strategic fit to the event.

Experience marketing, through events, can be a competitive advantage yet without strategy, can lead to a commodity like rather than differentiating experience.

Following are ways to avoid the event execution trap:

Watch out for the brand fit. Does the event match and enhance the brand’s essence, personality and value proposition? McDonalds in recent years has openly supported the value of healthy eating and lifestyle. Capping this brand statement is their event sponsorship of the Athens 2004 Olympic, a year-long activity for the Golden Arches that began in 2003 when McDonald’s 1.3 million crew worldwide was given the opportunity to become a member of the McDonald’s Olympic champion crew. Participating McDonald’s outlets hosted localized competitions to select the best of their best crew along the same ideals of the Olympic games – quality, speed, accuracy, teamwork and service. The incentive – a chance to be honored in Athens at a special pregames event and the opportunity to help serve the world’s greatest athletes, attend Olympic events and participate in special activities.

Connect with your target market, not just be where they are. Consumers have become too discriminating that simply unrolling a streamer onsite or setting up a merchandising booth in an event is no longer that much effective. Has your brand ingratiated itself with the target market by making them feel that you are an active part of their experience and their culture rather than a mere company logo in their event?

The Sprite Urban Games in Clapham Common in London this July was a fusion between fashion, sports, lifestyle and music. The event included skateboarding competitions, free style motocross (FMX), B-boy break dancing, BMX, among others. Sprite, whose lifestyle differentiation to Coke, is to be accepted by edgers, and are traditionally anti-corporate and anti-establishment youths, has evolved its brand by focusing on this youth market rather than the mainstream or conformist young. In so doing, the new look of its can was designed by an urban artist using graffiti style logo. Marketers must learn to use events in ways that make the brand experience memorable thus, enhancing consumer experience while contributing to the target market’s culture rather than just grabbing a share of their pocket power.

Choose the realm of experience. Are you creating emotional excitement and sensorial experiences simply around your brand’s event or are you once again just a logo, streamer or booth display?

Pine and Gilmore, authors of The Experience Economy offers four dimensions of experience that brand marketers can singly or multi-dimensionally capitalize on when staging events – entertainment, education, aesthetic and escapism.

Entertainment involves a target market’s passive participation in the event. Sponsorships of concerts or stage plays that limit brand experience to buntings and booth displays and service encounters during intermissions is an example of entertainment.

The next is educational where the target market acquires or increases skills or knowledge. These include interpretive write-ups in event programs, pre-event or postevent lectures and sponsorships of learning events like Philippine Daily Inquirer’s recently organized Cannes 2004 in Manila event.

The third dimension is aesthetic where the target market experiences greater sensory stimulus brought about by the authenticity of the locale and details in the event design. An example is Cerveza Negra’s “Seize The Night, Enjoy the Dark” by invitation only bar tour that toasts the passionate aficionados of culture, arts and sports – artists, entertainers, indoor and outdoor sports enthusiasts, water sports buff and car racers. The event is both a testament to the brand’s premium, distinctively rich, flavorful and touted mysterious dark taste as well as to the brand’s multi-faceted target market.

Escapism is the fourth dimension of experience marketing. Here, the target market actively participates in the experience. For example, McDonald’s children’s summer programs in selected outlets allow “tweens” and young kids for a limited number of hours to become part of the McDonald’s crew. Thus, kids learn at a young age the value of service in a fun way and in a fun environment.

Another is Dove Soap’s way of celebrating the woman with Dove Moments, an event capitalizing on the importance of a healthy minds and body. Groups of women did not just get to experience Dove Cream bar, facial wash, body wash but became part of a brand event that allowed them a four-night, five-day luxury cruise while they spent some time engaged in health and wellness activities.

Provide a positive impression, take away the negatives. Has your target market talked about your brand event in an animated, positive way? Are they looking forward to and planning to join next year’s event?

The memorability of an experience is measured by the consumer’s overall attitude towards the brand event after the experience. This is aided by the authenticity of their experience. Consumers are quick to catch negative cues that do not fit well with the brand’s essence. Popular personalities can overshadow brands specially if they do not fit well with the brand personality. Likewise, surly merchandisers and front-liners can destroy brand image and experience. Also, this includes unprofessional hosts and unpleasant wordings in signages. All these can spoil the brand experience. Brands must pay attention to details.

Today, brand events can have as much power in building or destroying brands. Just like advertising, incorrect choices and mishandling of event experiences can be a costly misstep.