EVENT MARKETING: The show must go on
It's Friday night and word has been going around for the past few days that tonight Guinness will be giving away a whole lotta beer to help celebrate its 250th anniversary leading up to "Arthur's Day" on 24 September, in recognition of its founder Arthur Guinness. We arrive and the venue is plastered with Guinness paraphernalia and the place is bumper to bumper.
Eva Yim, senior marketing manager for Guinness, says from now until Arthur's Day, the beverage brand will be making its way around Asia (tonight we're in Hong Kong) and the rest of the world to generate hype for a massive music event featuring some of the world's biggest artists such as The Black Eyed Peas, Mystery Jets, Johnny Flynn and The Undertones, with celebrations planned for Dublin, New York, Lagos and Kuala Lumpur.
In weeks after the event in Singapore and Hong Kong, fans of Guinness have posted photos on Facebook, Twitter is full of "Guinness 250" related tweets and street magazines are filling their pages with social photos of the event.
Guinness has also planned a series of Guinness experiences such as a trip into space on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic Spaceship, a journey to what is said to be Guinness' deep sea bar and an exclusive private gig performance by The Black Eyed Peas.
Yim says as Guinness celebrates 250 this year, it has become one of the most recognizable and iconic brands in the world.
"The brand is built on a subtle mix of product excellence, innovation, social benevolence and philanthropy, which we believe will keep us competitive in the market," she added.
If nothing else, this shows that big events are still being staged, despite the economic downturn and that events are still commanding a healthy slice of the average marketing budget.
Across almost all sectors, events are today as pervasive and important as any piece of marketing puzzle. Events are now considered a central part of the marketing mix and the sheer number of industry's embracing event marketing seems never ending. Sporting events, music festivals, B2B companies, automotive and increasingly luxury goods are tapping events as a direct marketing and experiential tool that has many lasting effects. On the flipside, big consumer brands are increasingly looking for major sporting codes to help promote their wares.
One example is the recent tour of English Premier League club Liverpool to Singapore to play the national football team. A match in front of a capacity crowd at Kallang was a rousing success, and huge benefits went to local retailer Courts which signed a marketing partnership with the club last year. Liverpool players went to meet fans and sign autographs at Courts' stores, and Courts signage was prominent at the stadium. Carlsberg, a major sponsor of Liverpool, also leveraged its global partnership with the club by securing outdoor branding at Kallang and rights as the exclusive beer supplier for the game.
But many brands have also heeded the economic downturn and shifted their spend towards other forms of engagement, namely online and social media.
Liz Bigham, senior vice president and director of brand marketing at Jack Morton Worldwide, rejects ideas that interaction with consumers and clients means just meeting them in their space via social media and online channels.
She says simply moving spend to banner ads and more passive online vehicles, where issues of message clutter, media fragmentation and multitasking audiences are rife, doesn't offer enough of the "quality" in "quality time" to achieve real engagement between brand and audience.
"Increasingly, ROI-driven marketers are looking for other ways to spend quality time with their target audiences at a low cost of entry," she says.
"Achieving true engagement that is relevant and authentic, leading to action and advocacy, impacting both short-term sales and long-term relationships and yes, delivering solid ROI. A core to this strategy is experiential marketing, which provides cost-effective 'face time' with audiences and moments of truth that lead to action and advocacy."
But while brands big and small look to be spending, it is true some brands have been forced to cut back. A Promo 2009 Event Marketing survey shows that close to 26% of all clients polled reduced their event marketing budgets in 2008, while 16.7% increased them. And 46% remained flat.
Looking ahead, 20.4% project that their event budgets will decline in 2009, while 30.3% said they will rise. And 49.3% expect them to remain constant. However, nearly 21% of respondents indicated that they don't know what to expect next year. Over 60% said that events are planned in-house, while 20.2% plan them with their agencies.
Events agencies report that while clients are still committed to 2009 contracts, a small amount of events have been postponed. On the other hand, because so many companies are shedding employees, events agencies are fielding more business from clients who no longer have the staff to facilitate activations on their own.
As for what they're measuring to determine success, Promo's survey found that 72% of respondents measure results by sales volume, while 44.7% cited intent to purchase as a prime metric. About 32% of the sample said they look at the amount of engagement time and alteration of brand preference.
Whatever the metric that's applied, it is clear that event marketing has become a mainstay in most marketing plans, and is likely to maintain that position as companies rely more heavily on direct interaction with consumers to deliver their messages.
NEW VIRTUAL TRENDS
Innovation is a word loosely thrown around the marketing sectors, but for brands delving into the world of event marketing, innovation across the events and experiential marketing areas is offering a new level of connection to new and existing customers.
Social media is exploding into the marketing world and marketers have never had a better opportunity to wed the benefits of face-to-face events with the huge potential of online and social media channels to create all round experience campaigns that span from the virtual to the physical.
With travel budgets under pressure, LinkedIn, CoveritLive, Facebook and even Twitter are proving to be valuable tools for extending the reach and impact of both of events.
Allianz is taking its global Allianz Junior Football Camp into the world of social media to promote a series of events across Asia.
Allianz Global Investors, which recently joined hands with FC Bayern Munich to invite 32 teenagers from Asia, Latin America and Europe to fly to Munich for a five day football training camp, has tapped Facebook to help promote the event.
With the help of Ogilvy's IPR the Facebook group will post all the competition criteria, news and quiz about the football club.
The agency will also help run a tournament to select the four candidates. Online ads on MSN and in print have been launched to promote the initiative.
Just weeks after going live the site attracted 135 fans, which have been interacting heavily with the digital group.
In Singapore OCBC is set to exploit the power of digital media to grow its OCBC Cycle sports property to become one of the country's cornerstone events. The OCBC Cycle only debuted this year but for 2010 the bank has appointed digital agency The Upper Storey to handle the through-the-line campaign to promote the event. Euan Wilcox, business director at The Upper Storey, confirmed that digital media, particularly social media, will play a key role in driving participation for the 2010 edition.
"For us, using social media, it's a natural way for people to enter the event," he says. "It's one of the most efficient ways of getting new registrations."
Wilcox says sending EDMs to past attendees of the event is another powerful and cost-effective method, as well as using social media as a funnel to encourage participation from individuals and their friends. Another key leveraging point that digital offers is greater engagement with the experience of the event - from video, images and blogging from OCBC Cycle. "One of the key things we noticed was just how much the event was mentioned and photographed online [in 2009]," Wilcox says.
But Allianz and OCBC are not alone in their belief of expanding events online.
Jack Morton has launched what it calls a virtual experience platform, which allows customized online events, has gained client interest in light of travel budget cuts.
The new offering was motivated by a study conducted by the company among 400 marketers with 82% said their organization could increase revenue by better leveraging experiential strategies to engage employees, business audiences and consumers online.
However, 64% cited the ability to "integrate live experiences with virtual, online or other marketing experiences" as a key obstacle to successfully deploying experiential strategies for their organization.
Jack Morton's virtual experience platform allows brands to customize and have multiple looks in 3D spaces that integrates into social media networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Ben Taylor, managing director Asia Pacific for Jack Morton, said the financial sector has showed a lot of interest in its virtual experience platform due to cost freeze in the business. A technology company based in Beijing has also expressed interest to organize an internal meeting for its 10,000 staff virtually.
Taylor says that the virtual platform is mostly used for B2B and media events in the US but in Asia, the biggest interest comes from companies wanting to use it for internal or employee communications.
He added that the cost of activation for the virtual experience platform is on average a quarter of the cost of doing a live event, although budget still has to be accounted for building video contents but not for flying people in, accommodation and loss of time travelling.
This urgent interest in integrating live and online effectively truly demands that we raise the bar on how virtual experiences are deployed.
It's noteworthy that marketers see such strong connections between innovation and cost-efficiency, and between innovation and better results. While we may think of "innovation" as a soft or ill-defined goal, for marketers such a goal is clearly connected to saving money and better engaging audiences.
Even in the digital age, connecting with these people face-to-face is still essential because face-to-face is understood to have the best ROI, defined in terms of immediate and long-term impact on the understanding and behaviors of those who participate.
Laura Shuler, chief strategy officer & president of Jack Morton Worldwide, says in the digital age, connecting with people face-to-face is still essential because face-to-face is understood to have the best ROI, defined in terms of immediate and long-term impact on the understanding and behaviors of those who participate.
Virtual events, she says answer our "eternal need to connect," but grow the reach of face-to-face in critical ways-extending live engagement to more people, over a sustained period of time and across greater distances-for a comparatively small cost.
"When 86% of marketers agree that 'brands need to talk less and do more,' clearly, marketers now see experiential marketing as core to marketing strategy and not just an add-on, and as the survey reveals they're demonstrating this with how they're allocating and planning their budgets."
To marketers that have been talking about the new realities for years but have faced continued resistance to media innovation? Based on such survey responses, it certainly appears so. It's an approach consistent with a Forbes article that advises business leaders to "Never Waste a Crisis".
While there is obviously a huge opportunity to extend brands to bigger audiences and new communities online, virtual experiences can not be replaced by face-to-face experience. And while there are no guaranteed returns from events, the theatre of business should not be overlooked.
SIX THINGS THAT EVENT MARKETING DOES:
1. The opportunity for participants to "experience" a brand - this may range from simple product sampling through to "money can't buy experiences" such as meeting a celebrity or access to a restricted behind the scenes area.
2. A platform to engage with a targeted audience - understanding what interests and inspires their audience enables a brand to partner with or create an event that embodies the identified interests of the target audience.
3. The core from which to build an integrated thro the line campaign - an on-ground event supported by other channels such as on-air, digital, outdoor, guerrilla, PR and print.
4. Integration of corporate social responsibility - including opportunities to educate, raise the profile of a cause, develop emerging talent and raise funds.
5. Multiple touch points - a properly integrated event experience should provide numerous touch points for a brand to interact with consumers/participants from pre-event through event day to post event.
6. A mechanism to enhance relationships with partners as well as consumers - often events provide the opportunity to involve suppliers and other strategic partners in addition to existing and potential customers.
By Chris Robb, managing director of Spectrum Worldwide
THE LION'S SHARE OF EVENTS
Whether it's a roadshow, a party, a launch or an exhibition, Singapore is the place for it. Thailand might be the land of smiles but the Lion City is the land of events. The country is filled with all manner of events and constantly more seem to be emerging on the scene, making it hard for marketers to cut through the clutter.
But how is Singapore's event marketing industry changing? "There are thousands of events out there," Stan Lee, director of Muse Inc, admits. Muse was most recently in charge of the Singapore River Festival 2009 and it has conducted events for the likes of Discovery Channel and Tourism New Zealand in the past. Lee says there has been growth in the events industry in Singapore as marketers here are seeing more value in on-ground marketing. "Previously in Singapore there was the perception that events were all about being a point-of-sale," he says. "Now they [marketers] see it as increasing value."
Lee says historically Singapore has had a large roadshow culture with a focus more on quantity than quality. But he believes this is changing as event marketing evolves to become more about creating an experience for attendees. "If you're just running roadshows and selling products, people have blinders on," Lee says. "It's no longer effective. We see a great demand for trying to create value with events that people can connect with, becoming more experiential. The challenge for events companies is to be more creative."
Thien Chieh, general manager of events company Roots Asia Pacific, agrees there is a trend towards more experiential marketing, but says delivering ROI from events is still important for brands in Singapore. Roots has been behind events such as phone launches and product launches for the likes of HTC and Fujitsu. Chieh says Singapore's MICE industry is "picking up", and believes clients are "constantly exploring, they're using social media to complement events".
- OCBC Bank
- Allianz Insurance
- Jack Morton Worldwide
- Muse Inc
- Roots Asia Pacific
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