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The element of surprise

While a hassle to organise, brands are finding new ways to thrill event-goers with secret venues revealed at the eleventh hour.

Take for instance, Diner en Blanc, a mass picnic where the location is kept secret until the last minute. The event took place recently in Singapore and more than 2,400 people turned up.

Beer brand Carlsberg also organised its Where’s the Party event, hiding the venue from guests until the day of the event. The event last year saw 1,500 guests from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. This connects with the active and adventurous nature of its target consumers, Bernard Yeo, head of marketing, Carlsberg Singapore told Marketing Events.

Yeo added that for the event, the brand was encouraging an “explorer” mindset. Carlsberg rewarded 50 consumers in Singapore with tickets to the mystery location, where two winners were selected each week from the brand’s Facebook contest, after contestants completed a series of challenges to achieve points. Three contest winners also won all-expense paid trips to “Where’s the Party?” in Europe.

Guinness also conducted a Guinness Arthur’s Day a music event, where the event was revealed only days before. The event saw 1759 fans as well as American rock band The Fray perform at The Promontory@Marina Bay.

“Guinness has, and will continue to stay true to rewarding its fans with novel experiences such as Arthur’s Day, and continue being a passionate supporter of live music here in Singapore,” Rene de Monchy, head of marketing, Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore said.

Elsewhere in the USA, Dinner Lab, an F&B brand as well as an underground dining club, the company emails members a menu each time it announces a new meal. Diners decide whether they want to attend, though they won’t find out the location until the day before.

In London, Secret Cinema, a community of cinema aficionados also keeps its movie pickings secret. Audience members dish out more than $50 pounds to attend a film. They only find out which once they show up, arrive at a specific time at an unconventional location.

While obviously a great hook for consumers, brands and agencies planning for such events have to be inclusive and efficient as they have to share with consumers a lot of information in a very short time.

Andrew Thomas, regional managing director for Southeast Asia, Ogilvy Public Relations said that besides transmitting information on social media channels, brands also need to send out emails, make phone calls and use other channels to ensure that information reaches people on time.

Faresh Jowharsha, head of production, Hong Kong and Macau, Imagination said that if the amount of people involved in the organisation of the event gets bigger, this gets tougher. An organiser needs to engage trusted vendors, sign non-disclosure agreements and limit the amount of people that knows of the location until the last minute.

Also, not all brands should take this approach.

Thomas said that not all brands can carry off secret events as it is dependent on the relationship between the brand, the consumers and the quality of the event. There needs to be relevance and affection for the brand by consumers as well.

He cautioned brands against thinking this is a strategy for marketing success. “Brands need to be in constant communication with consumers as people might not hear your message. The event must fit in the lifestyle of the brand as well,” he added.

He shared how the Guinness event (for which the agency handled PR for the event) was successful as the brand contained an element of playfulness and there was regular open communication with the consumers.

Chris Dobson, creative strategy director, Asia Pacific, Imagination, adds that the risk is in the event experience becoming commoditised, falling the way of the flash mob, as marketers pile in and gradually reduce the quality of the experience.

“Where so much in the world today is commoditised, brands have the opportunity to take on a more stratifying role, creating social value through this kind of unique experience – a kind of ‘you’ll never believe what I did’ moment for people to talk about and share,” said Dobson.

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