I was recently in the throes of a writing an e-book on how to create an event that successfully promotes your organisation or product. In one of those deliciously delightful coincidences the universe sometimes delivers, I had two experiences that day that were bang on topic.
I was writing about creating immersive experiences to engage your audience, get them to spread the word, and leave them with great memories of your event. I had researched examples such as Amazon’s T-Rex delivery for the film launch of Jurassic Park: The Lost World, and The Macallan whisky’s VR and sensory activation to celebrate the opening of its new distillery. I was trying to think of a way smaller companies with much smaller budgets could apply these ideas whilst admittedly getting a bit distracted by thoughts of a subtle Speyside-y dram.
But then my attention was caught by photos arriving on WhatsApp. A friend who works in hospitality was attending an internal company meeting at the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, and was so impressed by the set-up, he had snapped photos and shared them with me. The venue was a former plant room in the hotel, and the marketing team had drawn inspiration from the location and created a construction/health and safety theme.
Tables were made of shelves supported on ladders and orange safety barriers, mugs and food hung from copper pipe installations, and signage and labels were mocked up as yellow and black hazard warnings. (My favourite, of course, was ‘Caution: Marketing Team On Site’.)
With its wit and eye-catching appeal, it’s a great example of inexpensive immersion which achieved engagement from attendees who took photos and talked about the event with friends and colleagues, and will live on in their memories for a long time.
My working day over, I headed to a launch event for an album that had been made possible through crowd-funding (which is, by the by, a brilliant method of producing a product you know consumers will want, whilst winning their engagement). When I arrived, I received a ticket with instructions to hand it in at the end for a goody bag. Part of my e-book also looks at the value of promotional merchandise, and the role “swag bag” giveaways play at events. Another happy coincidence!
Even whilst writing the e-book and reviewing the research on reciprocation (Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion) and the British Promotional Merchandise Association’s statistics on the effect of promotional merchandise, I couldn’t quite get over my cynicism. Since I know I’m being bought, how can this blatant form of persuasion have an effect?
But that unexpected bonus of the goody bag really did make me feel special, and that my contribution was valued.
(As an aside, rather than simply giving the bags out, the ticket and its promise, and the delayed gratification, created more anticipation and excitement for me – a good tactic to note.)
I had also been writing on the importance of personalisation, and that giving attendees an element of choice allows them to express their personality and makes it more significant to them. The bags were provided in many different colours and I was able to choose my favourite, purple. Simples!
I dashed for my train home and eagerly disgorged the swag bag’s contents on the seat next to me. It was a strange collection of inexpensive items, the most valuable of which was a piece of paper – because it told the story behind the items, and of who the artist is.
The strongest items from a marketing perspective were:
the bookmark as it will be kept and used, and has the Captain’s logo on for continuous brand reinforcement
the teabag, feather and driftwood, as these nurture the relationship with the customer by highlighting common bonds (loving a cuppa) and connecting fans to the artist, and to each other, both in the ‘club’ of the Captain and his First Mates, and in recognising and celebrating our individuality but reminding us that we each form part of a whole.
The cost of this swag bag? 20p.
The value of it? Priceless.
So here you have three things you can do on a budget to create a lasting impression of your organisation’s event.
Use room layout and signage to help you create an immersive experience
Give out swag
Provide personalisation/personal choice.
Sheraton Heathrow Hotel photos courtesy of Helder Goncalves, HR Manager, and used with kind permission of Andrew Huxsted, General Manager.