Are Brand Events the Next Big Thing?
The real money's in events. As a business journalist, this thinking is old hat, as many media brands find the best value—and biggest profits—comes from bringing your audience together for an in-person conference. Deals are made, ideas shared and a brand’s loyalty is underscored among its most enthusiastic consumers.
After writing a story about Tough Mudder transitioning from (somewhat crazy) endurance races into low-cost exercise gyms, I wondered what other brands might find value in creating an in-person event. Forgive the Carrie Bradshaw-style query, but my wandering brain might be onto something.
To further set the table, look at some of the most innovative marketing campaigns these days—Wingstop, KFC, Arby’s, Target, and even GE with its recent women-in-science ads. Marketing is no longer about creating brand/logo/product awareness and maybe throwing out a LTO. Today the smartest brands realize it’s about creating a real, authentic and ongoing conversation with brand enthusiasts.
As more parts of the economy go fully virtual, I expect the number of brands looking to make friends with their consumers to grow—and morph in ways we likely could never predict from our perch here in late 2017. Would anybody have predicted KFC would pony up the marketing dollars to write a hilarious romance novel? I am not privy to any cost-benefit numbers for the “Wings of Desire” campaign, but it got this reporter typing.
For food brands, the strategy makes perfect sense. We’re all guilty of having somewhat passive reactions to the nonstop array of cataclysmic global tragedies, but seriously, have you ever tried to steal a biscuit from a dog, candy from a baby (babies get candy?) or steal a close friend’s last bite of something delicious. That growl, scream or slap of protest is pure love.
Those with a few years under their belts like me might remember Saturn’s homey events at the factory in Tennessee or those Jeep Jamborees. Could something like this work for Hilton’s most loyal customers? Or how about a craftsman competition at the Ace Hardware HQ in Illinois? Or how about pop-up donut eating contests in the heart of big cities across the country?
The possibilities are endless, and those high-paid marketing executives know our deepest weaknesses and fears, as well as how loyalty is built and ultimately exploited to boost a brand’s sales. That’s what it’s all about, and I expect a positive backlash from our increasingly virtual world will be in-person events for those looking to experience life—and their favorite brands—from outside the comfort of their couches.