Why CMOs Should Leverage Live Events To Engage Audiences

Chief marketing officers nowadays are counting on experiential and event marketing because live brand experiences are more capable of engaging audiences effectively in a big world which is full of digital, sometimes impersonal marketing.

The EventTrack 2015 survey, produced by the Event Marketing Institute and Mosaic, an experiential marketing agency, showed that event marketers had an overall yearly rise of 6% in their budgets.

In addition, almost 60% of them revealed that their budgets received direct corporate funding, rather than drawing funds from ‘competing’ marketing budgets; only 35% said the same in 2014. Moreover, 65% of marketers admitted that there was a direct sales boost resulting from experiential marketing, as opposed to 2014’s 59%.

 “Marketers around the world have started to employ experiential marketing as a primary component of their marketing strategy,” said Jeff Stelmach, Mosaic’s president. “Experiential marketing can be utilized either alone or as a part of larger campaigns.”

Meaning, live events are completing the circle in the marketing journey created around the modern consumer, from the initial brand engagement, all the way to the desired action by the end user.

“Because mass-market is either dead or about to die, brands are looking for new ways to engage their audiences; this has been going on for some time now, but it continues to grow,” said Chris Cavanaugh, EVP and CMO of Freeman, the company behind many mega-events, such as the Computer Electronics Show (CES) that takes place every year in Las Vegas.

“Live experiences are gaining their fair share of the pie because they appeal to the basic human needs connecting and socializing,” Cavanaugh explained. “For quite some time, people believed we could simply live online and stay indoors, in dark, badly-lit rooms eating snacks and never interacting with other people again. But now we realize that’s not happening. By combining live engagement, dimensionalized experiences, and digital technology, we have found the sweet spot for the products and services of most brands.”

“Who Has the Relationships?”

Competition among companies today is no longer about the best product, lower cost or the best-known brand. Today, it’s all about: Who has the relationships? And that’s where the power and importance of physical engagement lies.

When marketers design live brand experiences, their biggest problem is how to integrate offline and online messaging to provide a complete marketing mix where all the components of the brand help one another to cross-sell and upsell.

Then, event organizers have to figure out how to engage their audience both online and offline, after the messaging has been set up. According to Cavanaugh, planners shouldn’t think of events separately. On the contrary, they are “moments” during the season that aid brands into amplifying their messaging that’s already being used to engage the same audience elsewhere.

“So how do you communicate with them the rest of the year?” said Cavanaugh. “How do you engage with them online, and then how can we exploit that engagement with your audience at live events? So the secret is to think about it in a holistic way. Regard events as another marketing instrument.”

The prescription is awesome content plus lots of energy plus emotional impact to engage with your audience. You just have to figure out how to create all that content to captivate your audience, because the only way to reach them is to have focused, relevant content.

So why do planners need to know this?

Cavanaugh continued, “With planners, there are so many people to please, and so much to do, and so many ingredients for a successful live experience, that we rarely have the chance to kick back and examine a broader strategy.”

Design Thinking In Event Design

Freeman has been creating new frameworks around design thinking, also called empathy design, along with many other companies, in order to help planners examine broader strategies more readily.

Bruce Mau, Freeman’s chief design officer, regards design as understanding the bigger picture -a component of leadership. It’s about designing innovative solutions by better comprehending pain points from the perspective of the client and the individual customer alike.

“Design, in essence, is an instrument of leadership,” says Mau. “It’s the capacity to envisage a future and methodically follow the vision. So it does not depend on a particular service or product or result. It’s the ability to generate a future that we would love to live in.”

The great challenge here is to combine these aspects of design thinking with those of event planning and the overall strategy of the corporation. Because, if they don’t understand the mindset of the evolving attendee in association with the evolving brand experience as the time passes, event planners will have problems driving attendance.

“If you take into consideration the daily experiences of our customers, you’ll realize that they are different every time they come to the show,” said Mau. “They hold new devices with new technology; they have new access and new information. The notion that we are some kind of content keepers, and they just have to show up is forever gone.”

Bob Priest-Heck, Freeman COO, also adds that design thinking in the events sector is more than understanding a client’s needs in terms of how a graphic or a booth should be for the best engagement of their consumers’ psychosocial profile. In reality, it’s about how companies are resonating with their own mission statements and brand identity, and how they can align customer experiences such as live events to reflect those better.

Priest-Heck adds, because of that, “In the future, experiential marketing is going to be much more individualized and contextualized.”


Article Written by Steve Olenski of Forbes@steveolenski is a writer who drinks too much coffee and knows a thing or two about marketing.