Featured In Forbes: On-Site Activations Help Reinforce Brand Humanity
As seen in Forbes by Kelly Ehlers
Today, it is harder than ever for brands to break through the clutter and stand out to consumers. Gone are the days of giveaways and freebies that surprise and delight event and conference attendees. In addition to being diverse and engaging, on-site experiences must be valuable, entertaining and authentic.
While the cost per impression may be higher, on-site activation is a unique engagement marketing tactic that can create a one-on-one, real-world conversation between customers and brands. I have seen brands engage, educate, motivate and interact directly with consumers to inspire immediate emotional connections. By creating a memorable experience on-site, we want consumers to directly associate this positive experience with our brands moving forward. This is an opportunity to create loyal and engaged brand communities.
I believe successful brand marketing requires brands to meet consumers with the right messages, at the right time, on the right medium. Sometimes this means allowing consumers to do some of the heavy lifting and exposing your brand to audiences beyond your standard reach. Creating a connection with your consumer is always more important than selling. Immersive experiences embed the user into your brand. What will inspire each individual to walk away with a strong, favorable opinion of your business and act on it?
In the past year, I have observed several companies seizing the opportunity to bring together the physical, social and digital components of their brands to connect with their target audiences.
Create & Cultivate
Create & Cultivate is a great example of how to bring online conversations to life on-site. Create & Cultivate launched in 2012 as an online community of resources geared toward creative and entrepreneurial women. Now, they have grown into the go-to conference destination for professionals, hosting three large-scale events annually. Their on-site offerings include empowering panels, workshops, mentor power hours and keynote conversations all tailored to women looking to advance in their careers.
What better place for a brand to get in touch with their target audiences? Create & Cultivate not only excels in attracting world-class brands but is also thoughtful in their brand selection, signing on partners that attendees care about interacting with.
At the Create & Cultivate Seattle event, popular sparkling water brand LaCroix exemplified how social media can be a perfect supplement to on-site activation. The brand encouraged attendees to grab a drink and props and pop into their photo booth made entirely of LaCroix cans and boxes.
Brands know that photo opportunities at events are designed to be shared and uploaded directly to social media. A brand’s logo and imagery are usually in the background of these made-to-post images, creating instant awareness wherever they are placed.
Social media visibility is one of the easiest ways to gauge the success of on-site activation. Attendees are eager to share content with their networks. By using an event-specific hashtag like #LiveLaCroix, it is easy for teams to track visitors. The opportunities to create shareable moments on-site at events are limitless as long as brands stay authentic and innovative.
Coachella has been around for nearly two decades. Yet, over the past few years, it has turned into a must-attend global event. The festival has become a brand activation event almost as much as it is a music event. Many brands are using Coachella as the ideal time to implement influencer marketing strategies to showcase their products, guaranteeing large-scale social media exposure from highly followed individuals in their industry.
REVOLVE, an online retailer carrying designer brands, has activated at Coachella for five years. This year, the brand recruited over 250 influencers and celebrities to showcase their presence at the Coachella main event, as well as at REVOLVE Festival, the brand’s two-day mini-festival. Influencers with millions of social media followers and high-fashion credibility were captured wearing the brand’s merchandise. The goal of brands like REVOLVE is to capture influencers wearing the brand's clothes in a desirable, aspirational context, which inspires consumers at home to buy, buy, buy!
Brands targeting Generation Z and millennials often find success with this strategy, as events like Coachella are peak times for this demographic -- both on-site visitors and non-attendees -- to engage on social media. Though only 300,000 people attended the festival in person, the user-generated Coachella Snapchat story reached over 40 million people all over the world. I believe lifestyle events like Coachella will continue to be key to connecting with these younger generations of consumers, and the practice of using influencer marketing at events will continue to grow.
Indie Beauty Expo
In a crowded market, how do new brands get the word out about their products? Started in 2015, Indie Beauty Expo gives new and innovative beauty, wellness and lifestyle brands a platform to spread the word about their products to consumers, buyers, press and investors. IBE has five shows in the U.S. and Europe yearly. At its event last month in New York City, over 250 brands were on-site to exhibit.
Attendees are given behind-the-scenes looks into the formulas, best use cases and applications of products. Brands can receive exciting press and social media exposure from media outlets and influencers in attendance. Additionally, the event is open to the public and offers a great opportunity for brands to garner valuable feedback from potential consumers. Face-to-face conversations with your target market are a great way to build customer loyalty and trust, especially in the early stages of your brand.
Regardless of your industry, a successful on-site brand activation is built on a multitude of items. Be sure to do your research and develop a thorough understanding of your audience and the event. Aim to be transparent and natural with the ways you incorporate your brand into the experience. And, perhaps most importantly, be approachable and personal in order to develop a strong, emotional connection with your customer.
From well-established brands to new products, an on-site brand activation campaign is a great way to get the ball rolling. The opportunities are limitless, and each brand is unique. Find an event that best fits your brand, and aim to create a valuable and authentic experience for your consumers.