As the end of the year approaches, it’s a time for all marketers to gather around the fireplace and reflect. If you’re a B2B event marketer like me, you reflect on everything that’s happened in the past year, the final projects that we’re about to wrap up, and what creative themed campaigns we’ll whip up for the new year.
Themes allow companies to create emotional connections with their audience year after year. And when it comes to holidays, they’re a gold mine for marketers and advertisers to strike. I’ve seen some great examples of holiday-themed marketing over the years like when NetProspex (now Dun & Bradstreet) released their fun loving leprechaun, Paddy the Prospector, and urged recipients to show Paddy a good time and share it on social media or send in their submissions for special prizes. Or the Coca-Cola Polar Bears that have been helping buyers welcome winter for years.
St. Patrick’s Day and Thanksgiving aren’t the only times of year that marketers can do this, there are tons of fun holidays you can utilize to keep your campaigns and promotions fresh and interesting. Unless you’re an event marketer, and then you do not have the luxury of hitching onto popular holidays to build out your programs for the year. Seldom does an event fall around the same time as a holiday, though when it does you should certainly make sure that you cash in on it (Oktoberfest Party, what’s up!) Event marketers face the challenge of creating “evergreen” themes for their programs throughout the year that resonate with their audience. Not only do they need to develop something that is creative and different, but they also need to create a theme that will stand the test of time. Often, you’ll see companies come up with one theme and spend most of their budget on bulk swag and tradeshow materials to support it. Now I don’t know about you, but there are only so many times that I can hand a customer the same stress ball with little meaning behind it.
Instead, it’s vital to create flexible, yet evergreen, themes to build your programs around, that tie in your company’s key messaging and brand guidelines. To create an evergreen event theme, be sure to incorporate these three elements:
1. Connect to your audience
This is a key lesson of marketing 101, but it’s one that gets lost in the frenzy of event planning. Before you rush off to start planning your events, you need to identify who your target audience for that event is. Take into consideration everything from the titles, companies, and industries that will be attending to their personal interests.
As a framework, think back to the last time you were planning your event program for the year. Why did you select those events? Was it because they were different or were going after a new key vertical? Were they successful in meeting your objectives? Apply those learnings to your event planning for 2016 and tie your messaging, branding, and giveaways to the specific demographic that is expected to attend your event.
Everything matters down to the nitty-gritty details. For instance, you wouldn’t go to a sports event with lip balm and branded mirrors, but you might equip yourself with some foam koozies. Remain consistent with your brand guidelines, but engage your audience by forming a connection.
2. Maintain brand consistency
Creativity is one thing, but confusing your customers…well that’ll ruin everything. As much as I am all for innovative ideas, it’s important that you are still mapping to your company’s key objectives/initiatives. Without consistent branding, your audience is going to be confused by what you’re trying to get across throughout your different programs and so you risk losing a potential customer. Also your brand/design team, who take pride in the quality of their work, is probably going to be frustrated with having to scramble in different directions.
Consistency doesn’t have to be repetitive. Using your core messaging, make small modifications to engage your different audiences. For example, rather than using “Engaging Customers Everywhere” for every event, making a simple tweak like “Engaging Fans Everywhere” for a sports audience will do the trick. Or it can be something as simple as not talking about demand generation when working with a consumer audience.
3. Keep things interesting
While it’s important to be consistent, there’s a fine line between being consistent and being boring. If your audience comes to your events and always sees the same things, they’re quickly going to get bored with you and are likely to ignore the next invitation. So how do you spice things up? Take a look at past events that performed well and identify which aspects of the theme resonated with your audience. Then, look into emerging trends that your target audience is interested in. See if you can tie the two together and offer them something new. Keep things fresh and your audience will keep coming back from more.
Beyond just keeping your audience interested, think about what you can do to keep yourself motivated and interested because let’s face it, 12 continuous months of trade shows is tough on anyone. Tired of your old booth property? Look at the cost of renting something, rather than owning, and work with the production company to build a new concept. This way, you are still representing the brand identity of your company, but also showcasing that you can be innovative.
Change it up, have some fun, and offer unique experiences. That being said, if you’re hosting several of the same events, it’s not worth it to reinvent the wheel each time. Instead, identify the core messages that you need to get across and keep those the same, then look at the small tweaks you can make so each event isn’t an exact replica of the previous one. For example, if you were hosting a series of mobile marketing events, the key message might stress the importance of cross-channel marketing, while the other aspects are more fluid. Or, rather than hosting a lunch-and-learn every time you can switch up the format and plan a few happy hours.
Events remain one of the best ways to build a personal connection with your potential and existing customers. The last thing you want is for your audience to disengage and have a bunch of burned-out event marketers planning your company’s events for the year, so remember the tips in this blog as you plan your themes. If you remain consistent and creative then your programs for flourish and you’ll be able to look back at everything you accomplished with pride.
Have any “evergreen” event planning tips of your own? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!