It’s often been said that the most exciting two minutes in sports is the Kentucky Derby, the inaugural leg to the coveted Triple Crown. Although it’s been over 30 years since we’ve had a Triple Crown winner, and 40 years since Secretariat broke the world record in the 1973 Kentucky Derby (which still holds as a record today), the pursuit of this annual pilgrimage brings out the best in event marketing. Creating winning events—from the trade show floor to the Kentucky Derby to a road show tour—is truly a perfect blend of art and science. And one thing is universally necessary for any event to succeed: The universal ingredient to success is to create a compelling brand “experience.” If executed well, event marketing can be responsible for creating the heartbeat—a unifying force behind the experience that can leave a lasting impression in the minds of your target audience.
What Are You Trying to Achieve? What Will You Post on the Tote Board?
Are you trying to raise brand awareness, create a selling event or drive engagement with your product or service? Are you supporting a new product or brand launch? Is it being executed or extended to the trade show floor? Is it a custom event? Are you using someone else’s event or venue? You must identify very specific criteria for measuring the success that your team will use. It is critical to identify specific goals and objectives. Put it in writing and get all internal stakeholders to embrace and support the measurement criteria.
Know Your Audience, or Examine the Racing Form
What makes your audience tick? Is it a giveaway promotion? Is it a VIP experience? Is it cash? Is it a hike through the wilderness? Is it a racing simulator? Is it enthusiasts on sustainability, productivity or health and wellness? How will your event enrich and engage them? What are their demographic and psychographic traits? You should build an identity profile of your target audience so you can develop and promote the event in a way that will engage them. What will grab their attention to make them take the desired action? If you know whom you are talking to, you can cater the event to meet their specific needs.
What’s on the Race Card? Do You Have a Feature or Stakes Race?
What is your experience? What’s your central message or theme? How does it reinforce your overall brand experience? Is your experience packed with the right dose of winning fillies and mares to reach your Triple Crown? How will you set up the pre-, during and post-flavor experience? Do you have a hook? What’s the feature or stakes race of the day? Do you need sponsors? Again, don’t forget the secret ingredient to success is “experience”—how you activate all the senses from sight to sound and from taste to touch. Don’t forget as you plan. In order to be successful, you must engage the appropriate target audience.
Training: Getting Ready
What’s the planning horizon? What’s the workout schedule? Who’s on the team and who’s doing what? Which resources, time or money, do you have and need? How will you get it done? What are the milestones that will help you meet your delivery deadline? How will you communicate and promote your event?
The Racetrack/Race Day
What does your event setup look like? How long will it take to set up? What is your event schedule? What do you need to properly execute? How will you properly set the stage for the feature attractions? Do you need an announcer? Do you need signage/tote boards and other directionals so your attendees properly navigate the venue? How will you ensure they are at the right place at the right time? Do you need music or live entertainment or performers to create the winning atmosphere? Do you have a backup plan and contingencies in place? How will you assess and adapt needs during the event to optimize as you go along?
The Tote Board
Who are the big players you want to engage? How are you going to make them feel special? How are you going to leave a lasting impression? How will you communicate with your audience during the event? How will they know what is going on? Does your internal tote board include the success metrics identified by your objectives? Who’s responsible for keeping the tote board up to date?
Go the Extra Distance: The Finish Line
What’s the extra something special—the superfecta—that separates you from the competition? What separates your experience from anything else in the marketplace? How are you going to give your audience a once-in-a-lifetime experience? What does your winning formula look like so that you make sure you cross the finish line to success—on time, on budget and on target?
The Payout: How Much Did I Win?
What’s your ROI? Did you meet your objectives? How are you measuring? How are you learning from your experience and adjusting/optimizing to create a larger payout?
Success in the event marketing arena is seen every day as a growing trend to break out in the marketplace. Rubbermaid Commercial Products recently kicked off a “Built to Last” mobile tour, and the objective is to engage end-users and distributors with their heavy-duty material-handling product line. This signature line of products uses hands-on demonstrations to show their true value. With a combined 40-foot brand truck, a multimedia interior and interactive demos, Rubbermaid Commercial Products is finding these tactics to be a winning formula for success.
Susan Spalding and Jennifer Schneider are brand and marketing communications professionals for Rubbermaid Commercial Products.
Follow them @rubbermaidcomm