According to Statista, an overwhelming majority (76%) of global marketing leaders surveyed in the fourth quarter of 2021 claimed in-person events are effective (32%) or very effective (44%) at delivering value to organizations. The majority also believe virtual events, hybrid events, and webinars are effective or at least moderately effective.
A conference paper (Sharafutdinova et al., 2020) provides empirical evidence to support this. It finds that event marketing can be economically efficient and leave a positive impression of the brand on participants.
Aside: A corporate team-building event management company will tell you that team-building activities work the same way. It's just a difference in audience. In event marketing, the audience is a brand's existing or target customers, while in team-building events, the audience is its workforce. Even so, both are marketing activities meant to engage their intended audience.
You can think of team-building events as marketing activities designed to increase employee engagement, retention, and loyalty to an organization. Customer-facing events, meanwhile, are event marketing activities designed to enhance customer engagement, retention, and loyalty to a brand.
This article will focus entirely on customer-facing event marketing, particularly what it is and the different event types you can use for marketing.
What Is Event Marketing?
Event marketing is a marketing strategy that employs events to create a memorable experience for existing and potential customers. Ultimately, the goal is to:
- Promote its brand, product, or service
- Create an impression in the minds of its customers
- Increase brand awareness
- Strengthen brand value
- Build customer loyalty to the brand
Huawei's jungle-themed event at Burj Park in 2019, which signaled the launch of its newest flagship phones, the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro, is an example of event marketing. The brand activation event was exclusive to Huawei's partners, management, and influencers, who entered through an interactive LED tunnel, navigated a jungle campsite with ambient sounds, and enjoyed the newest phones' features through immersive experiences.
Event marketing can take many forms. Conferences, concerts, and tournaments are examples of events that organizations can use for marketing (more on this later). They can be virtual or in-person. Metaverse concerts by renowned performers are examples of virtual events. Fortnite is an active player in this space, collaborating with artists like Ariana Grande, Travis Scott, and Marshmello to promote the brand.
Event Marketing Versus Experiential Marketing
As event marketing involves providing customers with memorable experiences with which to associate a brand, product, or service, event marketing is one of the most common ways brands practice experiential marketing.
Facebook's IQ Live event perfectly captures the essence of how events can be used for experiential marketing. During the event, Facebook organized exhibits showcasing insights businesses can glean about their customers through Facebook analytics.
The IQ Live event emphasized the value of Facebook to advertising agencies and businesses, but it did so in such a way that did not only engage the audience's logic and intellect (as lectures are wont to do) but also their senses and emotions. The aesthetic aspect of the art installations also encouraged event attendees to take many photos, which they shared on social media and generated additional buzz for the event and value for Facebook.
Huawei's jungle-themed P30 and P30 Pro launch is another experiential event. The carefully engineered and connected experiences to which event participants were treated, from registration until event end, gave the event a decidedly experiential aspect.
That said, event marketing is different from experiential marketing. Event marketing is just one of the tools in experiential marketing's arsenal.
Experiential marketing involves letting customers interact with a brand in meaningful and relevant ways. An example is Coca-Cola's Happiness Trucks.
The beverage company converted Coca-Cola delivery trucks into special happiness vending machines stationed in key cities worldwide. When someone pushed the button at the back of the vehicle, it dispensed Coca-Cola products or other items, including a skateboard, a bike, a helmet, stuffed toys, and the like.
The Coca-Cola Happiness Trucks experiential marketing campaign was a huge success. The beverage giant has always touted itself to be synonymous with happiness, and the interactive happiness trucks reinforced that brand identity.
To sum it up, event and experiential marketing are related but different. Event marketing can be considered part of experiential marketing. All events are experiential, after all; yes, even the driest seminar.
However, not all experiential marketing activities involve events. Setting up interactive scales at the New York Grand Central Station, as Lean Cuisine did for its #WeighThis campaign, is experiential marketing but not event marketing.
Event Marketing Avenues
Companies can channel event marketing in different ways.
1. Hosting an Event
An organization can organize an event for marketing, such as Roblox's metaverse concert featuring Twenty One Pilots. The jungle-themed launch of the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro was a Huawei event. In other words, Huawei organized the event, of course, with help from a particularly imaginative event-planning company.
Apple's 2017 "Let's meet at our place" event is another example. Apple organized the event not only to officially open the then-recently completed Steve Jobs Theater but also to launch several products, including the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X, the Apple Watch Series 3, and the Apple TV 4K.
Hosting an event is the most straightforward event marketing tactic. A company becomes the center and focus of the event, and as the event organizer, a company has the absolute freedom to engineer the event-goers' experiences.
2. Sponsoring an Event
Event marketing can also take the form of event sponsorship.
The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company is an example. It is the title sponsor of the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon, thus the inclusion of ADNOC in the event name. The event itself is hosted by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates national airline, is a company that uses event sponsorship as an event marketing strategy. Specifically, it is the title sponsor of the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, typically the last race in the annual series of Formula One races. Thus, the event is known as the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Event sponsorship involves a partnership with the company hosting the event. It typically entails less freedom and potentially a more restricted format because the organizing company has the final say about the privileges and activities allowed to sponsors.
However, sponsorship guarantees inclusion in marketing collateral and may include mentions in event announcements and a dedicated space for audience interactions. Title and principal sponsorships also often come with more avenues to engage and impress customers. For instance, Etihad Airways marked the opening of the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with a sensational flypast.
As long as a company is careful about choosing the events it will sponsor, event sponsorship can be very effective in getting one's brand, products, and services in front of its potential customers. Specifically, a company considering event sponsorship must ensure that:
- The event's attendees are the company's customers
- The brand of the organization hosting the event is at least on par with the brand of the company
- There is alignment between the values and culture of the company and the event host
3. Exhibiting at an Event
Exhibiting at a trade show or fair is another event marketing method available to companies. For instance, Daikin often exhibits in hospitality trade shows. In this context, the trade show is the event, and Daikin is not the organizer or an event sponsor. It's just one of the many exhibitors at the event.
Becoming an event exhibitor can be an effective event marketing tactic. Trade shows have excellent foot traffic and attract a very targeted audience. By setting up a booth in them, a company can showcase its products, tell interested event attendees about the brand's innovations, and get the contact number of leads with whom they can set meetings or to whom they can send proposals.
Exhibiting at another company's event offers the least amount of event marketing freedom. However, it also costs the least. Furthermore, for the right business, exhibiting at events may be all it takes to create brand awareness, engage customers, and build brand loyalty.
Types of Events
There are many types of events companies can use for marketing. The following are some common types.
Conferences are events centered around knowledge and learning in a particular industry. They involve a large number of attendees, typically all of them players in the specific industry around which the event has been organized.
A conference typically spans many days and can include mini-events occurring in series or simultaneously. Individual events can consist of seminars, workshops, panel discussions, and even exhibits.
INBOUND is an example of a conference. It is an annual event organized by HubSpot and attended by more than 70,000 participants. It is a marketing opportunity for HubSpot and its resource persons and participants.
Conventions are pretty much like conferences in scale and how they encompass smaller in-series or parallel individual events. However, conventions typically gather together people who share the same hobbies, passions, or interests.
A comic convention is an example â€“ a gathering of pop culture fans either locally or internationally. Conventions are a marketing opportunity for exhibitors, resource persons, and guests.
Seminars are smaller educational events focused on a specific topic or subject. They are usually led by an expert or a group of experts sharing knowledge and insights with the seminar participants.
Seminars are often short, lasting from one to a few hours. They can be virtual or in-person, typically involving presentations, discussions, and interactive sessions.
Slack's Unleash your service potential with Slack and Service Cloud webinar is an example of a seminar. It is a marketing opportunity for Slack.
Workshops are hands-on, interactive events that provide practical training, skill development, or problem-solving opportunities. They are usually intimate (i.e., fewer participants) and immersive, allowing participants to actively engage in activities, exercises, and group discussions.
Workshops are often used for professional development, team building, or learning specific techniques or methodologies.
A UAE search engine optimization agency holding a content ideation workshop for UAE businesses is an example of a workshop used in the context of event marketing.
5. Trade Shows
Trade shows, also known as expos and exhibitions, are events where businesses from a particular industry showcase their products, services, and innovations. Trade shows allow companies to connect with potential customers, partners, and suppliers and are a platform for industry professionals to gather market intelligence, make sales, and build relationships. They often include booths, displays, demonstrations, and networking opportunities.
Trade shows are usually organized by organizations dedicated to a particular space or industry. For instance, a higher education fair is typically put together by a company specializing in organizing education trade shows. Institutions of higher learning (e.g., universities) can use such an event to promote themselves to would-be university students, their parents, and secondary schools.
Concerts are live performances by artists, musicians, and bands, typically involving music, singing, and entertainment. They can range from small, intimate shows to large-scale stadium events.
Companies can sponsor concerts. For instance, Elizabeth Arden sponsored Taylor Swift's RED Tour. Event sponsors may negotiate pop-ups, experience booths, or even special mentions as part of their sponsorship deal.
Likewise, companies can organize concerts. For instance, a metaverse company can arrange a Justine Bieber concert to promote itself.
7. Product Launches
Product launches are events explicitly organized to introduce new products or services to the market. They aim to generate excitement, publicity, and media coverage around the offering.
Product launches can take various forms, such as press conferences, exclusive preview events, or online announcements. They often involve presentations, demonstrations, and opportunities for attendees to learn about the new product and experience it first-hand.
Apple's 10th Anniversary iPhone launch is an example of a product launch event. Another example is the HTC Vive Pro Middle East launch at the Burj Khalifa.
Pop-Ups are temporary events that appear in specific locations for a limited time. They can be a pop-up shop, restaurant, art installation, or any other temporary activation. Theoretically speaking, your event organizer can set up an event marquee for your pop-up anywhere.
Pop-up events are often used to create buzz, generate interest, and test new ideas or concepts. They can be an effective method of engaging customers, promoting a brand, or launching a limited-time experience.
An example is Louis Vuitton's set-up of pop-up stores worldwide; the pop-up locations were announced only two hours before their opening.
Tournaments are events where participants or teams compete against each other to determine a winner. Tournaments can be organized for various activities, such as sports, video games, chess, poker, and more. They typically involve multiple rounds of matches or games, with participants advancing or being eliminated based on their performance.
Red Bull Flick is an example of a gaming tournament organized by the energy drinks brand.
Connect and Engage Through Event Marketing
Event marketing encompasses a wide range of strategies and techniques aimed at creating immersive experiences that help businesses engage and connect with their target audiences. From conventions and seminars that facilitate industry networking and education to trade shows and product launches that generate excitement and showcase offerings, event marketing allows brands to leave a lasting impression on their customers.
Their ability to create real-world interactions and emotional connections makes events a powerful tool for businesses, enabling them to increase brand awareness, foster customer loyalty, and drive meaningful results, especially in an increasingly digital world.
Jinky Elizan is a content writer for SEO Sherpa. She has more than 15 yearsâ€™ experience producing content for SEO, inbound marketing and link building as well as copy for web pages and social media. She also develops WordPress websites.