Event planners who want to add the “wow” factor to conference, corporate event, meeting and event marketing can find inspiration from viral marketing campaigns. Viral marketing engages audiences in unexpected ways and creates a buzz to encourage people to share their experiences with others. Here are six takeaways for event professionals.
1. Develop clarity about the demographics of event participants and cater to participants and potential attendees through event marketing and content.
Big brands avoid a cookie-cutter approach and invest heavily in research to ensure that viral marketing campaigns resonate with their target market.
AdAge selected Apple’s “Apple Watch – Introducing Series 2” spot, aimed at young adults, as No. 1 in the viral video category for 2016. Launched on YouTube in September, it garnered more than 1 million viewers in the first month.
The fast cuts, range of athletic activities, and upbeat soundtrack captured and held viewer attention. The three songs selected for the soundtrack appealed to various subsets of the young adult demographic. “Push It,” a rap song with rapper Pusha T, “The Boogie” by Outasight, and “Million Ways to Live” by Mapei covered the full spectrum of musical tastes.
Takeaways: Music and entertainment are two of the most powerful ways to connect with audiences. At a time when many associations face the challenges of recruiting young professionals, a traditional entertainment and programming just won’t cut it. So what if you don’t like rap music. It is important to push participant hot buttons, not your own.
2. If you aren’t sure what will appeal to your audience, ask don’t assume.
It is important never to stereotype attendees based solely on demographics. While entertainers, dancers and music that appeal to boomers may not hit the mark with millennials, there are exceptions. “Ice Ice Baby” and “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” are examples of music appeals to many demographic groups.
As the popular Philadelphia Cream Cheese TV commercial demonstrates, there are some artists, such as Kris Kross, with enough longevity to cross generational and racial boundaries. A female artist covered Kris Kross’ popular hit “Jump” for this commercial.
Takeaways: An understanding of demographics is only the starting place when trying to determine audience preferences. Check in with past and future participants to identify presentation methods, music and entertainment that they will find appealing.
3. Provide opportunities for remote participants at viral and hybrid events to interact with each other, speakers and facilitators.
Remote attendees have many distractions. Simply providing a live stream of the face-to-face event is no longer enough to keep remote participants engaged. As long as remote participants remain passive, there is a risk that they will tune out.
Heineken’s digital marketing campaign, which involved blowing up a balloon and sharing images for each new Facebook page like, attracted 1 million new fans.
Takeaways: Keep them active to ensure that they stick with you and sign up for the face-to-face event next year.
4. Use cross-platform approaches integrating digital and live components when designing event marketing and programming for events.
With the realization that 50 percent of teens and young adults in Australia hadn’t even tasted Coca-Cola in the month before the campaign, the beverage giant designed and executed a creative multi-channel campaign using personalized Coke cans to re-connect. This campaign integrated digital, billboard and social media messaging with live kiosks. Here is what happened:
Takeaways: If companies with a strong, global branding recognize that relying on only one channel is not enough, it is also an important take-away for event professionals.
5. Infuse play and a sense of fun into content and product categories that are normally perceived as complex and boring.
Medical tests have got to be one of the most uninspiring service categories. Yet, Medibank had participants lining up to participate in their Refresh Trail 2013 pop-up at the Australian Open.
Takeaways: The more humdrum the content, the more effort needs to be put into designing inspiring and interactive experience.
My company once used a tropical theme to present a session about orientation and induction practices for managers. Participants enjoyed an authentic Jamaican lunch with reggae music playing in the background. When they returned to the meeting room, it had been transformed into a beach. (Hotel staff brought the umbrella tables up from the pool. There were tropical posters, and beach themes were showing on the screen.) After brainstorming sessions about whether it is more important to help new employees wade in gradually or let them feel like they are jumping in from the deep end, best practices were highlighted. A baked Alaska with sparklers was brought in for dessert. What was the most dry topic on the agenda, ended up being a crowd pleaser.
6. Use the element of surprise and the unexpected for event marketing and to delight participants.
The most effective viral marketing campaigns and the most memorable events use the element of surprise to engage participants.
Unexpected experiences in every day places that disrupt people’s routine are bound to create excitement.
Takeaways: Make a point of surprising and delighting participants at every event. It will keep them coming back and spreading the words for your next ev