Take a moment and ask yourself if you have ever seen anyone wearing a Race for the Cure t-shirt. Most of you will answer yes to this question; why? Because last year alone the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure had more than 30 million participants register to walk in major cities all across the United States. What did all these people have in common other than the fact they were trying to raise money for and bring awareness to cancer research? Their t-shirts. And thanks to the news coverage the Race for the Cure brand (and charity) is now known around the world! This is a prime example of how to leverage your attendees and boost your marketing efforts, but what if you’re not a national charity event with mainstream media coverage? What if you can’t afford to give every one of your attendees a custom t-shirt? Well odds are you're one of about 98% of events that are not fully utilizing the creative materials you're already purchasing.
Let’s start with a clear understanding of our goal. Simply put we want participants to communicate our message to everyone they meet. If it’s not too much trouble we would also like them to do it before and after event day and of course we want them to do it free of charge. That may sound like a tall order, but just like the example above most will be more than willing to do so if you can just supply them with the right tools. However, before we dive into what tools your event has to offer, lets first define what you want your message to be. Some of you may know exactly what your message is, but for those of you that need some help simply think backwards from your end goal. Are you trying to attract new sponsors? What one thing would you say if you were standing in front a potential sponsor? Are you trying to increase attendance? What is your biggest draw? Maybe you just want more brand recognition. What does your brand stand for? The end goal will always be the most important factor in determining this message and once you answer this question we can start to hone in on how to deliver it.
Now that you have a message you need to figure out how to deliver it. This is where I see so many lose sight of their end goal; they spend countless dollars on promotional materials without taking the time to really think through how to properly utilize them. Don’t just jump on the band wagon and start emulating ideas that you have seen others do. Just because those methods worked for them doesn’t mean they are going to work for you. Many promoters and event organizers following this recipe have found their first experience to not only be very disappointing, but also very costly as well. Take the time to find the right promotion for you and your budget. Think about your target market, what gets them talking? Is it, “oh did you hear about that concert on the radio?” or “hey, I just saw a poster for a Beer Festival when I went to get gas.”
To illustrate this point I am reminded of a story from my early days when I was still promoting a weekly event at a local night club. The first two weeks I spent almost all my allotted marketing budget on posters, banners and handouts. The event was a complete flop! Hardly anyone walked through the door. The third week almost completely out of cash and on the outs with the nightclub owner, I really began to think hard about who it was I was targeting and how to reach them. In my case I was looking to attract the active college student; the partiers!
Armed with only $300 I began to sketch out a plan. My message “Do Something New on Thursday Nights.” Remember my goal was to fill up the club and my target market was a group of students who were in a constant battle to gain the title of “Most Popular.” That means my promotion needed to look and feel like “The Next Big Thing.” In the club scene that meant VIP. I negotiated 5 free bottles of champagne from the club owner and ordered twenty awesome VIP badges. Five badges stated they would receive a VIP table plus a free bottle of champagne and the other fifteen stated “FULL VIP” access. Then I went to the hottest radio station in town to tell them I had some prizes they could give away on-air. They turned me down before I even finished telling them what it entailed, but that didn’t stop me.
I went to two other stations before finally finding a DJ to give them away on air. Everyday from Saturday to Wednesday the 10th caller got a badge, a table, and a bottle of champagne. Then on Thursday morning I called the three biggest sororities on campus and asked to talk to their social chair. “I’m sure you’ve heard about the big party this Thursday? I think so; the one at Batty's?” she replied. “That’s the one.” I said containing my excitement. “Since this is our kickoff week,” (hoping she wasn’t one of the 10 people who attended the previous week) “we would like to give you five VIP passes for tonights party.” “Great how do I get them?” she said, now more excited to hear from me. I told her I would have someone drop them by shortly and then rushed over there to deliver them.
I made sure to ask every girl I saw on the way into the house where to find their social chair that I had the VIP passes for tonights party. To say she was bombarded by girls asking for them when I left would be an understatement. By the time I showed up to start setting up for the night the line was already down the street. It was without a doubt the new “Thing to do” on Thursday nights. It stayed that way for quite some time with very little additional promotion and all I paid for that crowd was the $200 I spent printing VIP badges.
Analyzing your audience will help you decide on the tools you need to deliver your message and give you ideas on how they should look or sound. Having a good understanding of exactly what you want the end result to be will save you valuable time and money during the creation process. Whether your delivery method is a printed flyer or a full production commercial it needs to be created to quickly and precisely convey your message to your target audience.
Take a quick glance at the flyer on the left, for example. It’s a bright eye catching design, but what message did it convey? If I was a betting man, I would guess there are very few of you that said, “Its a charity concert to collect donations for the victims of Haiti.” Without having to read the whole design from top to bottom this message just gets lost in the clutter. Actually, unless you are previously aware of For the People seeing this while you are out and about will most likely convey a completely different message. Something more like, “What was I doing before I looked at this?”
Now look at the one on the right. Three seconds and you know there is a soccer tournament at fireball stadium at the end of February. In addition it focuses on its target market soccer fans and players are going to take notice of a design with a large soccer ball. In short when you are creating something to convey a message; make sure the message is clear! If people clearly understand what you are saying they are much more likely to repeat it to others and thats what you want; people to start talking.
There are a number of outside the box ideas I have seen or heard of that work well for events, but the one thing they all have in common is they are very well thought out and custom tailored to their audience. I don’t care if you're running radio ads or printing tickets, this rule applies every piece of promotional materials you already do and if done right it will keep people talking about your event for years to come.