Making Event Marketing Experiential Marketing | Event Marketing Trends 2015, Part III

Part of a weeklong series looking at the trends driving event, experiential, and face-to-face marketing. Read Part I and Part II.

By now we see the writing on the wall after the first two parts of our series on event marketing in 2015, but because we all love bullet points let’s summarize:

  • Event marketing budgets are RISING, and by a lot.
  • ROI remains a critical component of any event-marketing program, but event marketers seem confused by what that means.
  • Marketing folks are putting Facebook ‘Likes’ above actual sales when measuring event ROI.
  • Event marketing technology spend is also on the rise and it is focused in two areas; attendee experience and attendee lifecycle management.

The technology component is now where we begin to tread. Having established many of the business trends pushing event marketing, it’s time to understand the technology drivers. And by the looks of it attendees are in for a big dose of techno-driven event marketing throughout 2015 and 2016. And it all starts with the experience the attendees have come to expect at a conference.

The recent report from GES walks through the top 50 trends impacting trade shows that experiential is becoming event marketing, and therefore technology will play a huge role. Right up front the report lays it out for you:

CMOs agree that this is the year marketers will go “all in” on experiential with bolder budgets, bolder strategies and bolder experiences that tie together creative, execution and data analysis. “And marketers are using big strategies and big data in a meaningful way, to use events to generate meaningful intelligence,” says George Hines, CIO and Head of Innovation at Global Experience Specialists (GES).

Now take this with a grain of salt, since the “E” in GES stands for “Experience” and this is the company that wants to help you with your event marketing. But that being said the writing does seem to be on the proverbial wall when it comes to taking event marketing to the next level. And the most interesting element of the use of technology is how it is being used pre-, during, and post-event. Today we split the hair and focus on the actual event experience and the technology being used to influence attendees.

Experience at Events Means Digital

Walk any event floor, no matter how large, and the digital experience has transcended from the simple monitor-to-monitor walls that are interactive, virtual reality (VR), even digital brochures. People want to experience products and services now in a whole different way, and virtual reality is seemingly the best way to drive this goal. Two fantastic examples of VR came across our desk recently.

First, at Blackhat last week in Las Vegas the team at Raytheon Websense were filling their booth nearly every minute and strapping on VR headsets to attendees. Once on, the folks weren’t simply hearing a sales pitch, they could experience the message in a whole new way, and this is something Raytheon does in other areas. Second is the Lowe’s Holoroom, which can be used by customers to help plan a remodel or refresh project.

Baby Steps Rule When Incorporating Tech into Events

Now a warning; this technology can be expensive AND it can be used poorly in the hands of bad marketers. At the same event last week another vendor had a similar VR experience that was a complete fail because they basically rebuilt a sales pitch into a 3D version of Powerpoint. Listen team, even in 3D, nobody wants to see Powerpoint. And this is an important lesson about involving technology into any event experience; you still must hit the basics around your strategy and content.

VR, BLE, 3D, Drones, Eye Gaze, 3D Printing, Smart Watches…the technology is all out there and a lot of marketers will be compelled to try the latest and greatest. But think for one minute before you go to the cutting edge, have you even successfully accomplished all you can with what is now viewed as basic technology?

One great example is the use of tablets at events. At first they were giveaways, then they were used for lead capture (sometimes, and often poorly), and now people are realizing that tablets can extend their booth presence and provide a great experience for attendees. Again, from the GES report:

Siemens at HIMSS demonstrated a new IT software solution with a 25-foot display of 188 iPad tablets linked to each other to create synchronized media showcases. Other health care companies are using tablets and software-enabled accessories to demonstrate, among things, how to administer medicine with a syringe the correct way. On top of that, inline entertainment magic tricks and trivia games powered with tablet kiosk stations are just tipping the iceberg on how tablets and software will continue to inform but, more importantly, engage and entertain.
So, before you head out for VR or something else that might prove hard to implement in both form and function in these early days, look around and figure out how you can better use the tech you already have. Just always apply the golden rule of event marketing: “Create an experience that drives business goals.” If you stay in that scope you’ll be fine and capturing all those leads…well if you are using the right technology for that too, but more on that in Part IV.

About the Author: Kyle Flaherty is an award-winning marketing and brand executive, craft beer connoisseur, and devout Boston sports fanatic. He currently runs his own marketing agency and works with the team at Captix (consider yourselves disclosed).