While many communications professionals shy away from these face-to-face interactions whenever possible, favoring instead to send the junior staffers, I always enjoy such experiences. Over the years, I worked so many trade shows that I began conducting trade show workshops for clients like AST Computer, to educate and energize the exhibition staff and ensure the company made the most of its investment.
I have had the opportunity to pour beer for Coors, serve free pizza for Pizza Hut, and give away free kisses for Hershey’s – with the Kissmobile! And, no, the folks at Hershey’s wouldn’t let me drive the Kissmobile. They claimed it was a question of insurance, but my shameless love of chocolate – which I made quite evident through persistent personal product sampling – along with the fact that I had a roadmap with a route down to Mexico already highlighted were more than likely the deciding factors.
What I love about brand activations and other on-site promotional experiences is that they are one of the rare instances in which you can have authentic, immediate, and unfiltered interaction with customers. I love surveys and focus groups as well, but when you are out in public, you really get to understand first-hand how people use – and think about – the product. Not only does that help improve your marketing strategy, but – in many cases – it also makes those long hours and hard work feel all the more worth it.
Direct Engagement Leads to Great Results
When I was the Marketing Director of Asphalt Green, I put together and trained street teams to promote the grand opening of its recently renovated Aquatics Center. Though I did not really have much of a choice, as I had just taken the job and, despite the event being only a few weeks away, no plan had been developed or budget set aside for the event.
But working with the junior staff (sadly, many of my senior staff colleagues considered such things beneath them) in this fashion gave me the best possible introduction to the organization. I learned so much about each program offered, and the people who made it all happen. It also gave me a chance to demonstrate my willingness to work hands-on, side by side with colleagues of all levels, and build relationships that would serve me well throughout my tenure. And, of course, I had an opportunity to interact face-to-face with prospective customers throughout the community.
Our efforts, limited as they were by time and budget, paid off handsomely. We delivered the most successful event in the organization’s history, including twice the expected turnout and the best-ever single day and month in terms of membership sales. It also set a precedent for making brand activation activities in the community part of future marketing campaigns, which ultimately helped us achieve multiple records in terms of membership and program sales during my tenure, with most of the growth coming from new customers.