Last week I had the opportunity to attend my first ever Event Marketing Summit. It was held in bustling Downtown Chicago at the Sheraton, a picturesque location, overlooking the Chicago River. The three day event seemed like a great opportunity to get a pulse on the current status and forward-looking direction of the event industry, and of course an opportunity to network with other event professionals.
Each day began with a keynote on various topics, followed by a full-day of breakout sessions, with a few breaks in between to visit the exhibit hall or network with co-attendees over meals and snacks. While it would be impossible to describe everything I learned at the conference, a few noteworthy presentations were:
- Making A Commitment To Experiential ‘Platforms’
- General Motors Case Study: Redesigning The Experience and
- Creating An ‘Emotional Footprint’ At Tradeshows
After reviewing my notes and taking some time to reflect on all of the information I had gathered, I began to see a consistent pattern between the presentations – a pattern that is applicable to both B-to-B and B-to-C events. The concept: customer-centric marketing – allowing your customer to tell your story for you, to develop their own connection, and share their story with you and others around them.
In the past, a brand had a story to tell, and would push that story on their customers. Described in the General Motors case study presentation, imagine a circle…in the middle is GM, and all around them are their various customer types. A marketing campaign would be developed and was then pushed to the customer without regard to a key insight…did the customer actually understand the story being told? Were they even connected to the message? Today, those very questions are considered. Instead of GM as the center of the circle, the customer is the center, with all of GM’s car types and various divisions as the outer ring. Instead of pushing a story to customers, GM now focuses on pulling those stories from their customers to build the most effective marketing campaigns to date…campaigns that the customer has helped create from their own experience – Customer-centric marketing.
Another example of this customer-centric, “pull marketing” was described in Creating an ‘Emotional Footprint’ at Tradeshows, presented by Intel. Their tradeshow experience came in the form of a large, technologically-advanced booth called, The Intel Connect to Life Experience. It was a 3-D virtual life simulation where attendees could create shapes using their hands (or just about any object) to create a bioluminescent life form on a towering 168-foot projection screen overhead. Instead of using the space for product advertising, they chose to allow customers to create their own unbranded experience, just for fun. In turn, attendees developed an emotional connection to the brand, creating their own individual Intel story. Pulling from customers, rather than pushing the story to them, with remarkable results and glowing reviews from attendees.
I left the Event Marketing Summit with some real food for thought. How will I implement this customer-centric approach to my future marketing strategies? How can I apply this to my day-to-day marketing activities? How will I move into this new direction?