Brand Building

Running Promotions: The Event

When it comes to creating a community, nothing beats hosting an event. Here are some inspiring event ideas for the times we're living in.

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July 27, 2020

Overview

We’ll spare you another grave reminder of how difficult this year has been for small business, knowing full well that the impact of several months of ‘event drought’ can never be overemphasized. Let’s consider the flip side of the coin though, and turn our attention to the opportunities that have emerged.


Perhaps the most fundamental revelation for the entrepreneurially-minded, was how quickly human beings adjusted to a new mode of interacting with each other. After some initial panic, we began experimenting with some unprecedented ideas, trialing out virtual gatherings wherever possible, as opposed to simply canceling planned events and waiting for the world to get back to normal.  It was novel at first – we all joked about how weird it felt to be interact in this way – but that seems like a long time ago, right?


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Heaven knows what we would have done in a lockdown fifteen years ago, but in 2020 we transitioned with incredible ease to the paradoxical idea of gathering remotely. And, in many instances, we’ve found that it makes more sense to do it this way. The eventing landscape has changed entirely, much to the benefit of small businesses,. Three key factors have been reconfigured.

Cost

Virtual platforms are either free or very affordable, removing the financial obstacle of venue hire, and all the peripheral costs that go with that: food, drink, parking, security, support staff, etc. You can also involve expert speakers, influencers, or special guests at a much lower fee than if you had to transport and accommodate them.


Capacity

While many online events are intimate affairs, virtual campfires for a small number of like-minded folks to share or absorb ideas, there’s effectively no limit to the number of people you could have on your livestream, virtual tour, or online class. The conference centre you usually hire might pack in 500 people, but you could envision 10x the crowd on Facebook Live, for example.


Reach

A physical event is constrained by its proximity to the audience. “It’s a bit far away” has been the reason for countless declined invitations in years gone by. In an age of virtual eventing, you should be thinking globally. It’s as easy for a client in Brussels to join your online pilates class as it is for one in Addis Ababa. This is huge! It can exponentially multiply your community from a local one to a global one.

In the faraway world called ‘pre-2020’, most of us probably thought of branded events as an opportunity to showcase what you have to offer IRL, sprinkled with entertainment, food, cocktails, or goodie-bags as an incentive to lure folks off the couch, across town, and through your doors. Now we realize that events are really an opportunity for essential human connection – and whether that’s across a table or through a webcam, matters less than we thought.


Ultimately, it’s all about community: finding one, growing yours, and engaging with them. Physical eventing is returning, gradually, to our lives. We’ll no doubt flock to these again in due course, but don’t be too quick to forget about the immense value of virtual events. With online and IRL as dual options (possibly combined), your promotions toolkit just got bigger.

Perfect for…

Events are also known as ‘mega awareness generators’ (or at least they should be). Nothing’s better to stir up some buzz and help create a brand community, by getting the right people to take notice. The mere act of hosting an event positions you as more of leader in your category, not merely a participant. It demonstrates initiative, and people tend to notice the players who are energizing their industry.


It’s never been easier to host a small-scale event on IGTV, Facebook, YouTube, or Zoom, so take advantage of this. Whereas you might have been lucky to host one physical cooking workshop every season, you could look at weekly interactive Zoom workshops to exponentially multiply your presence in the lives of consumers. Use regular, small-scale events to get in front of new potential customers as often as you can.

Consider this

If you’re putting an event together, the action doesn’t all have to centre on your brand. You might coordinate activities that express your values and passions more than your product. It’s a great idea because it’s authentic, and that’s worth a whole lot to consumers.


Don’t get too blinkered on promoting yourself, and consider the association that might linger in a consumer’s mind if you genuinely entertain or educate them with no hard sell at all. Take a moment to reflect on the lifestyle your brand facilitates, and consider some more lateral ideas to pique the interest of your broader community.

For example: If you’re a brand that puts the natural environment front and centre – using recycled plastic. or only raw, organic ingredients in your products – then a beach clean-up day makes a lot of sense. When it comes to audience building, this is showing the world that your ideals aren’t just lip service on social media: you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and turn that inspirational quote into inspirational action.


Better yet, make it on World Environment Day, or during Plastic-Free July,  so you can make your event part of the global conversation. It’s amazing that you’re doing it for all the right reasons (we don’t doubt that for a second), but make the effort work in your  best interest by generating brand awareness while you’re at it.

Of your thousands of Instagram followers, maybe only 30 will arrive on the day. But those 30 will be perfectly aligned with your values, and unmistakably engaged with your ideas. Here’s your chance to really get to know your ideal customer personally.

The marketing calendar

Because so many brands are intricately connected to activities – running, gaming, surfing, painting, baking, vaping, hiking, biking – events are a brilliant way to mobilise your target market around things they love doing anyway. And if it’s during a specific time when the whole world does it too, well that’s just you being a globally relevant brand.

When it comes to audience building, one level better than a once-off event is a regular one. This might involve sponsorship, but if you’re clever, you could run the whole show and ingrain yourself with a particular community: an annual bike race, debate, olive festival, stitch-a-thon, or beach volleyball tournament… events that your brand brings to life, and people look forward to. Over time, this could add hugely to the brand community you’re creating, and cement you as a household name in that world.

Standing out

If you build it, they will come. We’re not sure who said that first, but it’s definitely about event posters – even bands hoping to fill stadiums know this. It’s no exaggeration to say that a standout promo design (and a plan to get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible) is the most crucial ingredient for a successful event. Nobody knows about it? Nobody’s coming.

Your poster is also your first and best opportunity to entice. Your design can communicate the spirit of the event, so choose your design elements (photos, graphics, fonts) carefully. Words alone can’t do it. Give us some indication of the vibe: psychedelic, futuristic, elegant, old school, spiritual… your aesthetic will instantly angle your event towards the right tribe.

Use design hierarchy to make the most important info BIG + BOLD. What’s happening, where, and when? We’ll decide very quickly if we’re interested, and if we can make it. Secondary information also needs to be there, but might appear smaller or further down the page. Do we need to buy tickets? Can anybody come? Will there be snacks?


Tactics to try

You probably have some idea of the type of event your brand might be good at hosting… but if you’re at a loss, here are some suggestions to consider:


The Pop-Up

Most very small businesses operate almost entirely online. That figures, but there’s value in at least making cameo appearances IRL. Pop-up venues are a great opportunity when they present themselves – especially for retail or food. You can stir up some physical energy for your company and create extra brand awareness for a few weeks, and use it to generate more leads for your online biz.


In the post-COVID era, most businesses will be reassessing overhead costs, and many will come to the conclusion that the pop-up retail model works better than paying rent every month.

Markets

If you’re not up for staging your own event, tag on to another one and offer something that contributes to the greater experience. You might even think of them as recurring pop-ups. Putting up a stall once a week is way cheaper than a monthly shop rental, and puts you smack bang in the middle of a super-charged consumer occasion.


We often refer to the ‘online marketplace’, and this year we’ve seen this manifest literally. The same collectives of makers that would put up tables in the park every Sunday, are now pooling their wares in, well, online marketplaces. This won’t be a passing fad, as the world accustoms itself to online shopping. Moreover, markets can now operate 24/7, and not just the second Tuesday of every month.

Community events

Doing something positive for your community can have a remarkably positive effect on building an audience for your brand, and the increased trust, loyalty, and likability that result are worth their weight in gold. Put the hard sell to one side, and show us your human heart – in the form of a fun-run, a blanket drive, a river clean-up, or a mural for the local kindergarten. Right now, community and collaboration is the name of the game, and our best bet to make it through challenging times.

The Party

Do we really need to give you a well-researched reason to throw a party? Getting people together with song and dance in the name of fun is always a good idea. The positive energy is your barometer for success: if everybody’s having a good time, your promotion is undoubtedly going well. Musicians, DJs, promoters, bars, and alcohol brands know this better than most.


We’ll see gatherings like these trickle back into or lives soon enough… or perhaps a tidal wave is the better metaphor, considering how long we’ve been deprived of dancefloor therapy. But in the interim (and in the future) don’t discount the appeal of listening parties, silent discos, and other modes of virtual partying that have emerged out of necessity.

The Exhibition

Any kind of creator needs to get their work out into the big scary world at some point. Online exhibitions and viewing rooms have emerged as a particularly effective way of showcasing visual art. Even some of the world’s biggest art fairs, like Art Basel, went virtual in 2020. Combined with easy purchasing and delivery options, the online exhibition can be a more effective way to actually sell your work, instead of an excuse to drink free wine.


That said, as the IRL world returns, putting your art on the wall for people to admire still retains prestige, and can be a very valuable immersion with fans, buyers, and art-lovers. It doesn’t have to be in a fancy gallery. Get creative, and find a less conventional space – like a café, or a friend’s dad’s cousin’s barbershop standing empty until December. As new spaces re-open for business, consider partnering with these fellow entrepreneurs, and use your art to re-invigorate their surroundings, in a mutually beneficial collaboration.

The Workshop or Tutorial

Workshops let you engage meaningfully with your most high value customers, building a loyal audience. They’re perfect for sharing your expertise, and offering your customers something of value in return. They can add a service component to your product, or focus on something more specialised than you usually offer: Photographer? Teach a studio portrait workshop. Craft beer brand? How about an IPA home-brewing course at your distillery?


Knowledge sharing is one of the easiest ways to engage a virtual community and, as a by-product of the age we’re living through, we’ve witnessed a flourishing culture of talks, workshops, discussions, lectures, lessons, and courses. Research suggests that outdated brand platitudes like ”making your life better”, simply don’t wash with consumers anymore. We’re far more enamoured by brands who can qualify promises like these with practical advice and tools that help us to achieve our ambitions. International experts in your realm, no matter where they are in the world, are but a Zoom link away.


Checklist

Before you open the front doors to your event – actually, before you even consider having an event in the first place – make sure the fundamentals are in place:


Timing

Choose your date well in advance, and stagger the announcements in phases leading up to the big day. Put out the word early, and remind people closer to the time. Also check the calendar so that you don’t clash with much bigger events.


The venue or platform

Make sure the location for your event is all locked down before any announcements begin. Does the venue have all the facilities you need? Do you need any permits to be there? Have you tested the connection, and invitation links?


Access

Can folks find you with ease, and get inside without a hitch? Do they need to pre-register, or get a password to access the talk? Do you need security to control who enters the space? These seemingly small details can have a big impact if they’re ignored.


Signage

The last few yards are crucial. Make sure people can clearly see they’ve arrived at the right place on the right day. Important information should also be up at the entrance. In the virtual space, consider designing a really attractive welcome screen, perhaps detailing the event’s agenda, so guests know they’ve arrived in the right place, and don’t have to sit around awkwardly as others trickle in.


When it comes to creating awareness around your unique brand and then building on this loyal audience - holding an event is a powerful way to go about it. After all, nothing beats meeting your community face to face. So get organised and get out there!

Try out Over today, for free, and create stunning posters for your next event!


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