Archive for Marketing

Marketing is… (a slight update)

Close to five years ago I wrote Marketing is… 

Recently I was part of a discussion on what makes a marketing department “the best”? Reminded of this piece I revisited it.

The discussion pointed out a missing factor in successful marketing – innovations. So we have gone from TRDOM to TRIDOM (Targeted, Relevant, Innovative, Differentiating, Orchestrated, and Measurable).

Many who took issue with the sound of turd-um will be pleased with this adjustment. I just think it’s a bit more reflective of modern marketing.



Marketing is…

…one half of an unfinished symphony.

Whether marketing communications, product/solution marketing, experience marketing, brand, advertising, demand generations, social media, or anything else, the balance of the melody is “sales”.

“Sales” is in quotes because this word is also incomplete when it stands on its own.

“Sales and marketing” is a “complete sentence” containing an objective and a verb (you decide which is which – it works either way). The complete story requires a need (organic and/or generated), a solution (functional and/or emotional and/or aspirational), and a method of connecting these two.

Are the Apple stores (drop a dollar in the “Apple is over used as a case study” jar) “sales” or “marketing”? Yes, they are. When you attend a tradeshow, are you being sold to or marketed to? Is the special offer via an email sales or marketing?

The classic sales continuum starts with “awareness” and journeys to “advocacy”. Each is touched by marketing and sales activities. Some of the steps have been considered more “marketing” (awareness, interest, consideration, loyalty, advocacy) and others more sales (preference, purchase). But this may not hold as true today as in the past (if it ever really did).

The distinction may best be considered as in the mind of the person being “marketed” or “sold” to. Some look to avoid the sales process, investing time researching and learning on their own, while some jump happily into the sales experience as soon as they decide (on their own or via external influence) they indeed have a need to fill.

The stereotype is that the car buying experience is to be avoided; yet many flock to the Apple store (another dollar) for training and workshops and “just looking around” that often result in the purchase of new software or accessories.

Some are more motivated by the functional differences of the product or the price; some want an account exec or sales associate to work with them through the process. They want to be “sold” to.

Others are more attracted to the story, the message, the meaning, they may be quick to advocate and/or associate themselves with the solution. (“I’m a Cadillac guy”)

So if the distinction is in the eye of the recipient, so is the definition.

At best, sales or marketing is the emotional, functional, and inspirational experience that offers solution to “my need where, when, and how I want it.”

At worst, it is an interruptive manipulation that upsets and annoys.

When are sales/marketing successful? When they are:

  • Targeted | Who are you trying to reach and with what message, call to action? What are you trying to do? This should include a targeted Audience and Objective.
  • Relevant | How are you being relevant to their needs, wants, desires. Is your Message and Medium appropriate and compelling?
  • Innovative | Are you standing out from the noise and offering sometime new and exciting?
  • Differentiating | How are you different from other solutions, alternatives?
  • Orchestrated | Are all the marketing, sales, and execution touch points aligned?
  • Measured | How do you know you are reaching your objective?

Just like music, a limited number of notes (8 in music, a few more in sales and marketing) can be combined into endless songs, both good and bad.





Industry 4.0 – Digitizing of Everything Else

In 2012 I wrote about the Digitizing of Everything. Since then, even more than I imagined has been reduced to 0 and 1, stored in the cloud or on drives, and changed the world forever.

Looking back, I realize that while I stuck a toe into the science fiction of the future as it was then (how do you refer to the future in past tense – the historic future?), the realities of just how much can and will be digitized is growing at an amazing pace.

Bill Gates and others are now raising concerns with the impact robotics and artificial intelligence will have in social, not technical, terms. This is a recognition that the realization of these technologies is now a foregone conclusion in the minds of forward thinkers, and the human impact is top of mind. Bill also sees some other technologies that we are on the verge of realizing.

Old MediaMuch of what we have digitized has been in the consumer and data worlds – music, video, text, shopping, documents, information, etc. While there are new formats that challenge the old – playing music on mobile devices rather than records; reading on screen rather than on paper; shopping online rather than in a retail store; filing a medical claim and getting paid online; completing HR process at the office – they do not destroy the old formats. Books, records, retail stores, paper medical claims all still exist and the Millennials seem to like these more tangible formats. (Everything old is new again).

Fringe concepts like face recognition for security, self-driving cars, 3D printed items, and unmanned aircraft – from the military to home delivery – are now all part of today’s world. They may not have had their Janus Moment and become the “norm”, but they are no longer the fringe.

We are however entering a period that I referenced to in the “historical future” of 2012 where computers are beginning to do new things, not just in new formats. I wrote:

In the book AFTER THOUGHT The Computer Challenge to Human Intelligence James Bailey proposes a completely new impact on humanity due to the computer’s ability to “think” differently than we do.

One example he uses to illustrate the impact of the speed of computing is weather predictions. Given the same data, humans could calculate the predictions just as machines, but in hundreds of “man-hours”. By then, the prediction would be useless.”

Today, we find Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Bots, Predictive Analytics, Conversation as a Platform (where Bots talk to each other instead of humans). Quantum Computing, and more. These concepts were talked about in 2012, but today they are fully realized if not fully implemented.

The result? What the World Economic Forum refers to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This may sound familiar as well. That’s because in 2012 the Economist wrote about the Third Industrial Revolution. Yup, the Third Industrial Revolution lasted a brief 4 years. (it was televised and is available for streaming via NetFlix.)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution connects systems and computers in ways humans can’t (fully digitally) and begins to form new processes and tools around how computers, not humans, think.

Imagine this: a sensor in a subscription oven (one where the restaurant pays based on usage rather than all up front) sends its report to an intelligent system that predicts failure within 2 weeks based on usage, model, location, and more. This triggers the calendar bot to schedule the appointment with the restaurant based on day/times it’s open and the service center’s availability. Confirmation of the appointment is sent to the chef and the oven which displays the information on its screen – if a technician is needed at all.

Instructions are sent to the 3D printer at the restaurant (crediting the monthly invoice for materials used) and the restaurant’s alarm system pairs with the bot in the service tech’s device to allow access when he arrives. Or, an interactive bot walks the restaurant owner through the process of replacing the part using a video recognizing app or augmented reality glasses.

So why should the event and conference industry care?

  • Fewer Workers means fewer attendees: The example above shows that there will be fewer service techs and training in the future. If service teams and training are your audience and content, they may be greatly reduced inside of 50 years. Add autonomous vehicles like trains, trucks, ships, tractors, taxis, buses, and more and there will be even fewer audiences for these types of events. (More on the impact of Autonomous Vehicles in a later post). At one time, every elevator in the world required an elevator operator, now almost none do. In the future, one or more drivers per vehicle or one service techs per service call will seem as strange as one operator per elevator does now.
  • New workers mean new attendees, content, and conferences: However, new skills, technologies, and industries means new events. All the technologies above will form into mature industries over the next 20 years. The concept that a chef will also do maintenance on their kitchen appliance via augmented reality glasses means new and different skills for many attendees at what do not appear to be “technology” events. Tech, IT, Robotics, and more will become more mainstream and therefore more necessary curriculum for attendees everywhere.
    Robot at Microsoft Ignite

    Robot at Microsoft Ignite

  • Changes in business process: Bots and connected systems will replace the order taking, warehouse, and quality control process by sending orders directly to robots and drones for assembly into self-driving truck, or a 3D printer on site. How does a warehouse change if there are no humans involved in the storing and gathering? How can you change the Event and Conference business as an event owner, agency, or service provider?
  • Online attendee experience will change: Richer media, attendees navigating physical space via robots and/drones (just piloted at Microsoft Ignite), sessions streamed globally by attendees, attendance fees based on content consumed not physical or online access. Skype Translator alone allows for global audiences for content consumption.
  • Interconnected data: Just as Facebook and Google profit handsomely from the broad sets of data related to their user and their preferences, event data will become more broadly used and valuable beyond the event itself. Publishers once were the channel to new audiences with mailing lists; today all sources of information have increasing value not only to marketers, but to the systems that provide the augmented reality, predictive analytics, conversations, and more.

Robot Attendees

The birth of SkyNet is coming.

While Terminator shows one fanaticized version of what self-aware machines learning and working together might be, the events industry needs to digest the realities of how the digitizing of everything will impact, well – everything.

Be assured, even if the machines do rise, they will need an annual conference for networking, planning, and training. And the Resistance will need a series of events as well!

Who will be first to introduce an event for them?



One of these things is not like the others. | How to ensure your MC fits in

Some say that you learn all you need to know during kindergarten. If this is true, one of the biggest lessons for me was Sesame Street’s “One of these things is not like the others” segments.

In these segments, four items are shows; three are related to each other in some way, the fourth is not. Your job is to determine which is not like the others.

Part of what I enjoyed was also determining how the other three were related to each other.

Despite this early life lesson, and Sesame Street’s over 4,000 episodes since 1969, it seems some have still not applied this learning to the key moments at their events.

HiResI’m referring of course to the Host or Master of Ceremonies (MC) who is out of sync with the flow of the keynote, whose jokes are falling flat, and who is not like the others. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen it at least once. It makes us cringe, cover our eyes, or shake our heads in confusion.

Some feel an MC or host is essential for introducing presenters, covering housekeeping announcements, or making sure executives are not “reduced” to these chores. In some cases, the role is needed or the experience improved as a result of having one. But like comedy (an unfortunate place many MCs tend to go even in a serious keynote) hosting is not easy.

But an MC gone wrong can be far worse to the sense of Place, Purpose, and Pride than asking someone associated with the hosting organization or the audience to fill this role.

Another childhood experience may lend some guidance on how to make sure the MC does fit – the circus. The Ringmaster serves as the Master of Ceremonies at the circus, helping direct the attention of the audience from one stage/ring of the big tent to another, but they are much more.

Like the Ringmaster, MCs fit best when then they are:

Authentically Relevant and to the story and experience: Traditional circus Ringmaster have a big top with several performance areas (rings) where performances take place. Their relevance to the performances (and the audience) is to direct the audience’s attention to the right performance. Their creditability came from the fact that they are the leader of the circus – it’s performers, performances, and story.

Modern circuses like Cirque de Soleil still point the audience’s attention and string together the performances, but in a new form. They appear in the form of a character(s) more woven into the storyline, who interact with the audience and the story. They bridge the two. Their connection to the audience is increased by being part of the story as well as the audience’s guide.

Today’s new program hosts are different from anchors in the past who read the news. News hosts today are part of the storytelling, direct the discussions, and act as the “voice of the audience” in asking the questions the audience might if they could. Hosts at award ceremonies are often relevant as they are from the industry such as actors hosting the Oscars or Tony’s; journalists hosting a press core dinner; your parent’s hosting Thanksgiving.

If your host is not relevant to the story, the experience, or the organization putting on the event, they may not be a good fit.

Recognizable to the audience: The audience should be able to recognize the host – if not as an individual, as a persona or type.

It’s best for the audience to recognize the individual as they do when they tune into the favorite sporting event and hear the long time announcer. However, even in situations like a corporate event, there are ways to “introduce” the host prior to the event, and show their relevance to the audience.

Whether an outside professional MC, or an employee within an organization, using social media, videos, blogs, and other communication channels can position the individual as the host for the entire event rather than just for the MC for the keynotes or presentations. This also provides a connection to the event pre and post, using the same host as during the event.

Another method of speeding up recognition is to use a recognizable persona – like a news reported, industry analyst, or other recognizable (and relevent) type of person even if the specific individual is not well known. In most cases, audience don’t recognize the actual Ringmaster at the circus, but they recognize the persona of the Ringmaster.

If your host is not recognizable by the audience, they may not be a good fit.

Relatable: Finally, the audience needs to relate to the host or MC in order to feel they are representing their interests. The more “like” the audience, or the more creditable to the audience, the more the audience will “follow” them through the experience.

Part of what makes comedy funny is that you can “see” yourself or others in the humor. The same is true in an experience like a keynote. If you do not relate, you will likely tune (or actually walk) out. If the host is not relatable, it can make relating to the balance of the experience even harder.

And as mentioned above, comedy is a tactic many professional MCs use to be relevant and relatable to the audience. Not only is comedy difficult, but if the tone of the event is not comedic, it can result in the opposite of its objective – less relatable and less relevant.

If your host is not relatable to the audience, they may not be a good fit.


There are many ways to manage the housekeeping and announcing/introducing aspects of a keynote or event. Audio announcements, visuals on screen, pre-recorded videos, and more. Even the largest events such as sports, awards, and the recent political conventions use a combination of these tactics with or without a host.

However, a host who is Relevant, Recognizable, and Relatable can easily carry some of these duties with no issues. An MC who is not relevant, not recognizable, and/or not relatable will certainly make it feel like they don’t belong.

The New Era of Silent Movies

In a short attention span, “I’m not listening”, world – communicators need to ensure that their visuals carry the story on their own when needed.

To address the “mute” button and multi-screen society, some of the best broadcast commercials have told moving stories without spoken words for years. Check out the Budweiser #bestbuds series with the sound off – still moving, emotional, universal, and effective.

Social media and streaming services now offer a preview of rich media in one’s social posts, but until your click to view, without sound. This is further changing how people engage with video and rich media, forcing creators to look for ways to capture attention and tell the story with visuals only; or in the best case scenario, solicit a click to view the content with sound.


Fortunately, there are lessons to learn from Silent Movies. The golden age of Silent Movies was the result of new technology (moving pictures) and the lack of technology (no real way to capture and sync sound as well). Stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Mildred Davis all rose in their craft by telling stories that captured the imaginations of the audience through their acting, visual techniques, and intertitles. An audio soundtrack was in some cases provided by an organ or piano in the theater, and added to, rather than carrying on its own, the storyline.

Adding simple subtitles and captioning can make the difference between a video that’s “silent ready” and one that isn’t. The BBC has a series called BBC Trending that does a nice job of using subtitles graphically and selectively. In contrast, KOMO News in the Seattle area posts “QuickCasts” on Facebook without captioning. Adding captions would immediately change the value and view-ability of these otherwise concise and relevant local news.

Using techniques from broadcast, commercials, and silent movie era – and lessons from live presentations such as graphics, charts, and animations to carry the story – the new era of silent movies has arrived. These tactics also benefit in reaching diverse audiences by allowing those with hearing disabilities to receive the message, and by using multiple languages, reaching a broader audience.

Some organizations are leading the new ear of silent movies. Robert Reich’s Big Picture series on,


and Home Cooking Adventure

are good examples where silent movie techniques allow the message and information to be told with the sound off, or understood more when the audio is on. Unlike the mini-stories of broadcast commercials, both of these examples have specific details, information and actions, and both are part of series which is also not lost on the viewers.

So if you want to know just how “silent-ready” your rich media is, turn off the sound and see if your message is being communicated.



Seeing Around Corners – ECEF 2015 Keynote

Social norms, technology and the economy are under constant pressure.

Small but meaningful changes that have the potential to disrupt our plans are advancing every day. Like pressure on a fault line, they can release small tremors or become major earthquakes. From the decline of intermediaries to the growth in protests, the shocks will affect your event, your attendees, and your business.

How can you be ready for the inevitable and the unknown? At the Exhibit and Conference Executives Forum I shared my thoughts on a strategy I have used to help you anticipate the worst, while preparing for the best.

How Celebrities and Copy Cats create “Janus Moments”.


The gift bag at the recent Emmys included tens of thousands of dollars worth of products, trips, samples, and more.

Product placement in movies and TV shows – whether subtle or more obvious – can expose a product to millions of people, and in a situation and use that is most positive to the brand.

Celebrity sponsorships – from sports to musicians to “constructed celebrities” like Paris Hilton and the Kardashians (a name that I just found out is in my spellcheck dictionary) – can have spectacular impact on the sponsoring company, just ask Nike how valuable their relationship with Michael Jordan is.

Even a 140 character tweet (paid or from the heart) from someone you follow can trigger the exploration and/or purchase of just about anything. Or, in a less material slant, support of a cause or individual.

What all of these tactics have in common is the power of influence. More and more, what your friends – real or “I know we’d be BFFs if we ever met” – feel, think, know, or do influences what you feel, think, know, or do.

And it can cut both ways.

A simple comment about what’s wrong with a product, how the experience went bad, or even a whimsical slam can have a negative impact to the same degree as the positive.

This type of influence is not exclusive to purchases or opinions. It can, and does, expand to culture and actions of other kinds.

Researchers looking to explain suicide clusters – an abnormal number of suicides in a given community or area – found that the actions of an individual or two can trigger a “copycat syndrome” where others who may have never truly contemplated suicide are drawn to do so.

AMPS TweetThe speed at which a single incident can become a more common occurrence is something to watch carefully and be conscious of. In the one month after Marilyn Monroe’s suicide there were 200 more suicides than average. This is part of the reason that there was criticism of the way some looked to celebrate Robin Williams at the time of his suicide.

A “flywheel” effect can take place, where the energy from a small beginning builds on itself to become much bigger. The phenomenon of “flash crashes” in financial markets issimilar – where one action triggers an ever-building set of actions, often computer trades based on specific price or data levels.

This increasing speed, influence, and reach – both good and bad – is one way that the fringe or Black Swans (something unthinkable because it’s never been seen, but none the less is very real) have Janus Moments and become the norm.



No Respect, No Service

The famous ad – “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” – is successful both in it catchiness and truism: in Las Vegas you can let your hair down and behave in ways you may want to forget. Given Vegas’ place as a center for conferences and trade shows, the reference is certainly not just to personal visits, but to event attendees as well.

num5_mThe events environment – not just in Las Vegas – has for some people offered an opportunity to act in ways different from how they might at their grandparent’s dinner table. At one product launch, not only did organizers need to ensure the audience didn’t “overly interact” with the band members (and vise-verse), a crew member was locked out of his room while dressed in women’s clothing, and two marriages resulted from the 4 days on site.

Mostly innocent, antics such as these were referred to as “road rules”, even before the popular MTV show of the same name.

Now a new trend is emerging that attempts to put restraints and context to the more extreme and disruptive of this behavior. With an increased awareness, and declining social acceptance, of any behavior that is harassing or disrespectful, event hosts and organizers are publishing Codes of Conduct and Anti-Harassment statements.

Not totally new – codes of conduct have been common at internal events and as reminders of employee everyday codes of conduct – these policies and statements are becoming more common at external and 3rd party programs. Also new is they are now more prominent including as posted reminders at the venue and in the show guide, not just as part of the registration and confirmation micro type.

comicon code_editAt their core, the Codes of Conduct and Anti-Harassment Statements outline the consequences (mostly being asked to stop, or being removed from the event) for engaging in unacceptable and/or harassing behavior. Many are short, sweet, and to the point appearing to have been written by legal. Others are page long documents (seemingly written by PR) in a more casual voice that address the need more directly, and contain long lists of (interesting) reasons people harass each other.

For instance, the DreamForce Code of Conduct contains over 700 words, and a list of 13 specific “unacceptable behavior”, while “Conduct” in Apple’s WWDC online details, contained a total of 77 words.

Google’s Anti-Harassment Policy starts: Why do we have an official anti-harassment policy for Google events? First, it is necessary (unfortunately). Harassment at events is incredibly common.”

And the Conference Code of Conduct includes a list containing:gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion (or lack thereof).”

A discussion around the need for such policies, much less their increased prominence, quickly becomes heated and passionate. Some argue (correctly) that the vast majority of events already manage such incidents quickly, privately, and in much the way the Code of Conduct states, so what’s changed? Others ask if there is truly a need for the event to play such a “parental” role or if the parties involved should be left to manage the issue as if it occurred on the public street instead of at the event.

The conclusion, by a growing number of events, is that they do have a responsibility, and an active role, in creating and ensuring a harassment free experience at their events.




Note: Microsoft’s Code of Conduct states:

Microsoft mission is to empower every person and every business on the planet to achieve more. This includes at [EVENT] where we seek to create a respectful, friendly, and inclusive experience for all participants.

As such, we do not tolerate harassing or disrespectful behavior, messages, images, or interactions by any event participant, in any form, at any aspect of the program including business and social activities, regardless of location.

We encourage everyone to assist in creating a welcoming and safe environment. Please report any concerns, harassing behavior, suspicious or disruptive activity to the nearest security guard or show staff.

Microsoft reserves the right to refuse admittance to, or remove any person from [event name] at any time in its sole discretion.




MPI World Education Congress 2014 | Closing General Session

The Closing General Session at MPI World Education Congress 2014 featured Scott Schenker, the General Manager, Events and Production Studio at Microsoft and Founder of Janus Dialogs.

Scott believes there is magic in discovery and innovation. However the process of innovating is not magical – it comes from observing what others are doing, tapping the collective imaginations of empowered and engaged individuals, and embracing the fringe for new norms.

Developing a habit of appreciating, understanding, and being energized by these new norms – rather than fearing or dismissing them – has been one of Scott’s key to success in the Events industry.

Scott will share insights on how he approaches innovation, searches for new ideas, and “borrows” them from completely different industries to introduce them into the events he and his team organize. He will explore the four reasons for, and the four types of, innovation as well as the importance of looking at social, political, and economic realms, and the bright and shiny technical innovations.


Areas of Agreement

WP_20140703_14_12_09_Raw (2)

Unity and alignment are powerful forces, and when they can be harnessed they can drive great accomplishment.

I think about a personal collection I am very proud of, a set of posters from the Second World War, posters made by, in part, my grandfather who was the creative lead of the Sheldon-Claire Agency at that time. They were made to encourage participation in the war effort, and each instills an emotional connection, elicits a personal commitment, and builds energy to achieve the goals of the times.

We are not at war, and the stakes are not as high.

Yet, despite being 70 years old and related to a heavy topic, the posters used techniques similar to what we use today in modern marketing. For instance, they are short and sharable (almost tweet-able), use engaging story-telling methods, and each has compelling imagery to resonate with the audience.

WP_20140703_14_12_42_Raw (3)One series is entirely devoted to “This is America…Keep It Free.” These purposeful images and messages created a vision of what was at stake, clearly defining the problem and how to solve it.








WP_20140703_14_11_56_Raw (2)Another “The American Way Works” reminded the reader of what it was that made America unique.









WP_20140703_14_12_04_Raw (2)Another, with a more direct call to action, showed the impact and significance of the reader’s work as they “Produce for Victory”.









Most important, all focus around “areas of agreement” that everyone – from labor to management, men and women, different ages, races, and backgrounds – could identify and agree with. This was very intentional; developed to make everyone feel part of the effort; to represent the collective that America is; and start from an undeniable place of unquestioned agreement.

A common ground was important then, and it is important today. As any team works to deliver a multi-faceted, multi-objective, and multi-stakeholder experience, there will be times where not all agree on all aspects of the undertaking. But there will always be “areas of agreement” from which they can work.

Look for, develop, and start from these “areas of agreement”. It is from these that conversation, consensus, and cooperation can grow; that alignment can be realized; and impactful experience marketing achieved.

Plus Pass: Increase Interest and Value with Unique Experiences and Limited Packages.


Across diverse industries, customers eagerly embracing upgrades that offer increased convenience, are more personal, are viewed as more valuable, and offer access to exclusive activities.

Audiences will naturally gravitate toward activities and enhancements that are most relevant to them.

Everyone wins when attendees can craft their conference experience in ways that excite and captivate them.

Taking a page from the travel, retail, and entertainment industries, tradeshow and conference organizers are improving attendee experiences with exclusive offers, upgrades, and value packages. They are inventing new, more enjoyable ways to engage audiences, while at the same time increasing revenue and improving attendance satisfaction.


Package vs. à la Carte: Which Model Works Best? There are two main approaches to up-level the attendee experience:

  • Package a collection of high-value offers into a premium single price offer.
  • Allow attendees to pick and choose the offers most important to them with à la carte pricing.

concertConcert organizers, entertainment industry conferences, and theme parks find success in the “packaged” route. Live Nation, for example, creates “experience packages” for their headline concerts. Customers buying tickets for the Justin Timberlake concert had the option to purchase the Perfect Vision Tour, Perfect Vision Party, or 20/20 VIP Bar & Lounge package. Each level offered a unique experience, increased convenience, special access, and merchandise.

Offering packages like these creates high value for concertgoers and provides an opportunity to increase the average ticket price for a show or an event. For the recent Rolling Stones 50 and Counting tour, the show was staged in smaller venues compared to previous tours–but thanks to various VIP packages, the average ticket price jumped from $50 a show to $250 a show. And, production costs were reduced because of the smaller venues.

Universal Orlando Resort and Parks offer consumers the star treatment with custom tours, private entrances, and expedited services for varying days and parks.

The alternate approach is to offer guests à la carte options based on what is of highest value to them, and at times as “in the moment” decisions. Movie theaters pioneered this trend many years ago, increasing their profit by offering concessions to go along with the movie. This innovation is expanding in the modern day to include full menus and professional chefs.

The travel industry has taken this model to a new level, focusing on what matters most to the traveler and developing a wide range of add-ons to meet those needs and desires.

Hawaiian Airlines, for example, offers travelers the opportunity to pre-order inflight amenities such as premium meals, Made-In Hawaii snacks, or tablet entertainment systems before boarding their flights.

Delta_Air_Lines_-_N365NW_(8351131571)Delta recently gave its flight attendants wireless devices allowing them to sell passengers last-second seat upgrades and more on the plane. And Jet-Blue is bridging the packaged and á la carte experience upgrade by announcing the new Mint Experience, which, for a single fee, offers travelers a private suite on the plane plus tapas-style dining and plush amenity kit.

Total airline revenue generated by these ancillary fees skyrocketed from $2.45 billion in 2007 to $27.1 billion in 2012. In fact, a full 14% of United Airlines’ revenue comes from these fees, with passengers spending, on average, an additional $38.11 on extras.


Putting the Right Offers Together What value attendees put on premium offers is largely dependent on the degree to which relevance comes into play. What is relevant or valued by one attendee may not be for another.

Customization can address the relevance, and can be based on a variety of factors—job title or level, content interest, geographical location, even gaming platform preference.

Some may value a convenience pass that includes express registration lines, preferred keynote seating, or a preferred hotel block at the hotel nearest to the convention center. Others may choose increased networking opportunities such as private meeting room access or a lunch with well know industry representative.

Here again, the travel industry offers a model. They segment offers by trip type (spa offers for leisure travelers, extra Internet bandwidth for business travelers), location (packages that include fine dining for Las Vegas or NYC trips), and status (executive room upgrades only for non-Gold or Diamond members.)

Cross-promotion with sponsors and partners can extend the value of these packages even further. There are valuable opportunities for partners to increase awareness of the partners’ products or offerings by making special offers or activities available that further highlight the value and relevance to key audiences.


Limited Availability

Limited red grunge vintage seal isolated on whiteOnce a relevant upgrade package has been developed, an important aspect is its limited availability. In most cases, limiting the availability (due to limited resources or by design) increases the interest, perceived value, and urgency to purchase. The result is a shift from the purely economic value and an “I can get it any time”, to an “I want that so I should act soon” mind-set.

The legacy price based approach of offering “early bird” pricing to attendees can be offset by the availability of a series of highly valued packages available for a limited time or in limited quantity. This contributes to an increase in interest without needing to discount, and in increase in average attendee revenue without the need to raise prices for everyone.


Note: This topic is a derivative of a recent Trends and Innovations article released by Microsoft’s Marketing Events and Production Studios    .

The P’s of Event Marketing

Event teams can adopt a classic marketing model to focus efforts and achieve their objectives.

In early 2013, Harvard Business Review posted an article titled, “Rethinking the Four P’s” suggesting that the classic marketing mix model1 (product, place, price, and promotion) should be retooled to better address the needs of B2B marketers. The article was based on a five-year study of more than 500 B2B marketers worldwide, and suggested a model that explicitly emphasized more “current” commodities such as solutions and value.

4p_smallThe “Four P’s” durability over time is arguably due not to its rigidity, but to its flexibility. It often expands to six or more P’s, folding in such concepts as people, packaging, positioning, process, performance…the list goes on.

The “P’s of Event Marketing” defines parameters that can be used to ensure that all aspects of event strategy, experience design, and execution support core marketing objectives and are aligned with broader marketing strategies.

The P’s of Event Marketing include the following elements: Place, Purpose, Pride, and Promotion. At a glance, these may seem more similar to the original Four P’s of Marketing than they actually are.

Sense of Place –  sense of place for an event marketer is not about geography or venue. It’s about “owning” the space as if it was yours, your office or your “home”. When the audience arrives do they get the feeling that this is your place or just a venue you rented that you will be leaving soon? Does it feel like an executive visitor center, your ideal game room, your best research facility, or lobby to your global headquarters? Is it unique, organized, and special? It should be.

In designing a live event, you need to craft a place for experiences, conversation, information sharing, influence, and dialog that is worth the time your audience will carve out to participate. This may sound slightly esoteric, but it just might be the “secret sauce” that makes live events such an effective and desired component of the marketing mix.

The objective is to ensure that the question “Where am I?” is answered firmly with “at ____”, not just with “at a _____ Event”, or worse “a conference”.

A Clear Purpose – A sense of purpose, not generically but with regard to serving defined audience segments, is an important criteria for attracting attendees and delivering an experience that resonates. It is critical to understand Purpose in terms of what strategic marketing initiative an event needs to support (lead generation, product awareness, perception change, revenue generation, community.)

It is equally important to design the experience with a sense of purpose tailored to each audience member, with the increased levels of personalization and participation that event audiences have come to expect.

Purpose can – and should – change over the course of the event – from initial awareness to considering a purchase; from arriving to learning to departing – so the purpose may need to change over time as well. Different messages entering and leaving, on day one to day last.


pridePride – Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising, and nothing says “You don’t need to care” more than saying “I don’t care.” The pride and passion of the host needs to shine from every corner and mountain top. How the temp staff greets the audience, how the cables are laid and how clean the venue is, how fast the social media comments are responded to. Pride is contagious, as is the lack of it, and as events are one of the most engaging live experiences the audience may have with a Brand, they need to feel the pride.


Cross Promotion – Traditional B2B marketing has evolved to a more Person-to-Person approach, a truism has emerged – inside every commercial business or technical decision maker is a consumer. Further, consumers are often fans of the products they buy, a state of engagement those who market to commercial buyers should look to achieve.

The art is in the mix of primary and secondary message, ensuring that the reasons the audience is participating are meet, and adding some unexpected, relevant cross promotions.


Note: This topic is a derivative of a recent Trends and Innovations article released by Microsoft’s Global Events and Production Studios team.

The Secret Sauce – Fans


Who will stand in line for hours to buy the latest device or see opening night; invest their time and money to be part of the experience; or support what they believe in to boundless levels?

A fan will.

Sport teams, entertainers, and even politicians have known the power of fans for years – they bring a level of engagement, loyalty, and advocacy that transcends that of a simple supporter, customer, or attendee. They bring a sense of community and excitement that can be contagious. Fans embody the best of the “after I buy” side of consideration. This is why corporations sponsor stadiums, events, and products; why consumer marketers celebrate fans and the role of loyalty programs such as frequent flyers and fan clubs.

Experience Marketing” highlights the experience that a loyal customer or fan has. But there is room in the Event and Sampling areas of Experiential Marketing to incorporate fans as well.


BMW developed an “Owners’ Lounge” on the second level of their booth at several Auto Shows. Presenting your BMW car key gave you access to the second story, and literally the opportunity to “look down” on all the other car brands at the show. Seemingly at odds with the traditional objective of a tradeshow booth (leads and awareness/interest building) they segmented the owners from the prospects, allowing for separate but equally relevant experiences while also celebrating the owners in a way that inspired prospects to join their ranks. They also moved customers to fans by recognizing and celebrating them.

Far too often the loyalty and advocacy side of the sales continuum is forsaken during prospecting and awareness activities. Making fans a central part of your audience, content, and experience planning can change your perspective for the better. Successful Fan Strategies should include:

  • Identifying your Fans – Everyone has fans. Some maybe more obvious than others, but even the driest of products and services have a segment of buyers/users who are more avid than others. If you truly don’t, consider shutting your doors or (better yet) developing your fan base.
  • Empower them – Who better to amplify your messages than your fans? They can share content, access, and unique experiences.
  • Incorporating them – Include them in content and event activities as more than case studies and endorsements. Let them host their own tracks, content, and online channels. They are likely doing it anyway.
  • Engage with them – Take lessons from musicians who literally bring fans on stage to perform or simply dance. Let them be more than a reference, let them be excited and exciting!
  • Celebrate them – Via social media, recognition programs, and experience marketing activities.

As with all experiential marketing, the objective of the program needs to remain clear – is the event the business; or should it drive the business of the host organization? If the event is being used to drive the business of the host, then fans of the host are more important than fans of the event.  They are BMW fans, not fans of the auto show. A User’s Group or Owner’s Lounge celebrates loyalty to the business, whereas Alumni Lounges and Badges celebrate loyalty to the event.


Experiential Marketing – “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it”

In the later decades of the 20th century a new term arose from the board rooms of Madison Avenue to the halls of convention centers around the world – “Experiential Marketing.” Given the diverse elements and definitions of marketing itself (see here), adding a word such as experiential wasn’t very clarifying.

Clarity wasn’t the objective – differentiation was. Firms quickly began carving out their space with new mission statements, tag lines, and offerings. This was accelerated by the arrival of digital, online, interactive, and social technologies which were truly disrupting marketing, and changing the conversation with target audiences – much more than “experiential” was.

So what types of live marketing are there?

2013 SAP SAPPHIRE NOW1st and 3rd Party Events – The “classic” and most visible, events are a one to many, owned (hosted) or paid (sponsored) activity. Think conference, tradeshow, sponsorship, etc. Much of the content is presented in keynotes, breakouts, labs, conversations among groups, and the networking that occurs. Brought “online” in the late 1990’s, events remain roughly the same. Just look at the traditional metrics: reach, satisfaction, leads, and impact on executive egos.

sample“Sampling”, “Demos”, or “Promotions” – A 1:1 or one to few owned (hosted) experience – repeated. Sampling is a more personal, flexible, and repeated experience. The rise of “viral”, and “street” marketing changed the experience from handing out a sample of a product, to experiencing the brand in a broader sense. But at the end of the day, it is the opportunity to sample an item that distinguishes this category. At a 1st or 3rd party event, sampling may come in the form of a demo, trial, or private “preview”. In any case, there is an earned element if the experience is shared by the participant via PR or social.

experienceExperience Marketing – the newest and most “experiential marketing” in nature, is a paid (if not in compensation or sponsorship, in exchange of some value) and earned (those willing to share their stories) activity that markets or promotes an experience someone had, often designed to amplify the user’s emotions, endorsement, or showcase the value of the product. Skype does this very well with a series of promotional videos showing how a family portrait can be taken “virtually” and in real time using their product.

All of these share common elements such as:

  • They use social media and online strategies to amplify and interact
  • They are live, and often a moment in time
  • Collectively they represent a significant investment for many companies, consumer and commercially focused
  • There is some level of media or production included

ice2And certainly they have many elements that are unique, which is why some view experiential marketing as one might “transportation”, covering a broad range of activities that deliver a similar outcome (engaging with a target audience in some “live” way or with an experience for “experiential”; getting from point A to point B for “transportation”). Others seem to see it as very specific, as specific as Formula One or an Ice Skate might be to “transportation”.

Regardless of how they are categorized, experiential marketing should be a business driving activity. However, it’s important to know clearly what business they are driving – the business of the experience, or the hosting organization? Look to where financial success is measured to make this determination – if the P&L is the bar, then the business is the experience; if the ROI is the bar, then it is the hosting organization’s business that is the driver.