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Events are vital in creating a complete brand experience during a recession
(Part 1 of 4)

In good economies and in bad, people want to experience brands face-to-face. Even as companies move to digital platforms, and online stores supplant retail sales, live interaction will always remain vital in creating a complete brand experience. After all, a brand is a relationship between a company and its customer. And most relationships have a tendency to whither without interpersonal communications. You can’t shake hands over the Internet.

The reality today, however, is that budgets are being slashed – both by event-holders and by attendees. Event-holders are being forced to scrutinize every detail to prove the value of running events and attendees must justify the expense of registering and traveling to these events. Also, spending money on large, lavish events can have a negative impact on brand image during a period when attendees themselves are being negatively affected by the recession. Events that provide no obvious benefit to the customer’s bottom line have no place in our new economic reality.

Fortunately, smart marketers recognize that events that are cleverly conceived and accurately measured provide a unique opportunity to interact with customers and prospects. Here are a few ideas to consider when planning your recession-pressured marketing budget.

Brands must actively engage customers during a recession

Print and TV will always have their place, but they are one-way communications channels. More and more companies now realize that brand building relies upon active engagement with the customer, and events deliver this more powerfully than any other medium or initiative. Brand engagement, using a combination of both face-to-face and online events, is the new centerpiece to effec­tive marketing in which the objective is no longer simply about awareness.
Events are so much more than awareness-building activities for your brand. In some cases, like trade shows, they may be actual selling opportunities. In every case, they are a chance for your customers to interact not only with your brand, but also with each other. Events provide an opportunity for your customers to participate and become part of your brand’s community of users. A live event is the ultimate opportunity to provide the kind of shared experience your most loyal customers crave. And most important, these loyalists will go out into the world and promote your brand every day. Samsung’s World Cyber Games are a great example of an annual series of regional and international events where electronic game enthusiasts, a vital audience for Samsung may attend, compete and engage with the brand and other gamers.

In a recent “EventView” study conducted this past December through February by a collaboration of the Event Marketing Institute, Meeting Professionals International and experience marketing agency, George P. Johnson, more than 942 individuals in marketing management positions in Asia/Pacific, Europe and North America were interviewed via telephone with the goal of determining the value and clarifying the role that events play in the marketing mix. The bottom line of this study is that senior marketers believe events are the most effective medium to engage customers and move them to purchasing behavior – with 30 percent of respondents identifying event marketing as the discipline that best accelerates and deepens relationships with target audiences. What’s more, 26 percent of respondents chose event marketing as the discipline that drives the greatest ROI, a six percent increase from the 2008 results.