Figure it out for yourself

Three studies prove that events are still a fast growing element of the marketing mix and are highly influential in the buying decision while having a significant impact on the economy. By Ian Whiteling

Soon the word “exhibition” may ceased to be used to describe a trade or consumer show. From a trade perspective, it’s never really been able to shake off its association with the days when exhibitions were seen simply as an excuse to get out of the office and most stands were manned remotely from the bar. Of course, times have changed – the industry is working hard to rise higher in marketers’ lists of preferred media and does not want to be held back by a word. Enter event marketing and live marketing, labels that far better sum up the vibrancy and promotional potential of many of today’s trade and consumer shows.

Marketers need more than a name change to convince them that events are effective marketing tools. But a decline in the effectiveness of traditional media such as TV, radio and print has given the events industry a boost, along with a growing interest in face-to-face and experiential marketing to help engage an increasingly ad-weary populace.

More importantly, it has also been busy helping itself. The second half of 2005 saw three sets of statistics from different sources that further strengthen the events industry’s case. They not only show the importance marketers are beginning to attach to events, but also reveal what consumers feel about experiential marketing and the impact the industry is having on the UK economy in general.

Global events company Jack Morton Worldwide produced the first set of figures from an online survey of 2,574 consumers, aged between 13 and 65, in the top 25 US markets. The results confirm that “live marketing” resonates strongly across demographic and product categories, particularly among key groups such as women and young people. This is pertinent as 80 per cent of purchases are made or directly influenced by women, according to research released last year by the Proficiency Group.

Alive to the experience

Generally, the Morton study found that 75 per cent of consumers say that participating in a live marketing experience would make them more receptive to a product/ brand’s advertising. Around 75 per cent of consumers also said they would be extremely or very likely to tell others about a live marketing event, extending impact through word-of-mouth. And eight out of ten consumers who had participated in experiential marketing in the past said that they had told others about their experience.

Broken down demographically, the figures revealed that nearly 80 per cent of teens thought experiential marketing would increase purchase consideration, while 65 per cent believed it would lead to quicker purchase.

In the next age bracket, 72 per cent of 18 to 23-year-olds said experiential marketing would make them more receptive to a brand/product advertising, with 59 per cent saying it would lead to quicker purchase.

Perhaps most worrying for other media, 60 per cent of women say experiential marketing would be more likely to lead to actual purchase of a product/brand – that’s way ahead of TV advertising at 26 per cent and internet advertising at 14 per cent.

“We carried out the research because live marketing is a maturing industry and there is not much research to draw on,” says Liz Bigham, vice-president, director of US brand marketing at Jack Morton. “But there is big interest inside the industry and in marketing about the industry in general.”

To provide answers to the industry, Jack Morton found out how consumers respond to live marketing. “We found what we suspected/ that it has capacity to connect directly with people who are swamped with marketing messages and cynical about advertising,” says Bigham.

“The results showed experiential marketing has quite strong effects. They confirmed that it is very influential in terms of buying products and [forming] the opinion of the brand, with 57 per cent of those surveyed saying it would result in a quicker purchasing decision,” she adds.

Asked about the relevance of US event marketing statistics to the UK, Jeremy Garbett, managing director of Jack Morton in the UK, replies: “The US leads the way in experiential marketing, so these figures should be seen as a foresight of what is likely to happen in the UK. What’s more, just six months after they were released, a major UK events organiser was quoting our statistics to promote one of its branding workshops.”

Second only to the web

Around the same time as Jack Morton was publishing its research, rival The George P Johnson Company (GPJ) was releasing a study of its own. With assistance from the MPI Foundation, it asked 125 marketing directors or individuals with responsibility for marketing in leading European companies how they used events.

“Event marketing, which encompasses every type of offline event, is one of the fastest growing elements of the marketing mix, coming second only to web marketing. All our latest figures show that this trend is set to continue,” says GPJ vice-president – general manager Kim Myhre. “Despite the Web growing as a marketing tool (60 per cent predict their spend in this area will grow in the year ahead), event marketing is more than holding its own in the marketing mix. Indeed, 91 per cent say their spend on events will stay constant or grow during the next 12 months.

“A few years ago, events would have been seen as an afterthought by many marketers. Now, for 49 per cent, events are a vital component of any marketing plan or the lead marketing tool that they deploy. A further 46 per cent put events on an equal footing with other elements in the marketing mix. This is an incredible endorsement for events – and illustrates just how important they have become for companies that need to get eye to eye with the customer.”

According to Myhre, a key reason for event marketing’s increasingly assured place in the marketing mix is its perceived value for money. In terms of delivering return on investment, the companies GPJ questioned said event marketing and direct marketing perform better than other marketing disciplines. Indeed, 30 per cent said they would be spending more on events in the year ahead, specifically because of event marketing’s proven success.

Completing a trio of event industry studies, the Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO), supported by the Association of Event Venues (AEV), commissioned accountancy firm KPMG to carry out research into the impact of trade and consumer exhibitions on the UK economy. By revealing the industry’s effect on international trade and employment, the AEO’s aim was to raise the profile of events and lobby government to provide more support.

The economic impact report revealed that the exhibition industry generates &£9.3bn of expenditure in the UK each year, while providing 137,000 jobs. This figure represents some 0.5 per cent of total UK employment.

What’s more, the report concludes that the type of work supported by the industry adds flexibility to the economy and assists those with low formal qualifications.

UK exhibitions also directly support the leisure sectors of hotels, restaurants and entertainment providers. However, probably the most striking and economically vital figure researched is that the industry attracts 17 million visitors a year, delivering a market to the companies that exhibit and drawing people from abroad.

AEO group chief executive Trevor Foley sees these statistics as a great way to encourage government to pull out the stops to bring global events to the UK. “This survey shows the massive impact of the industry and how much the UK can achieve when we all get behind a big event,” he says.

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