Whether it’s letting a select group of fans behind a red velvet rope or creating a virtual world open to all of a brand’s afficionados, marketers are amplifying their events through a combination of exclusive experiences and open-to-all web content.
Exclusive events can earn brands love and loyalty when they are done well, but proficient use of social media and digital tools means marketers can also widen an event’s impact.
Unilever deodorant brand Lynx successfully combined a social media strategy with its exclusive ‘Heaven’ party in London earlier this year. As part of the brand’s ongoing ‘Even angels will fall’ campaign, it ran an interactive Facebook game where fans had to tempt brand ambassador and ‘archangel’ Kelly Brook down from heaven. Ten thousand fragranced feathers were given out at fashion boutiques to direct young men to the Lynx Facebook page.
The game culminated in a video showing Brook kissing a photo of the user and ‘visiting’ their house on Google maps. On completion, users were also invited to enter a competition for a place at the exclusive party, attended by Brook and a selection of her angel friends.
About 260 men were selected for a night of ‘heaven’ devised by Lynx and agency The Lounge Group – a penthouse location decked out with an Xbox Kinect, DJ tutorials, cocktail-making lessons, a free bar and, of course, hanging out with Brook and her angel accomplices.
Lynx marketing manager Selina Sykes says the event’s exclusivity was counteracted by strong social media engagement (see Q&A, page 25) and resulted in PR coverage. She says exclusive events enable brands to create deeper relationships with a select audience; however, they can be balanced by mass, open-access events that reach a wider audience.
“We also do larger-scale mass community events, such as our ‘World’s Biggest Shower’ last summer. There’s kind of a trade-off between making people feel like they are part of something bigger versus making people feel special,” notes Sykes.
Shoe retailer Clarks and cigarette paper brand Rizla have become closely aligned with music over the past year by creating exclusive events while simultaneously offering content available to all on specially branded websites.
Rizla has revived the music association it had in the 1920s when its branded vans would entertain people on village greens, according to Alison Williams, brand portfolio manager at parent company Imperial Tobacco. This has evolved to take the shape of its current activity, Rizlab, which comprises an online music space for emerging artists and a series of exclusive gigs with selected bands.
“A couple of years ago, we translated our musical heritage into a campaign around a band called The Invisible Players and we’ve built on that since,” says Williams.
“One of our values is to support talent, either up-and-coming or well-established. We felt that by bringing artists into a process where we support them to be creative and they produce something unique for us, it would be a win-win situation and an advantage for our customers.”
Last year Rizla evolved its events strategy to move beyond the summer music season to one that remained constant throughout the year. The creation of the Rizlab portal enables that while increasing an activity’s lifespan through the use of digital activation in stages, ranging from announcements to content previews, releases and crowd-sourced fan collaborations.
A November Rizlab gig with the band Ghostpoet saw fans go into a ballot for just 100 tickets. However, a live music video was also streamed to a wider audience of 20,122 on Factmag.com. Fans who logged in were invited to vote on what scenes would make up the music video.
“Every 30 seconds they could vote for one of two different scenes to be played out next,” explains Williams. “So we had to rehearse 12 scenes for the six that people could choose. The fans felt part of something unique.”
There are only so many live events you can put on and digital gives you scope to go bigger
Similarly, Clarks is positioning its Originals shoe brand around music by reviving its musical heritage. Marketing manager Gemma Green says Clarks Originals has long been a favourite with musicians – bands such as Oasis, Florence and the Machine and Kasabian have all worn its footwear on stage.
The Originals website shows which bands the brand is presenting, competitions and also footage of gigs that all fans can access whether they were there or not.
The brand’s spring campaign for next year will promote its new ‘Rock Royalty’ desert boot collection, and involves partnering with the band The Joy Formidable and hosting a series of secret pop-up gigs around the UK.
Again, fans can enter a ballot to win a limited number of tickets. In addition, the company will offer four winners a place on tour with the band as honorary reporters. They will file daily blogs, podcasts and a behind-the-scenes film. Green says participants are being recruited through PR in publications such as The Fly, Alt Sounds and NME, as well as social media and direct mail campaigns.
“This has encouraged huge increases in social media activity for Clarks Originals. Fans and press alike are encouraged to tweet to keep the brand conversation going. Revealing the locations via Twitter also encourages fans to keep their eye on our @clarksoriginals account,” says Green.
Using social media and technology also allows brands to put a twist on traditional event formats. This summer, Swarovski hosted a treasure hunt that took participants around London with a special ‘SCVNGR’ app to help guide them through. Six hundred people got involved through a campaign with Grazia magazine and Dazed Digital, Dazed & Confused magazine’s website. This also linked to Swarovski’s ‘Discover your light’ cinema and outdoor ad campaign.
“Participants were guided through the different stages by the app, completing tasks and challenges in return for prizes,” says Swarovski UK and Ireland director Hayley Quinn. “Those who took part collectively experienced 2,400 hours of brand engagement and collected more than 3,600 tangible memories, including prizes such as Swarovski pens and fragrances.”
Quinn’s main objectives were to increase brand awareness, improve the brand’s image and pioneer new communication approaches. On top of this, applications to take part in the treasure hunt resulted in 3,000 new customer email addresses. Participants were contacted after the event to ask how much they enjoyed it, if they would participate again and, most importantly, how likely they would be to purchase from Swarovski.
This gave Swarovski an opportunity to directly link the event’s impact to a clear result. Rizla’s Williams also conducts ‘exit interviews’ to measure a person’s likelihood of purchasing Rizla after attending a Rizlab event. She adds: “It’s difficult to link event activity to incremental sales, but we do look at the awareness it generates.”
Offering a unique event experience heightens the relationship between consumers and brands. But, as these marketers show, technology offers the means to translate one-off partnerships and events to the digital screen and spread the exclusivity to a mass customer base.
The number of people who logged into Rizlab’s live stream of the band Ghostpoet’s music video.
The number of pieces of media coverage achieved by Lynx’s ‘fallen angels’ campaign.
The number of people who collectively experienced 2,400 hours of Swarovski ‘brand engagement’ by taking part in its treasure hunt.
The increase in the number of Clarks’ Facebook fans since it launched its Rock Royalty campaign for its Clarks Originals shoe range in December.
Brand in the spotlight
Marketing Week (MW): How did you use an exclusive event to enhance the brand strategy for Lynx?
Selina Sykes (SS): We ran some multifaceted activity for our angel-themed campaign this year. The Heaven event, developed by our agency The Lounge Group, was part of enriching the brand experience. We wanted to create an exclusive event with a ‘money can’t buy’ reward. By making it exclusive we could create a more engaging format and the people who attended were able to have a deeper relationship with the brand.
MW: How did you decide on who to invite?
SS: We had a Fallen Angel game on Facebook which reflected the whole idea of the campaign – that the new Lynx Excite body spray was making angels fall from heaven to earth. The game involved users trying to tempt Kelly Brook to fall from heaven as she is the last angel left. The game was personalised and ended with Brook having a photo of the player to look at in heaven, and she would fall down to their house if we had their postcode. If they got to the end of the game, players could enter a competition to meet Kelly Brook in person. We selected 100 people from those who took part in the Facebook game to attend the party in central London. They received a personal invitation from Kelly.
MW: How did you develop the party concept?
SS: The idea of the party was that it was Kelly’s last night on earth and she was celebrating before she went back to heaven. Our brief was, ‘what is a guy’s idea of heaven?’ and so we asked our Facebook fans what they thought heaven would be like. We created an experience based on those results.
MW: What kind of PR and social media mileage did it achieve?
SS: Having Kelly Brook got us a lot of media coverage – we counted 34 pieces. Exclusive events might be relatively small-scale but we still want to maximise the impact. We created an experience that was shareable, taking lots of photos to post online and having a constant Twitter feed. We talked to participants afterwards and most said they will write about it on their Facebook page. However, we don’t want it to feel like we have forced them to do it. The key to that is making sure they have an amazing night.
MW: How does the impact of an exclusive event differ from more open-access events?
SS: I would always do an exclusive event if I were trying to create a deep brand experience. We have done mass-scale events with a call to action. There’s a kind of trade-off between making people feel like they are part of something bigger versus making people feel special.
MW: How do events fit in with your overall marketing strategy?
SS: Events do a different job than, say, the awareness that TV creates. Because it’s face to face, there is a bigger opportunity to create a relationship. We want people to come away from our events feeling like they have had an amazing time but also that it was only Lynx that could have brought that to them.
We always think about the objectives of our campaign activity. If, for example, we want people to know about a new product, we will choose a big awareness channel. TV and digital are best for raising awareness with new audiences. We tend to find that people who engage in branded events will already have some affinity for the brand.
Top trends 2012 predictions
UK & Ireland director, Swarovski
Brands should keep an eye on communication trends, especially technology trends, which can be integrated into creative and innovative marketing and event concepts. Obviously, technology heavily impacts on social behaviour, interaction, communication and how people consume brands. Brands definitely have to rethink their strategies especially when it comes to social media. The clever mix, the so-called integrated communication, that offers engagement, interaction and innovation, ultimately benefits both customers and brands.
Brand portfolio manager, Imperial Tobacco (for Rizla and Rizlab)
We will continue with a strong digital focus. We are firmly embedded in music now but we are also looking at other creative avenues we could bring in that would fit neatly alongside music to give it a slight twist.
We want to make more content accessible to more people and digital will be our avenue for doing that. There are only so many live events you can put on and digital gives you scope to go bigger.
Marketing manager, Lynx
You need to maximise the impact of an event, which is why social media has been so important this year. It makes an event bigger and accessible to people who weren’t actually there. Next year we want to add to that by holding events in different places and being able to connect those.
I don’t know if you need to be always changing your event formats but it’s about doing something that people genuinely want to get involved in. Our youth audience is going to change what it wants to do every year, so we need to know what that is. For example, if it’s something around music, that is always changing as well as how people experience music. We need to know about those things.