Event Experiences are the New Swag

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

By SummitSync


Socks, coasters, mints, hand sanitizer, candy, USB drives, flashlights, backpacks, notebooks, pens, water bottles, tote, phone chargers, t-shirts, keychains, moleskins, phone cases, paperweights, sunglasses, Bluetooth speakers, baseball hats…

Those are just some of the items our CEO has collected at the 300+ conferences he’s attended over the years.

How many socks, coasters, mints, hand sanitizers, USB drives, backpacks, etc. have you collected from conferences? Do you still have them? Do you remember who gave them to you?

Can we really prove that typical conference swag impacts brand awareness and affinity? Can we really track that sale down to the tin of mints?

With over five hundred conferences under our team’s belt, we can’t say it does.

The New Standard

Brands that are pushing past the plastic and engaging event attendees in experiences are creating lasting impressions in new ways. Tinder was thinking about an engaging experience when they launched their Tinder VR gag at CES this year. Bumble upped their game at SXSW with the Bumble bus this year. Top brands and businesses are creating new standards for event marketing teams by utilizing experiences and engagement.

We’re not exactly sure what went on in the Bumble bus at SXSW but we definitely wish we did.We’re not exactly sure what went on in the Bumble bus at SXSW but we definitely wish we did.

So how do brands move beyond conference swag into event experiences?

Top brands are creating digital experiences that attract potential users like Shopify’s logo maker or accidentally creating an entire business because you had extra stock photos lying around.

In terms of inbound marketing methodology, the people using these tools are top of the funnel.

Conferences are the same top of funnel events for potential customers, just in the real world. That means brands need to attract customers with useful tools, resources, and content so when they’re ready to make a purchasing decision, they have developed brand awareness and affinity.

Transitioning to event experiences over typical conference swag provides brands the opportunity to stand out, make lasting impressions, and create a new standard in event marketing. By taking the inbound methodology into the conference and event space, businesses can begin to stand out from the noise of socks, coasters, mints, hand sanitizer, candy, USB drives, flashlights…

Think about Experiences

Event experiences like Tinder’s VR hoax or Bumble’s bus can be time intensive and potentially expensive experiences, but they don’t have to be. Here are a few ways brands can provide valuable event experiences instead of handing out traditional conference swag.

Snapchat Filters

Snapchat isn’t just for 13-year-olds; in fact, 38% of Snapchat users are between 25 and 54 and with the average user opening the app 18 times a day, it’s a channel brands can use even more at events.

Seriously, this is probably one of the most underused micro-moments at conferences. By creating a Snapchat geofilter that is both event and brand specific, companies can begin to capture and influence these personal moments.

Brands can use pre-made templates or hire a Snapchat artist like CyreneQ to create filters which can then be geo-targeted down to a specific building. We quickly went through the steps targeted the entire block of the Moscone Center in San Francisco for the four days of Marketing Nation Summit and the ad would cost $1,035.81. For reference, that’s about 98.6485714 pairs of custom socks.

Yes, these snaps might disappear in Snaplandia, but the micro-moment that a user has of taking a selfie at this huge event, surrounded by thousands of peers doesn’t. Plus, they can always download the photo and post to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to make sure all their friends know they’re at the event.

Going Live

With Facebook and Instagram Live, we’re pretty certain authentic live video content is here to stay (and dominate) in 2017. Brands who can figure out ways to use live video in a way that excites both those actively participating and those watching are able to reach multiple audiences in one unique fell swoop.

Creating live content is all about representing your brand authentically. This means that big budgets are not required to create fun, entertaining, and unique live content opportunities. Set up a Q&A with attendees, interview a speaker or two live, or walk around the conference floor so people who couldn’t make it get to partake.

Product Giveaways

Don’t pull a full-on Oprah Winfrey when planning a product giveaway.

But do look at ways to run giveaways that are engaging, memorable, and turn attendees into brand ambassadors.

Need a little inspiration? Run a raffle where the winner receives free lifetime product or access to a SaaS product. Give away free upgrades to those who sign-up at the event. Create a scavenger hunt with other companies where the winner receives an incredible grand prize.

Create experiences with your product giveaways to create lasting impressions while providing value. Product giveaways that provide real value mean more than a free t-shirt or pair of socks.

When planning for the next event or conference, transition to using inbound methodology. Attract customers by providing unique and valuable experiences that leave them wanting to learn more about your company and always remember this quote.

“*I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — *Maya Angelou

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