360 Live Media
360 Live Media is an event strategy and digital marketing agency in Washington, D.C. serving association, professional society, and not-for-profit conferences.
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Event Marketing With a Capital M

If there were ever a word that was defined through the eyes of the beholder, marketing would be near the top of the list. Marketing has a lot of connotations and interpretations. For many, it’s a euphemism for an activity that has something to do with something most people don’t like: telemarketing, junk mail, infomercials, TV and radio commercials—the list is long.


A few years ago, having spent my career in the “influence business,” I finally decided it was time to learn more by teaching. So, I became an adjunct graduate professor at Georgetown University’s PR and Corporate Social Responsibility program. My first task was to put forth a definition of marketing that made sense to me and my students. Here it is.


“Marketing is a process that creates a set of conditions for a sale to occur and an ongoing relationship to be cultivated.”


Replace “sale” with vote, religious conversion or donation, and the definition holds true.


“Marketing with a capital M” is a way of describing the totality of marketing that delivers on the 9 Ps: Purpose, People, Product, Positioning, Performance, Packaging, Place, Price and Promotion.


If you’re a marketer, you know what each of these Ps represents (and, yes, we could debate if it’s 4 Ps, 9 or 15, but let’s not squabble). If marketing isn’t your primary field, let’s unpack these 9 Ps and focus on event marketing.


Here are the questions to ask and answer for each of the 9 Ps for your next event marketing endeavor:


  • What job does your event do and for whom? What is its purpose?


  • How do each of the people attending your event view the event? What are their common, shared needs, and what are the unique distinctions among your cohorts that distinguish the differences that they seek?


  • An event is a product with features, benefits and rewards. Does your product deliver the right balance of the four categories of rewards: functional, sensory, expressive and emotional?


  • What positioning does your event hold in the minds of your audience? For example, BMW is positioned as the ultimate driving machine. Volvo owns safety. What position do you occupy in the minds of your audience?


  • What level of performance do you expect; and, more importantly, what does your audience expect from your event? How well will it do its job?


  • Does your packaging, both conceptually and visually, tell the story? Think about how a CPG company packages their products to stand out in a crowded retail environment. How do you stand out?


  • Does the place where your event occurs build loyalty, is it convenient, is it part of your brand like C2 Montreal, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Davos, SXSW or The Cannes Film Festival?


  • What is the real price your audience pays to attend—money, opportunity cost, travel, sleeping in a new place, etc.?


  • And finally, what do most people think of when they hear marketing? They hear promotion. How do you tell your story? Is your messaging, media and creative aligned and compelling? Most event promotion is a warmed-over version of better sameness. A tagline, homage to the city where the event occurs, the top ten reasons to attend, a list of speakers and a logo smorgasbord of sponsors and companies exhibiting. Surely the world is ready for promotion with more imagination.


Ok, that’s a long list of questions—what am I supposed to do with this list?


Three things:


  1. Work backwards from the event objectives, the audience impressions (the emotional and intellectual residue that will be left upon your guests when they get home from your event) and the “care abouts” of the key segments of your audience. Let these answers establish your vision, guide your path and deliver on the blueprint of your event.


  1. Stop calling your event an event. Embrace the notion that it is a live branded media experience, a true manifestation of your organization with a soul, personality and ethos—when you do you will transcend the realm of the ordinary. You are an experience designer, just as Walt Disney, Howard Schultz and Steve Jobs were the designers of experiences that changed our lives.


  1. Take risks. Today’s events are often vestiges of 20th-century thinking—they are captive to the conference and trade show industrial complex; a homogenous mass, “one size fits all” convention of conformity. Cast out from the safe harbor of uniformity, study the great events that are changing the game and dare to disrupt. You will make mistakes, ruffle a feather or two and have a few false starts, but it’s better to take the risks—the world wasn’t changed by the meek.


Event marketers and experience designers, it’s time to start a revolution that rejects conventional conventions, better sameness, cold meeting rooms and lonely journeys of isolation by those attending your event. Ask yourself, “How will the guests at my event be better? Why will our organization be better? How will we advance our industry and the issues we care about as a result of our event?” Better yet, ask how your next event will be an experience that can offer and deliver on the promise…


…come as you are, leave transformed!


Are you ready to have your annual event or association transformed? Contact us today—(202) 660-1200.

Don Neal Headshot

A marketing thought leader, speaker, teacher, and advisor, Don Neal brings his Madison Avenue experience to help organizations see their opportunities in a new light. He is passionate about helping organizations accelerate the trajectory of their success.

Don Neal
Founder & CEO
360 Live Media

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