What does building a trustworthy brand have to do with learning about all the latest innovations in event technology? A lot actually. Earlier this month, we headed to EventTech in Las Vegas to make sure we remain plugged into all things new and fresh around the intersection of technology, events and social media. While shiny new technologies, innovative ideas and inspirational case studies are powerful in their own right — none of this will help your brand unless you can learn how to leverage these tools in an authentic way to engage and inspire your consumers. How can a brand cut through the noise to create relationships with consumers?
Make a connection
In his keynote speech, Teddy Gough, head of digital for the Obama re-election campaign shared how social media played a huge role and transformed the way political campaigns are conducted. Though human nature hasn’t changed — consumers still wanted to connect with the “brand” in meaningful way — the channels they used were different and exponentially more powerful. All throughout the campaign, the digital team rallied behind the motto “Don’t be lame” to create timely, personalized, and engaging content for their fan base.
Why is connecting with consumers important? In the world of social media, consumers have the power. At the time of Obama’s reelection campaign, his Facebook fan base had the potential to reach 98% of Facebook’s global population. With a personalized Facebook application, the Obama campaign gave their Facebook fans the ability to spread the message about Obama’s campaign to their friends, in a way that was meaningful to them. Instead of blasting out spammy messages on their page, the Obama campaign made a deep connection with their fans, enabling the word to spread virally.
Do what you do, well.
When connecting and engaging with brands, consumers are drawn towards brands that they sense are true and genuine. Their first year at SXSW, HGTV sought to attract a younger audience by creating a splashy music themed event. As you can imagine, consumers did not trust that HGTV would put on a good show, and the event was a flop. Learning from their previous fizzle, the next year, HGTV chose to stay true to their brand and connect with consumers in a meaningful, authentic way: the brand produced “bathroom takeovers” in which they redecorated bathrooms of some of the hottest venues in Austin. Not only did they capitalize on what consumers already trusted about the brand (great design) they executed it in a memorable way.
Bring value to consumers
The more virtual our lives get, the more we crave real, honest connections and content from brands. In today’s tech world, it is easy for brands to “hide” behind a screen and try to sell to their consumers. But the reality is, “companies that care about something bigger than selling their product, sell more product” — Doug Levy. Brands must realize that it’s not about selling your product to a consumer how you want, it’s about creating a meaningful relationship through personalized, topical, and interesting content — and delivering value that way.
Taco Bell did exactly this with its “Operation Alaska” effort. With the nearest Taco Bell over 400 miles away, the residents of Bethel, Alaska couldn’t have been more excited when they saw fliers reporting a Taco Bell was coming to their town. Yet the citizens were left disappointed when they learned the news was a hoax. When Taco Bell executives got wind of the cruel joke, they decided that the residents of Bethel deserved some consolation, in the form of Doritos Locos tacos. The company helicoptered in supplies for 10,000 tacos for Bethel. Taco Bell was not interested in selling, they simply wanted to delight the Bethel residents and bring them something they craved — creating an honest connection with the town.
While we did see lots of amazing technologies at Eventtech, the true learning is that when you strip away the shiny technology, a brand should still be authentic and trustworthy. A consumer wants to connect with a brand who forges connections through good content, stays true to their business values, and delivers value to consumers in a meaningful way.
This past year has been good to us, from new digs to inspiring clients to an incredible team. The holiday season finds us busy, busy, busy, (just the way we like it!) criss-crossing the country to activate a range of programs and events. It’s amazing what you can do in 10 days…here’s just a few highlights:
Helped launch a very Googley holiday experience in 5 malls across the country and in the Winter Village at Bryant Park. Our own Anna and Brie took a moment to slow things down making their own sno-motion video in the Snow Globe.
Champagne G.H. Mumm:
Toasted Champagne G.H.MUMM at a signature fête commencing the F1 Grand Prix in Austin, TX. Hosted by actor and racing enthusiast, Josh Duhamel guests enjoyed a sophisticated and magical evening of masculine elegance befitting of the celebration.
Theranos at Wired:
Watched our client Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos further unveil their inspiring mission at Wired Health.
Photo: Christopher Farber/WIRED
The Glenlivet Guardians’ Chapter
Created an inspiring environment for a unique Guardians’ Chapter talk and tasting event in the Bryant Park Hotel which three prestigious speakers inspired guests with a talk based on each of the expressions of The Glenlivet.
The Glenlivet Dram and Discover at TCHO
Introduced The Glenlivet Guardians to San Francisco’s TCHO, maker of award-winning artisanal chocolates, at a unique culinary experience from bean to bar with pairings at every stop.
As marketers, we use hashtags to connect people at events – both offline and online – to create a community of shared experiences. So while Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake may be over hashtags, we’re certainly not. We still love them — hashtags help us pull together images and moments, connecting strangers in a weird, ephemeral way.
Hashtags bring together a movement and give it momentum and a central heartbeat. They provide a communal digital space for your personal milestones like birthdays, vacations and weddings. Use a hashtag to commemorate your big day — why not?
If you’re a beginner (and even if you’re a seasoned marketer) always remember these 3 basic rules:
When coming up with a hashtag, the more intuitive and easy to spell, the better. You can also ride the coattails of a hashtag already in use by popular culture. If you want to create a unique hashtag for your specific event, do a quick search beforehand, to make sure it’s not being used elsewhere.
If you build it, they will come IF you tell people about it.
Plaster your hashtag everywhere and shout it from the rooftops. Just because you’ve been talking about it with your team for the past 6 months, doesn’t mean the rest of the world can read your mind.
Make people care.
Give your guests a reason to have their teeth in the game. Is there going to be amazing visuals and an unforgettable experience that they just have to document and share? Give your attendees an incentive – rewarding good behavior is always appreciated.
So at your next event, consider incorporating a hashtag to cultivate conversation and engagement. Just remember – make the moment memorable enough to want to relive it again and again.
by Alyssa Asadoorian, Account Coordinator
As experiential marketers, we look for inspiration everywhere. When it is done well, we love to give a nod to those who can approach seemingly ordinary experiences through new lenses.
Tough Mudder has redefined the concept of a start-to-finish race by creating an experience that taps into common elemental fears, mixes in physical hurdles while forging emotional bonds amongst its participants. So when my friends asked me to sign up for the 2013 Tough Mudder in Lake Tahoe, I had to jump at the opportunity.
I’m not going to lie. The driving force in my participation was primarily for the bragging rights. I mean, who wouldn’t want the opportunity to say that they completed what’s known as ‘probably the toughest event on the planet’?
Tough Mudder is a 10–12 mile long endurance event series designed by British Special Forces to test mental and physical strength. Participants attempt grueling obstacles conceived to play off of common fears such as fire, water and heights. Their promo video highlights teams of participants battling through each exhausting obstacle – based on the footage alone, one can only expect to endure three hours of pure intensity. Despite the more than intimidating course depiction, Tough Mudder sells out almost every event.
On event day, participants are reminded that Tough Mudder is not a race, but a challenge grounded on teamwork, camaraderie and solidarity. It’s about embracing what Tough Mudder experts call ‘mental grit’ – having the mental capacity to overcome what your body believes it cannot physically accomplish. A phrase that is both alarming and motivational at the same time.
With no official start or end time to Tough Mudder, participants focus on pacing themselves, while helping guide their teammates (and even complete strangers!) through the strenuous course. This is where the unconventional nature of Tough Mudder comes to play – where the importance of camaraderie and teamwork are faithfully demonstrated.
Far from what we know as a traditional marathon or race, Tough Mudder creates unforeseen, yet amazing bonding experiences between its participants as they strive with shared determination and purpose to get through each obstacle. This unexpected joy is a hallmark of the event and inspires many to share their triumph via social media.
Photos with groups wearing their badges of honor – a signature orange headband and black ‘Tough Mudder Finisher’ shirts – populate all major social media channels during and after the event. Like myself, everyone wants to show to the world that they had achieved something special. This event truly brings the term ‘bragging rights’ to an entirely new level.
My only question – how can I make it into that Tough Mudder promo video?
To find a Tough Mudder event near you, check out their official website here.
–By Gabrey Means, Co-founder & Creative Director
As marketers, our most powerful and yet most wasted natural resource is our intuition. This gift of knowing, these bright lights of great ideas and inspired creative pops that zing into our minds – this is where the magic comes from.
But sadly, in a day of campaign testing, over-analyzing, stats and graphs, much of the magic is lost. Whatever happened to great ideas being great ideas and science be damned — because we are confident artists leading the thinking, not following the pack?
Ten meetings with 12-cross functional teams to dissect one campaign can take an inspired idea to a “meh” idea in no time. But, when we allow our intuition to drive creativity, when we believe in our guts and open our minds — that is when at Grow, we are cooking with gas.
When you market from fear to deliver a campaign that won’t ruffle any feathers inside your walls or out – that is when testing, need of statistical validation and a dash of over-analyzing is the way to go. With this recipe your campaign will be perfectly vanilla and right down the middle.
Great only comes when you don’t wash away the magic or dilute the inspired idea by running it by randomly selected consumers with time to trade their opinions for free soda and pizza. Great comes when you lead with your gut. You know it – not because you read a whitepaper on it, or asked 30 co-workers, or because you tested the concept 6 ways from Sunday, but because you have a creative spark inside of you that knows when something is great and you have the guts to trust it.
Trust me and then trust yourself and honor your intuition…. or be happy with vanilla.
— by Account Executive Matt Hummel and Social Media Specialist Molly Bugler
The Grow team recently attended BlogHer ‘13 in Chicago. Our mission: get the inside scoop on what’s to come in the world of blogging and vlogging. Since Grow’s last trip to BlogHer in 2009, the conference growth is testament to just how much blogging itself has grown — evidenced by the number of attendees, the prestige of speakers and quality of content. In the four years since our last attendance, the landscape of blogging has dramatically changed: shifting from a group of frequently disconnected self-publishers to a complex ecosystem of bloggers, brands and readers continually creating rich opportunities to share passion projects, create original content and build a personal brand.
The keynote kick-off from Ree Drummond, also known as The Pioneer Woman, as she shared her evolution as a blogger and highlighted the maturation of the market. Beginning with a small blog about ranch life, Ree has built a dynamic brand as The Pioneer Woman that includes a cooking show on the Food Network, 4 cookbooks, 2 children’s books, a food community site and a blog that drives over 23 million views a month. Ree’s story, while an exceptional case, is not unique. By creating content that is original, interesting and valuable — a world of opportunities opens, extending far beyond the blogosphere.
In a makers & creators panel, creators Randi Zuckerberg, Brit Moran, Marjora Carter and Lisa Donovan urged bloggers to pursue their passions and let the rest follow. Each leader shared how she developed new business ventures to produce meaningful digital content that could one day be monetized. For example, actress and YouTube sensation, Lisa Donovan, co-founded Maker Studios and founded Zappin Productions to solve for the need among YouTubers to create and produce their work.
Successful business leaders and bloggers continually reiterated that the ability to demonstrate expertise in one’s niche is the defining element for long term achievement in the social world. Social media personalities need to rock their “otherness”, while continuing to strengthen their expertise, by keeping it real with their readers via quality content which piques the interest of like-minded brands. Partnerships based on these organic integrations are mutually beneficial to all parties and frequently span multiple campaigns.
Trailblazers have demonstrated the rich value gained from aligning with content creators, encouraging brands to connect on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and more. Recently, fashion blogger Gabi Gregg from GabiFresh partnered with Swimsuits For All based on one of her blog posts that went viral. The topic: plus size women embracing their curves in bikinis. The capsule collection was a success. Another successful partnership found Chantelle from Fat Mum Slim and Christina from Hair Romance partnering with Pantene on the Hair Photo a Day Project, speaking to their shared love of posting #photoaday images on Instagram and maintaining beautiful hair.
The social influence demonstrated by bloggers and the hunger for these types of partnerships was driven home in the expo hall, where hundreds of brands lined up to entice bloggers with swag, encourage branded sharing and connect with bloggers on a personal level. The key to success: finding and connecting with your tribe.
While our time at BlogHer ‘13 was over before we knew it, we were left with renewed excitement of the rich opportunities that lie ahead within the blogger landscape. From the keynotes, to the panels, to the stories from bloggers and brands — it is clear that blogging has become more than blogging. Looking ahead, we anticipate the blogging ecosystem to continue to grow and diversify as brands and bloggers explore uncharted waters to launch partnerships, campaigns and integrations.
When it comes to creating magical moments, we’ve got lots of tricks up our sleeves (and experience under our belts). Our latest mystique? Teleportation. Turning bustling cities into secret gardens and sandy beaches…
Recently, we launched Pernod Ricard’s Champagne Perrier-Jouët and Malibu Island Spiced Rum brands in two separate NYC events, featuring custom experiential design that illuminated each brand’s distinctive personality and transported guests to magical places.
The real trick? It’s no secret — it’s just really thoughtful design. Check out some of our favorite design highlights from each event below.
Perrier-Jouët: The Enchanting Tree
On June 5th, Grow conjured an outdoor evening fête for Perrier-Jouët celebrating Spring and their collaboration with award-winning designer Tord Boontje. Perrier-Jouët: The Enchanting Tree was co-hosted by actress and author Ali Larter and celebrity DJ Harley Vierra-Newton, within the al-fresco rooftop of Hotel Americano in NYC.
Using Tord Boontje as our muse, our décor kept the spotlight on The Enchanting Tree collaboration with natural verdant elements while highlighting the brand’s artistic heritage through beautifully hand-crafted paper flowers and other whimsical touches.
Malibu Island Spiced Rum Launch
To announce its new low-calorie rum brand, Malibu Island Spiced, we helped Malibu host an exclusive launch party in New York City with special guest and spokeswoman fashion designer and author Lauren Conrad. Each design and décor detail was created with Malibu Island Spiced in mind — whether creatively integrating their logo or bringing the brand to life through clever lifestyle cues, guests were treated to the very best of beach-glam.
— by Associate Account Directors Thao Bui and Jen Clines
SXSW: We came. We saw. We conquered. And we… remembered?
SXSW is awe-some and overwhelming — an experiential marketer’s dream and nightmare. At these kind of massive conference events/festivals there is so much to take in and do at any given moment — so many brands vying for your attention — leaving a lasting impression has never been more important. And while we didn’t walk away with any serious oh-my-god-did-you-see-that moments (tough crowd), we were reminded of three simple (important) marketing tenets that agencies sometimes forget when trying to conjure up with The Next Best Thing.
1. Give ‘em what they need.. for free
Yes, there are freebies everywhere at SXSW. But the ones you’ll remember (and appreciate) the most are the ones that get you from A to B. Literally. With venues and events spread throughout the city, Chevy’s fleet of wrapped vehicles played a major role in keeping attendees moving happily around the city. And when we say fleet, we don’t mean a dozen cars, we ‘re talking fifty wrapped cars with friendly and informative drivers behind the wheels. The clincher? Tweeting Chevy your location using the #ChevySXSW hashtag and having a car come directly to YOU.
Other brands helped out with free transport, too — like Oreo’s pedicabs and National Geographic’s rides around town in the Dukes of Hazard’s General Lee, the A-Team’s Van and Back to the Future’s Delorean. But Chevy won this brand battle with their strength in numbers, impeccable organization and excellent use of social media.
2. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
SXSW is all about technology — but the abundance of monitors, apps and charging stations from one booth to the next can be a little overwhelming. NBC’s Revolution recreated their show’s “world” (gasp, you mean no power?!) by providing unplugged gaming (ping pong, shuffle board, cornhole and chess), oh-so-elementary chalk boards where attendees could respond to daily questions (“How do you recharge?”) and free bike rentals to badge holders. Sure, they still had the requisite charging station, but they did it their way, cleverly integrating it into “nature.”
And in the middle of the gaming expo, amidst a sea of monitors, headphones and AV equipment, paper company Paper Because created a “Paper Devices Only” hotspot — a charming library chock full of real books and magazines where attendees could take a comfortable seat and simply read the old fashioned way (no Kindles here). Again, going against the grain to leave a lasting, ahem, imprint.
3. Don’t half-ass it
If you’re going to invite people into your brand experience, carry them all the way through. Blackberry secured side-by-side lots on Rainey Street to showcase their new Blackberry 10 phones. Complete with an open bar, demo stations, free custom shirts, special events and comfortable outdoor seating — everyone stayed, took their time and relaxed in the fully branded environment.
Salesforce and Jet Blue took over a two-story venue on 5th and Brazos that pumped “clouds” out on to the street. The lounge had bright, bold and clear branding giving guests a nice space to check emails and get complimentary refreshments while listening to good music.
Bottom line: it’s a cluster out there. In an overwhelming sea of brands battling for attention, what will you do to make consumers remember you?
By Tami Anderson, Managing Director
Everything you’ve heard about TED2013: The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered. is true. And then some. A collection of intelligent, inspiring people from a range of occupations, ages and geographies who create a collective energetic buzz throughout the event that rivals any caffeinated stimulant out there — call it truly “clean fuel” for the brain. Above all it is hopeful. To be among this many creative, smart and innovative people in one place gives you hope that some of our biggest challenges — which sometimes seem insurmountable as we go about our daily lives — can and will be solved.
Three insights for smarter marketing
Along with the big lessons, smaller ones abound — inspiration you can take back to your home or office. Here are a few lessons from the Feb 28 TED2013 sessions our co-founder Gabrey Means and I attended that we feel certain will help make our team better marketers:
Insight 1: Look through the right lens
Linguist John McQuorter’s fascinating talk The Linguisic Miracle of Texting framed texting it in an entirely new light. Instead of viewing it as a “dumbed down” version of writing and the sure demise of literacy as we know it (which many non-millentials do), he framed it as a digital version of casual speech or, as he calls it, “fingered speech.” It could even be considered a critical new communication skill. According to McQuorter, being fluent in spoken language, written language and writing-like-speaking language is an unconscious balancing act that allows each “speaker” to expand his or her linguistic repertoire. Texting could actually be making us smarter!
A morning radio host and mathematician from Australia, Adam Spencer had the TED crowd on their feet with his Hunting Monsters Prime talk on the search amongst pro and amateur mathematicians for the largest prime number. On the surface, there are few drier topics, but Spencer combined his self-effacing personal history and the history of the search for prime numbers through the ages with (very importantly) a 3-step lesson in how to identify a prime number so the non number geeks amongst us could follow along (well, maybe just us marketers), to engage the audience completely. A great storyteller transcends his or her content by finding and fueling the connection point to draw in the audience. We’ll never see prime numbers the same way again.
Insight 3: You can rebrand the unmentionable
Rose George enthralled us in her talk Go Home And Talk SH*T with a story of sanitation and the simple solve that could save the lives of the 4,000 children who die every day of diarrhea. Something we in the developed world take for granted — the humble toilet — is actually not available to 40% of the world, causing the spread of deadly disease. And this is both an economic and cultural issue. George cites how Japan fundamentally changed their approach to sanitation by “rebranding” toilets into a compelling conversation piece and status symbol: “In the early 19th century, they tried selling soap as healthy. No one bought it. They tried selling it as sexy, and everyone bought it.”
By Brie Votto, Assistant Account Manager
No really, The Color Run IS the happiest 5-K on Earth.
Last weekend, I ventured across San Francisco to Candlestick Park to participate in The Color Run, an untimed 5-K race (followed by a massive dance party) where thousands of participants wearing all white workout gear become moving canvases for blasts of brightly colored powder along each kilometer of the race. Surely, Jackson Pollock would approve.
People who don’t take themselves too seriously will love this race. Because when you get to run through a color cloud that looks like it could be billowing from the Willy Wonka factory — it’s impossible for even the grumpiest of runners to keep from smiling (while simultaneously throwing handfuls of colored powder at their friends). And who wouldn’t crack a smile running alongside banana suits, unicorns and gangs of tutu-wearing princesses? Business as usual in San Francisco.
#ColorRun–ing the social media game?
The Color Run, — now the largest 5-K series in the nation — is ripe for rampant sharing across a visually driven social landscape. Yet, incredibly, it doesn’t promote an official hashtag. (Uh, guys — call us. We can help.) However, a quick search for “ColorRun” on Twitter and Instagram yields countless photos and mentions of the event series.
Here’s a quick breakdown of hashtags used in Color Run-related tweets over the past year:
The Color Run will be back in The Bay Area (San Jose) in May. Don’t miss it twice: http://thecolorrun.com