Nearly half of marketers are spending a quarter of their marketing budget on events and 41 percent of marketers deem experiential as their top channel. At the same time, brands are expected to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022. Combine the two—influencers and events—and you have one of the biggest trends in experiential marketing today. Ahead we take a deep dive into the dynamic event model and share an expert’s take on how to throw successful events that mix influencers and experiences and ultimately drive results.
Digital and social media marketing efforts help pique consumers’ interest, but experiential events drive action. That’s where influencer events play into a brand’s larger strategy. When brands invite influencers to an event, more likely than not the influencer will post an organic or sponsored Instagram photo or video highlighting a particular item or service. This type of promotion, known as user-generated content (UGC), could save the brand the money it would’ve spent on creating an ad or sending out mailers featuring the same item or service.
UGC as a result of events with a heavy influencer presence has a two-fold effect. One, it increases brand awareness, leading to more followers or visits to a brand’s site, helping to drive sales. Because influencers are more trusted spokespeople than celebrities, UGC inspires consumers to try a product themselves. And given 82 percent of people are more likely to buy an item after seeing or trying it, UGC also has the power to get consumers into brick-and-mortar spaces.
“These events not only help with brand awareness but also enable us to get face-to-face time with our influencers and editors as well as fans of the brand, as a way to thank them for their continued support. It’s good to get them connected with the people behind the brand as well as educate them on a personal level. This makes them more loyal to the brand,” explains integrated communications senior manager, and frequent events organizer Francia Cooper.
In pursuit of the ultimate brand experience last year, Taco Bell opened a branded hotel and resort in Palm Springs for super fans, peppering in influencers to make the overnight stay one for the books. The fast fashion of food invited mega makeup influencer Jeffree Star as well as singer-songwriter Tyler Conroy and Tarun Sinha, the Taco Bell sommelier who pairs wine with Taco Bell menu items.
“The overall strategy with these types of events is to invite influencers who have a genuine love for the product and the brand overall,” said Cooper, who has helped major beauty brands host similar influencer events.
Last year Twitch’s yearly three-day convention TwitchCon drew in 25,000 attendees per day. There, both major gamers and gamer fans engaged in cosplay competitions, music performances and a singing competition known as Stream Star that ends in a record deal with Columbia. At TwitchCon 2018, mega Twitch gamers DrLupo and Ninja were the focal points of a branded Hershey’s booth, which Ninja told followers about in advance on his Instagram.
Pop-ups are also a popular type of event that direct-to-consumer brands use to create buzz. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Shopbop held an influencer-studded New York Fashion Week pop-up. Before even entering, guests were greeted by branded Shopbop billboards on the subway walls leading to the party. Event standouts included influencers like the founder of fashion blog and collection Something Navy, Arielle Charnas, and co-creative director behind Oscar de la Renta Laura Kim, and interactive activations such as a customization booth and iPhone monogram station.
As for how to get the best return on investment (ROI) on your event, Cooper says to conduct competitive research then find a way to stand out from what everyone else is doing in the events space. An out-of-the-box, multidisciplinary approach, and ensuring the event is inclusive, is critical to leaving a mark. However, Cooper notes that a brand should only host influencer events if it aligns with their overall 360-degree strategy and end goals.