Feature Article - January/February 2015

Creating an Experience

Making Merchandise Part of Your Events

By Deborah L. Vence

Billions of dollars are spent every year on exhibiting as companies strive to plan the next best event to market their products or services in order to gain new business and generate sales.

While event marketing is all about designing or developing a themed activity, display or exhibit with the goal of promoting a product, cause or organization, more companies are opting to take their exhibits to a new level—through interactive, on-site experiences.

And, studies show that consumers are all for it.

In fact, consumers are more motivated than ever to make purchase decisions based on live experiences, with more than half (54 percent) purchasing products promoted at events, as reported in 2014 by Event Marketer magazine based on data from the 2014 EventTrack study—a joint effort between global think tank Event Marketing Institute and Mosaic, a field sales and marketing company.

More companies are opting to take their exhibits to a new level—through interactive, on-site experiences.

Similarly, in the November/December issue of Premium Incentive Products, Brian Rivolta, IP, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Incentive Concepts, a St. Louis-based national marketing group, discussed the idea of turning a gift into an experience, and said that "Many meeting planners have turned to on-site gifting programs that allow attendees to make a choice and select their own gift. The presentation that the right brand can offer when they have the full attention of the attendees can be powerful.

"We have found that the programs that have the most successful impact with regard to gifting are those that offer multiple items from a singular brand. By offering one brand you can turn a gift into an experience," he said.

Whether you're aiming to create a knockout sales meeting, an upscale conference experience or a corporate meeting, you can boost the event's appeal by incorporating an opportunity for attendees to get hands-on with merchandise before making their own choice about the best fit, taking your event to the next level and, ultimately, providing a lasting reminder of the experience.

A Memorable Experience

The reason that companies should consider offering a more interactive, on-site experience at their events is quite simple.

"An on-site experience is a more interactive, fun and valuable event for the attendees. Most importantly, when done well the gift becomes a tangible link back to the event, both consciously and unconsciously connecting the attendees to the event message," said Patrick Corley, vice president of event experiences, Incentive Concepts.

When companies are considering engagement initiatives, such as events, they should also be looking at the multigenerational nature of the workforce.

"Companies are beginning to understand the importance of keeping their employees and associates engaged to achieve high-quality performance," said Paul Gordon, vice president of sales at Rymax Marketing Services Inc., a full-service loyalty marketing company.

"The industry is constantly expanding to new aged concepts. The 'pillow gift' and 'welcome goodie bag' have grown stale and predictable. Now, the 21st century sales force requires 21st century motivators at corporate events," he said.

For instance, Rymax created R-S.I.T.E., which stands for Rymax's Strategic Interactive Themed Events, designed to help increase event ROI.

"We take in all of the information regarding an organization and then propose events that best fit their profile. We then deliver a variety of events that will engage and inspire the attendees, as well as have them leave the event with a trophy value branded product. Doing this creates a lasting memory event for their attendees, which, in turn, continues to increase potential within the company," Gordon said.

"At Rymax we like going big with our ideas and propose everything from on-site shopping sprees, host city 'greatest race' vehicles and fitting events that range from audio fittings to product demonstrations," he said.

For a travel program, offering such events along with in-demand merchandise "is highly beneficial because it adds a rewards element and memorable experience to the program," he added.

"As the economy continues to mend and leisure travel picks up, consumers are looking to little luxury items to have for their travels. Having brand-name, top-of-the-line luggage, travel accessories and entertainment products offered in a travel program targets nearly every generation and meets the trending needs that participants who travel desire now," Gordon said.