Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

Contests, Conferences, Festivals and Launch Parties – 32 Examples Of Marketing Using Events

It’s true that we live in a digital age, where we get served with tonnes of content and ads. As result-oriented marketers, we worry primarily about things like search and SEO.

But despite all that, there’s still no substitute for human contact. (VR does looks very promising, but it seems probable that people are always going to be interested in meeting other people in the flesh.)

What that means is that there’s always going to be a demand for events. Instances where many different people gather together to have a shared experience.

And where there are people, there is an opportunity to do marketing. To be remarkable, and to earn word-of-mouth.

Some of the possible categories of events include:

  • Festivals – a celebration of your product or whatever your product helps your customers achieve
  • Contests and challenges – tapping into people’s competitive streaks to create something noteworthy
  • Launch parties – Introducing something new and exciting to your customers and the world
  • Conferences – focusing on how your users or customers can learn from one another

Here are some examples of how brands use events to their advantage:

1. Chipotle’s free ‘Cultivate’ festivals – live music and celeb chefs draw over 300,000 attendees

chipotle-festival

Since 2011, Chipotle has been hosting “Cultivate”, a series of free festivals throughout America with live music, celebrity chef demonstrations, artisanal food and activities that spread awareness about sustainable agriculture.

2013’s “Cultivate” drew more than 300,000 attendees across San Francisco, Denver and Chicago and were featured in local media.

2. Twitter usage at SXSW 2007 went from 20,000 to 60,000 tweets per day

One of the 60 inch plasma screens along the SXSW hallways.

Co-founder Evan Williams decided to visualize the service on 60 inch plasma screens in the hallways, because “We knew hallways were where the action was”. Twitter created an event-specific feature that allowed attendees to follow a handful of “ambassadors”.

According to Newsweek’s Steven Levy, “Hundreds of conference-goers kept tabs on each other via constant twitters. Panelists and speakers mentioned the service, and the bloggers in attendance touted it.” During the event, Twitter usage went from 20,000 tweets per day to 60,000.

3. Tinder got its early users by hosting high-profile college parties where you needed the app to get in

Tinder party word of mouth ReferralCandy

To boost their domination of the college population, Tinder hires “college campus reps” to help promote the app to their peers.

They do so by organizing college parties, with some specific entry requirements. Some make it compulsory for guests to download the app before entering, while others require guests to find a date on Tinder, and bring them to the party.

These guidelines help the company ensure that their product gets the maximum exposure and downloads.

4. Uniqlo does regular launch parties on-site to build hype for its new collections

uniqlo-marvel-launch-party

Uniqlo is a clothing brand that regularly hosts launch parties. These events are hosted on their own premises, which allows them to skip on costly venue rentals.

If your business makes use of a venue for everyday operations, repurposing said venue for special events can be a great idea!

5. The Coachella festival grew to become a massive annual event through branding

coachella-art-installations

You might think that “Coachella IS an event”, but it’s really a broader cultural phenomenon, tying together many different genres of music, fashion and art installations. The event is just the centerpiece of the brand.

(It’s foreseeable, then, that a business can actually develop from a regularly organized event, rather than the other way around!)

6. The annual CrossFit Games, where thousands compete to be the fittest in the world

Image: Sevan Matossian
Image: Sevan Matossian

The CrossFit Games is the Olympic games of CrossFit, where CrossFitters from all over the world compete for the prestigious title of the “first man or woman in the world”.

Debuting in 2007, the CrossFit games are interesting to watch, as the competition details are kept secret until the actual day. The secrecy prevents participants from training for specific events, so their overall fitness is put to the ultimate test.

This goes in line with CrossFit’s goal of achieving elite fitness and being able to handle whatever the world throws at you.

Elite CrossFitters participate for a shot at glory, while viewers watch to see what challenges are presented and participants overcome them. The games are also a great way for CrossFit to celebrate their most hardcore supporters.

7. Google Developer Fests – organized regularly all over the world

google-developer-fest

“GDG DevFests are large, community-run events that can offer speaker sessions across multiple product areas, all-day hack-a-thons, code labs, and more.”

Google gets its word-of-mouth from the quality of its products, and part of ensuring a good pipeline of products involves building a healthy relationship with developers who make the apps that people use and talk about.

8. Red Bull hosts massive and numerous extreme sporting events, including record-breaking ones such as Stratos

Artem Silchenko - Action

Superficially, Red Bull sells energy drinks. In practice, it much more resembles a ‘Lifestyle Brand’, represented by media and events.

Red Bull notably doesn’t just sponsor any events – if it likes the idea of something, it runs the entire thing itself.

9. One More Thing – Apple’s legendary keynotes fuel huge media frenzies every time

steve-jobs-marketing-keynote

Apple’s product launches are among the most watched, most anticipated and most talked about in any industry. The tradition was started by its founder Steve Jobs, who built a reputation for delivering very exciting product launches.

10. Victoria’s Secret annual invite-only fashion show is worth tens of millions of dollars

victoria-secret-fashion-show-marketing

The first Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show had a $120,000 budget. Today, it costs over $15,000,000 and makes more than that in advertising revenue alone.

11. Zumba – Party in pink to raise money for cancer awareness and treatment

zumba-party-in-pink

Superficially, Zumba is “just cardiovascular exercise by moving the body” – but the package is everything. It’s a fun, cheerful dance party that anybody’s welcome to join, and you can bring your friends.

12. Tesla’s groundbreaking launch events inspire tremendous media attention

tesla-musk-model3-launch

“”The public tends to be, as they should, interested in things that are precedents and superlatives.” – Elon Musk

By focusing their resources on making entirely new product classes, Tesla Motors ensures that its product launch events are fervently followed.

13. Pinterest events – meeting makers and influencers helped to seed early users

pinterest-ben-silbermann

Pinterest organized meetups at local boutiques, handing out Pinterest invites and turning participants into the forerunners of their word-of-mouth efforts.

14. GoPro Mountain Games ensure that lots of high-quality GoPro footage gets created and shared

DCIM126GOPRO

If you’re going to sell mobile video cameras targetted at athletes, again, it makes sense to host events where lots of high-quality footage can be taken!

15. Pebble Developer Retreats encourage developers to produce apps worth talking about

pebble-developer-conference
Image source: Edward Bramanti

 

A device like Pebble is highly dependent on the quality of its apps for word-of-mouth, so it makes a lot of sense for Pebble to invest in developer retreats and conferences. Here’s a post by a developer who attended one of these events.

16. Fitbit sponsors lots of races and marathons

fitbit-5k-race

If you’re selling something to people to use while they run, it makes a lot of sense to organize running events! There’s a long list of such events on the Fitbit blog.

17. Threadless art market celebrates the Chicago art scene and cements Threadless as a pillar of the creative community

threadless-art-market

The Threadless Art Market was a free-to-public event in Chicago, where all sorts of Chicago-based artists selling a wide range of products (marquee signs, geometric piñatas, metal-work jewelry and handmade clothing) came together to create a cultural experience of sorts.

18. Mashable Social Media Day gets people around the world involved in conversations about the future of social media

Mashable Social Media Day 2014

In 2010, Mashable pioneered an annual event to give tribute to the digital revolution and called it the Social Media Day.

“Now in 2015, this holiday encompasses hundreds of in-person events around the world, along with thousands of tweets, Instagram photos and Facebook posts commemorating #SMDay.”

19. Lululemon hosts regular community events, even turning its stores into yoga studios

This practice originated from Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, who used his office space as a yoga studio at night to help pay for rent back in the day.

This, according to former CEO Christine Day, positions Lululemon stores as a “fitness and conversation hub”. It also increases customer engagement, encourages regular visits to the store, and keeps the brand constantly top-of-mind.

20 TOMS’ One Day Without Shoes encourages people around the world to raise awareness for the shoeless by going barefoot

toms-one-day-without-shoes

The movement has the benefit of being highly visible (the ‘Public‘ principle in action), allowing people to signal to their peers that they’re socially conscious, that they’re making a small sacrifice to contribute to raising awareness for a humanitarian problem.

The event has been held annually since 2007, with 1,600 events around the world and 250,000 people participating in 2010.

People clearly want to participate in something that feels meaningful to them.

21. Banksy’s Dismaland was a dramatic, dreary spectacle that received lots of media attention

banksy-cinderella-dismaland

In 2015, Banksy organized a temporary art project, “Dismaland,” a satirical spin on Disneyland. He described it as “a family theme park unsuitable for children”.  It featured works that showcased the darker side of history and popular culture, as well symbolic representations of real-world problems.

The project went on to receive loads of media attention. The high demand for tickets repeatedly crashed the Dismaland website– which Banksy fans considered to be an authentic part of the Dismaland experience. The park itself was only open for 36 days, but has had a lasting impact on visitors and critics.

22. IKEA invests in relationships with its customers by launching events that parents can bring their children to

ikea-russia-event

By turning itself into a location for family outings, IKEA greatly improves the odds that furniture gets bought. “Dad, I need a new chair!”

23. Hello Kitty Con draws fans from around the world to dress up and celebrate the 40-year-old icon

Hello Kitty Con 2014 Opening Night Party Co-hosted By Target

The Hello Kitty Con is just one of many events around the world that Hello Kitty fans rally around to gather and share in their fandom.

24. Moleskine gets additional exposure from film festivals and other creative events

moleskine-event

What does a notebook have to do with events? Plenty! Moleskine has built a reputation for being a ‘vessel of inspiration’ for some of the world’s most high-profile creative people. It further cements that association by giving out specialized Moleskines at art and film festivals.

25. League of Legends competitions have prize pools worth millions of dollars

league of legends worlds 2015 arena

Because League of Legends is also extremely exciting to watch, it has developed a very competitive gaming scene, paired with prize pools numbering to the millions.

Competitive teams from Korea, China, Europe and America have developed cult followings and are sponsored by huge companies, and they play in stadiums packed with thousands of fans – some people describe them to be the rockstars of the gaming world. The huge viewer rates also drive up sponsorship.

26. Razer’s gaming peripherals have popular launch parties and events

razer crowd

Razer is a gaming peripherals (mice, keyboards, etc) company run by hardcore gamers themselves. So it’s easy to see why their new product launches have an almost cult following.

27. Everlane Transparency Tour – get to see how your clothes are made!

everlane factory

In July 2014, Everlane hosted their first Transparent City Tour, where they invited a few fashion icons on Instagram to visit their tee factory and dye house in LA.

While Everlane has always been open in the way they document the factories that produce their clothing, inviting members of the public to actually visit those factories firsthand takes transparency to a new level.

These Instagram influencers who visited the factories and were impressed would definitely talk about the brand on their profiles, helping to spread the name of the brand to their respective followers.

30. The North Face Everest Expedition – demonstrating the strength of equipment by putting it to the harshest test

tnf-series

In 2012, The North Face sent Conrad Anker and his team to summit Mount Everest – the tallest mountain on Earth, documenting the entire process in real time.

31. World Nutella Day

world-nutella-day-660x345

Since 2007, February 5th is celebrated as World Nutella Day. The international holiday was first started by Nutella loyalist Sara Rosso, but the rights to the holiday was transferred to the Ferrero Group in 2015, making it official.

At the beginning, celebrations went slightly out of hand as a number of unauthorised events and promotional activities were organised by enthusiastic loyalists, unintentionally interfering with Nutella’s brand strategy.

By taking over the rights to World Nutella Day, Nutella is better able to ensure a seamless marketing strategy, one that fits in with the brand vision.

32. Warby Parker hijacked New York Fashion Week 2011

warby parker new york fashion week

In Fall 2011, Warby Parker wanted to participate in New York Fashion Week. They didn’t have the resources to do either a runway show or a full presentation, so they decided to do a secret presentation the day before.

They had their employees stake out the New York Public Library, and invited 40 fashion editors to a ‘secret event’ there. They had 20-30 models in the hotel next door getting ready, and had them swap seats with the employees right before the editors were let in.

All the editors wrote about it, and Warby Parker stole the thunder that week.

…and that’s a wrap!

People will always want to gather and meet with like-minded individuals about their shared interests.

What can your business do to help make that happen? What are your favorite examples of awesome events?

Visakan Veerasamy

Visa is ReferralCandy's Blog Editor. He also co-founded Statement.sg, a fashion ecommerce label selling witty t-shirts. He's been thrice named a Top Writer on Quora. He hopes to enjoy a glass of whiskey onboard a commercial space flight someday.

1 comment

  • Something from my own experience – I sell locally-flavored t-shirts on the side, and in the early days we used to go to flea markets to sell our merchandise. It was often a tedious, tiring experience, but it was also INVALUABLE for getting customer feedback. We’d see how some people immediately knew what they wanted, and how some designs would get multiple glances without being bought.

    So I think that’s one of the most valuable things about events – you have this huge opportunity to develop a better understanding of who your customers are and what they want, and which helps you build a better product and earn more word-of-mouth altogether.