Events, when done properly, are a critical part of every marketer’s toolbox and can very much be revenue-producing and the most powerful brand extender of all. The power of doing things in-person with your key target audience or fans is major, since electronic communication can never replace great events where people can actually experience your brand. Users or fans can more tangibly “touch” your brand and consume it only through events. Nope, not even social media can hold a candle to doing live events and letting people interact with you, your brand or your celebrity.
I was reminded of the importance of event marketing, and my own opinions about what constitutes the right event marketing mindset, after coming across an article in Advertising Age which discusses how Maxim is expanding their event marketing approach to now include parties at the Masters (golf) and Kentucky Derby (horse racing) in addition to their annual bash at the Super Bowl.
I know a thing or two about events. For 5 years, I was an executive at the company who competed most directly with Maxim at the Super Bowl each year (Playboy). Side note: no matter what you read about the parties which occurred at the Super Bowl from 2002-2008, Playboy’s were by far the best and the team that produced them was likewise by far the best. I have also directly overseen event marketing and put together strategic events for several years with my own team. My team throws a private party every year at the Playboy Mansion. We throw at least a dozen private outings at sports events every year. We do industry trade show events tied to the interactive advertising industry’s largest shows each year. We do themed events. We do small events. We do big events. We do Vegas. We do New York. We do London. I believe, as hopefully many marketers do, that events are an absolute staple in any marketing portfolio especially for any business that is sales-, brand- or experience-driven.
Successful events for any brand should do one thing: set the foundation for future behavior and a future relationship between your brand or company and your audience. Successful events should reach the right target audience who will consume and engage with the brand long after the event has come and gone. Not two days or two weeks after, but months and years after. Successful events should have a long-lasting impact on your audience’s mindset and habits.
My team and I have always been fortunate to receive compliments on how well our events are done, and how successful they are well after the fact. We get these compliments not because we’re the most creative, the most detail-oriented, or the best at the details of the event itself (even though I do believe those things). We get them because the impact of events we did years ago are still felt in numerous ways, through money, actual business, relationships that are still in place, or positive PR among other things.
I have thankfully never had a failed event, but I have witnessed them. Most often, they fail not because of execution or some of the details that support the strategy of the event, or even for reasons having to do with money. What constitutes failure? When people walk away from the event and never have any desire to consume or engage with your brand or company ever again. In other words, they may just like that one event, but still won’t engage with – or even think more highly of – your brand after the event any more than they did before. Therefore, events fail because they attract the wrong people. They fail because while brands might think they know who their target audience is or what people fit the profile they’re trying to attract, the event does not properly drive future behavior. In other words, they get TOO aspirational when it comes to who they WANT their audience to be, and don’t target their core demographic properly which drives the business and brand. Good events are not about the event itself, they are about the future returns.
You can throw a great event that makes money and makes sponsors happy, but if you’re not creating a long-lasting future relationship with the right consumers, then you have failed because of the opportunity costs of doing a similar event elsewhere that could have brought you that future capital and goodwill.
For companies like Maxim or Playboy, throwing events at the Super Bowl makes some sense because of the sexiness and spectacle of the Super Bowl, and the high net worth of individuals that can actually attend. So the attraction to wealth and the positioning of these brands at things that are all about the “finer things” and “living the good life” is understandable yet an anomaly.
As for this most recent announcement, Maxim didn’t ask me my opinion on expanding to the Masters and the Kentucky Derby, but I’ll give it to you (and them) anyway. When I think of who Maxim is trying to attract, it is a younger male. Maxim itself is a young brand, and they attract young males. They said themselves that they want to go after high-end consumers, but in doing so, they’re forgetting their roots and the fact that their brand, whether they like to believe it or not, caters to a younger audience and that audience may or may not have considerable wealth. While it is aspirational for them to believe they can attract the super wealthy by throwing a party at the ultra-exclusive Masters, I have to believe they would be far better served to focus on events at hip, cool, young scenes like SXSW. I think the youth of the brand is what should be at the forefront here rather than being around a wealthy audience. Incidentally, at something like SXSW, there are a lot of young people who happen to be quite wealthy. In other words, I don’t know why a brand like Maxim wouldn’t be catering to a young, tech-savvy, social crowd in lieu of a much older (yet wealthy) crowd at the Masters.
I could be totally wrong, and Maxim might be onto something huge turning what some people (not me) see as a sleepy golf tournament into a spectacle that rivals the Super Bowl. But I don’t think I am. It is just…different. They should understand where their roots are demographically, what public perception means (in addition to market research), and focus on something like SXSW or any number of other similar major events where there are thousands of people clustered.
One spokesperson for the company is quoted: “The Masters is one of the ultimate guy weekends,” he said. “There’s a lot of corporate people there, there’s a lot of client-hosting and there are a lot of guys who have achieved a certain status, financially and otherwise. It’s a place for us to be.”
Yes, it is “a place” for them to be, yet it sounds desperate. The question is, is it the right place for them to be? I say no. Just being around guys is not good enough. It is a start, but it is not good enough. They should be positioned around guys who will actually go to their website or read their magazine well after the event. Do you think most older, married men who have achieved “status” will go to their party at the Masters, meet some beautiful women, and then pick up a subscription to the magazine so they can happily exclaim to their wife “I met this girl at this party I went to!” No. I think they should have done better market research rather than just picking two high-end sports events and concluding that is the right place for them based off the success of one other high-end sports event.
A sports marketing “expert” was quoted: “Maxim has used the last 10 years building up its brand at the Super Bowl,” Mr. Tuchman said. “Smart media companies are developing their brands beyond digital and into events and partnerships to capitalize on their reach and identity.”
I agree that brands need to extend into events, and I am a huge proponent for event marketing as you know by now. I disagree because the Super Bowl is unique, and you can’t use success there as an indicator for other sports events. The Super Bowl evokes passion stemming from five months of competition in a way nothing else does, and has a history of partying and celebration attached to it. Sports are great, I just don’t think the major sports events ALL translate into a Maxim party being strategically sound.
So, I guess I’m just not buying that this will work or will do anything good for them in the long run. They might make some money on it, but that’s not the point. If it was me, I would have looked elsewhere to expand and evolve the brand in a way that will have longer-lasting effect and forges new customer relationships well into the future.