Get inspired by these 10 corporate event marketing ideas that go beyond the typical trade show booth. Featuring cross-country caravans, zen spaces, branded escape rooms and more.
It’s no secret that live events are valuable marketing channels. According to the 2018 Event Marketing Benchmarks and Trends, that’s exactly the case. Plus, the average chief marketing officer allocates 24% of their total annual budget to live events to build deeper connections between brands and audiences.
Study after study has proven that face-to-face events—when done properly—immerse attendees in your brand experience, enhance client relationships, generate more leads, and increase the likelihood of prospects becoming your customers.
Your competitors also know this. As you read this, they’re planning how they will capture attention and sales from your customers and prospects. Organizations that are willing to take that extra step and go beyond traditional event marketing techniques will have a competitive advantage.
Here are 10 creative corporate event marketing ideas that will transform your event strategy beyond the traditional trade show booth.
1. Zen Dens
A relaxed mind is a receptive mind.
Being mindful of attendees’ aching feet, frazzled brain, and battery-starved mobile phone can go a long way in making a visit to your booth a pleasant experience. This concept can also be taken on the road, and even in the sky—The Mindfulness mobile app for instance, which helps people meditate, did this when they partnered with El Al Airlines to provide meditation sessions during flights.
Volvo’s used this zen event marketing approach to promote their new car model. Source: Volvo
Along the same lines, Volvo opened their own Zen Den experience called Escape Your City in London, Manchester, and Edinburgh to support the new Volvo model, VXC60. City dwellers could stop by the Volvo pop-up for a relaxing Swedish massage, a bit of meditation, a quick yoga class, display their creative nature in an art class, or take a guided run through the city. These thoughtful initiatives served as a great opportunity for Volvo to showcase their latest car model.
2. Artificial Intelligence
When’s the last time you talked to your trade show booth?
Artificial Intelligence has spawned a myriad of voice-activated intelligent devices that are enhancing our lifestyles. You can ask Cortana, Siri, or Alexa what the weather will be like, so that you can dress appropriately for the day. You can have a beer in one hand, and a submarine sandwich in the other while asking your Google home device to turn on the lights. Soon devices like this will be omnipresent, but for now they are still unique and attract attention.
At the 2018 International CES, voice-controlled assistants were the center of attention. Source: Currys PC World
Businesses are already taking advantage of chatbots. At CES 2018 for instance, voice-controlled assistants stole the show. In the not too distant future, one can imagine this technology being used at corporate events.
A visitor asks your displayed product what features it offers. The product is programmed to answers the question and then has a conversation with the visitor that ends by the product recording the visitor’s contact information for a follow-up. No assistance needed.
Which company do you think visitors will remember? The one where they couldn’t find anyone to answer their questions or the one that had a self-assisted service?
When your customer can’t come to you, go to them.
New York City’s SoHo neighborhood is known for its heavy foot traffic. Magnum, a company that sells high-quality ice cream in food stores, ingeniously took advantage of the busy area. Magnum marketers opened a summer-only pop-up store where they sold unique flavors of ice cream bars, such as rose petal chocolate. One of the many popular attractions was the aroma bar, where customers tantalized their sense of smell with Magnum’s premium ingredients. The pop-up store was not only a public relations bonanza, but it also introduced the product line to a large market segment that was otherwise inaccessible.
Magnum’s SoHo pop-up was a popular hit amongst customers. Source: MC2
Organizations focused on B2B event marketing can also benefit from establishing a pop-up location. There are times when you want to make an impact quickly to showcase a new concept, product, or service. At times, the established conferences and trade shows don’t fit your schedule, or perhaps there’s an opportunity at a special event that attracts many of your targeted prospects.
Maybe you serve an industry or prospect group that has limited ability to travel to trade shows or conventions. If so, pop-ups may provide you with a very valuable solution.
4. Puzzle Solving
Houdini couldn’t have done it better.
We’re sure you’ve heard of escape rooms, a relatively new activity where groups of people must work together and even compete to escape a themed room. In hopes of engaging with their fan base, HBO marketers created escape rooms at the SXSW festival with themes for their hit shows, VEEP, Game of Thrones, and Silicon Valley. Fans and attendees alike could hardly wait to be part of this event branding experience.
HBO’s VEEP “The Office” escape room at SXSW 2017. Source: Adweek
Escape or experience rooms also provide business-to-business companies an opportunity to showcase their products or brand. You can take the idea on the road as a temporary pop-up or as part of your involvement in a conference or trade show. The only limitation is your own imagination.
5. Road Shows
Literally. Imagine that your boss comes to you one morning and tells you that you’ve been selected to spend 110 days traveling the entire U.S. You would probably smile and think how did I get so lucky. Then your boss says, "And you'll be driving 18,000 miles through rivers, down desert dunes, over rocky mountain passes and along some of the country's most treacherous icy roads."
That's exactly what happened to over 140 Toyota engineers. Toyota executives knew there was no better way for customers to see how their vehicles perform than to try them out in the most demanding real-life conditions. Along the way, they met with hundreds of Toyota drivers of all ages to hear their stories.
Toyota’s roadshow experience. Source: MC2
This exemplifies the value of getting people from behind-the-scenes involved in corporate event marketing campaigns. Go beyond representing your organization with sales and marketing professionals. By providing engineers, designers or product managers with the opportunity to speak and listen to customers and prospects, you can provide a unique experience to event attendees.
6. Secret and VIP Events
Don’t tell just anyone. Exclusive events serve to give attendees a special brand experience, in turn making your events more memorable. Following through with a unique event transfers those benefits to your product or services. Secret or VIP events can be conducted as part of any larger event, be it trade shows, festivals, or sponsored events.
The planners behind 4Moms, a manufacturer of quality children’s products, wanted to celebrate the sale of one million of their Mamaroo® 4 infant seat. To do so, they invited a select group to a party and as attendees enjoyed the festivities, they were enticed to take a ride in an adult-size Mamaroo® 4.
4Moms created an adult version of their signature product. Source: MC2
Riders experienced the motion just as their children would. Additionally, for each ride an adult made 4Moms donated a dollar to Sweet Peas, a nonprofit group working to support families with ill and premature babies.
Product demos are effective. Product demos for a selected group of VIPs or influencers? Corporate event marketing gold.
7. Virtual Reality, Drones and Remote Systems
Technology can often take your exhibit or event beyond the traditional by providing the unexpected. Caterpillar (Cat) did just that at The CONEXPO-CON/ AGG Construction Trade Show in Las Vegas.
As if Caterpillar’s renowned construction equipment wasn’t enough to wow audiences, Cat event organizers also had video drones flying above the exhibit, displaying images of the event on large screens throughout the exhibit. Plus, they demonstrated facial recognition technology and virtual reality to demonstrate the machines in action.
The tech-savvy Caterpillar exhibit at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017. Source: MC2
How do you top that? Caterpillar found a way by setting up a trailer with a sophisticated remote system, which attendees used to remotely operate an actual Caterpillar machine in Peoria, IL. The event attracted thousands of potential and existing customers who were able to engage with the brand through a unique experience that they would not forget.
8. Mobile Exhibits
A rolling stone gathers no moss.
Mobile design solutions come in many flavors. For instance, It can be a trailer complete with product displays as Mitsubishi Electric created. For more flexibility, a smaller vehicle with glass wall features like that used by Sweet Tarts for Comic Con and VidCon will do.
Otter's mobile exhibit. Source: MC2
Otter Products, a global leader in mobile device protection, gained even more mobility and flexibility using an “exhibit in a box” concept. Otter marketers created a mobile marketing exhibit that could be used for both indoor and outdoor activations, complete with graphics, product displays. As a benefit, note the cost effectiveness, ease of assembly, and durability of these exhibits—this one has been used at both the Winter and Summer X Games.
9. Socially Responsible Events
It’s just the right thing to do. Companies are integrated into the local community, and people tend to respect organizations that are socially responsible. Socially responsible corporate events are a win/win for companies because they get to have a positive effect on people’s lives while building stronger relationships with their employees, clients, and prospects. Company events can include social opportunities such as fundraising events.
By taking part in socially responsible events, Toyota was able to highlight it’s company’s efforts. Source: MC2
In this instance, Toyota shines once again. To support The Environmental Media Awards, an event that is solely devoted to celebrating the entertainment businesses environmental efforts, Toyota turned a traditional gas station into a lush park where guests could “fuel up” with a natural experience that touched all the senses. Specialists were available to discuss Toyota cars, and the company’s own sustainability efforts. They even had a wheatgrass bar.
10. Festivals, Fairs, and Concerts
Go where the people go.
Festivals, fairs, concerts and special happenings, such as the Kentucky Derby or the races at the Daytona Speedway, draw a large crowd. Coachella averages 75,000 visitors per day. The Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque reported that 889,000 people attended the nine-day event. The Daytona 500 in 2018 sold out its 100,000 available seats.
It makes sense to have a presence at these types of events if the theme fits your brand’s offering. The good news is there seems to be no limit to the numbers of high profile events such as these.
The Florida Hospital entrance at Daytona Speedway. Source: Daytona Speedway
Florida Hospital, one of the country’s largest not-for-profit healthcare providers, understood this when they created an environment at the entrance of the Daytona Speedway. As attendees entered, they were greeted with a cooling mist of water and an overhead video canopy. The entrance included a flowing waterfall and design elements that provide attendees with a garden-like experience. The entrance hallway continued with a starry night design and ample opportunity for messaging. Getting involved in other events outside of your direct audience, will serve to expand your company’s reach across different audiences.
While there are many other corporate event marketing ideas you can implement, the 10 listed here are a great start! If you’re looking for more inspiration, you may also be interested in these experiential marketing campaign ideas.