Q&A with B2B Marketing Expert Katie Martell

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Part One: Rabble-Rousing Brands in 2019

Every marketer is familiar with the notion of a “big idea”. Big ideas are often leveraged to drive a marketer’s strategy throughout a campaign, with the goal being to purposefully make a scene and push their brand to stand out from the rest.

The outcomes of some of these big ideas are often over-the-top and unexpected, especially when it comes to event marketing. For example, a big idea focused on gathering clean data for a company’s marketing database can translate to a rubber duck hunt at their booth in the midst of a trade show floor. Activations like this serve to break through the noise at major conferences, and they can even help garner support for a company’s big idea more than traditional marketing efforts would.

We spoke with B2B marketing expert Katie Martell about what she calls “rabble-rousing brands”, or companies that consistently galvanize support around their big ideas through even bigger actions. Check out her thoughts below on the importance of disregarding traditional marketing norms to stand out at events in Part 1 of our two-part Q&A series.

You have predicted that 2019 is the year of the “rabble-rousing brand”. Can you describe what this looks like in the context of event marketing?

Katie: Imagine you’re attending a trade show. You walk into the exhibit hall and brace yourself for an onslaught of table-top displays, SWAG, and eager badge-scanners. Anything that breaks that norm is a refreshing sight, especially if that sponsor can manage to actually deliver some value while you’re there.

Rabble-rousing is the act of galvanizing support behind a big idea.

When I worked at NetProspex (now D&B), our big idea was that only clean data and a healthy database could fuel the next level of marketing technology. That translated into our show booths through a range of nonconventional activations, such as:

  • A crane machine game giving away rubber duckies and loofahs (blue duck = prizes)
  • Raffling off a custom NetProspex branded bicycle + FitBits (healthy data)
  • Pre-show campaigns offering a free diagnosis of a marketer’s database. We would then review the findings free, live, at the show.

But, a key tenet of rabble-rousing is disregarding conventions. When I say this, I don’t mean breaking the rules, I just mean operating outside of routine thinking. When I launched a startup in the crowded marketing technology space, I needed to drive visitors to my booth.

So, I hired a marching band to parade around the show just ahead of the opening keynote. My co-founder led the parade with a sign featuring our CTA.

Inside the attendee SWAG bag, I printed buttons that said “I’m customer-centric” with our logo (customer-centric marketing was our “big idea.”). With the button was an offer: “wear this pin, and you could win cold hard cash.” I walked around the show handing out $5 to anyone I saw wearing the pin. Soon, every attendee was proudly promoting my company’s point of view, and I’d converted hundreds into brand evangelists.

Events are rare opportunities to create a memorable moment with potential customers. Don’t squander it with conventional thinking.

Have any rabble-rousing brands impressed you so far in 2019 with their event marketing strategies?

Katie: 2019 is only a few weeks in so I’m going to reach a little further back to the fall of 2018 for a few B2B examples!

At Spiceworld, Spiceworks’ annual conference for IT professionals, I had the chance to keynote their marketing track. I walked around the show floor ahead of my talk on rabble-rousing brands (incidentally) and took note of the booths that were wildly engaging, and those that fell flat.

I noted quite a few booths featuring participation / games:

  • Baramundi had a contest in which attendees competed for the longest time holding beer steins (here’s a shot of the leaderboard).

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  • CyberPower had a Guitar Hero contest–which I obviously would have won were it not for my time constraints 😉
  • Sophos built their own gamehere’s me about to play (I lost) – where you had to hit buttons as they lit up.
  • Lenovo built a custom game called “Whac-a-Threat!” featuring ransomware, DDoS attack, spyware, and other threats facing enterprise security.

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To be honest, I would have loved to see brands reach even further into their “big idea” to bring their points of view to life. I would have loved to see more provocation.

On a show floor where every brand touted their ability to tackle enterprise IT issues, I found myself wanting one true stand-out, memorable, themed experience.

As Katie said, businesses may still be figuring out how to best manifest their big ideas in a way that remains true to their brand message and gets the point across. If they’re successful in finding a way to do this, companies can provide meaningful experiences to those that attend their events or visit their booths while still gathering critical data to further their own business goals.

See what other marketing experts have to say about what we can expect from brands and events throughout the year here, and stay tuned for Part 2 of our Q&A series with Katie Martell.

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