The Missing Piece of Your Social Media Marketing Strategy: Events Edition
What does branded merch have to do with social media, and should event branded merch be a part of your social media marketing strategy for your event?
Sarah here! I’m an influencer. Or at least one person thought enough of me to include me in a fun influencer campaign (shout out to the amazing Charity Gibson, a promotional products industry actual influencer, branding expert and social media rockstar). Why am I sharing this? For my events people. Whether it’s a tradeshow, a fundraiser, a brand launch…anything you’re trying to brand, encourage attendance or spread awareness about…don’t sleep on the power of merch + social media.
Let me back up & explain from the top. There is a promotional products industry tradeshow in early October (that’s important) in New Jersey (that’s also important). The event has been published online, I’m sure it’s been released through normal advertising channels throughout the industry, and it’s been promoted to its member promotional products distributors. That’s the most you can do for this type of event, right? Think again. Instead of relying on traditional & digital mediums, the organizers of this conference (another shout out - SAAGNY, Charity Gibson, Meg Erber & I’m sure other amazing volunteers making this a success) decided to take it one step further and create an influencer box full of event branded merchandise.
We make fun boxes from time to time and send out to our amazing clients. Our most recent box had customers stopping & calling us to thank us, telling us they felt like an influencer unboxing the experience we gifted. How great is that?! We create boxes for brands all the time. Maybe it’s an onboarding kit, maybe it’s a brand launch or media mailer, or maybe it’s to help create a full experience as they appreciate someone. But back to the event promotion idea.
What if you created a branded box that enticed people to come to an event? What if they got so excited to receive the amazing items inside, they posted their enthusiasm on social media. What if the person that posted it is followed by other people that have an interest in similar things, and they just so happen to be someone or several someones that you’d like to attend your event? What if the word of mouth marketing offline was so good, new people learned about your event & started researching & considering attendance? That’s a lot of what if’s. But your digital advertising & social media marketing are also what if’s, even if you can target your audience really well and see the impressions and click data. Branded merchandise has a 100% open rate. If you send an item, it’s getting seen, it’s getting experienced, and the impression is deep - not just a scroll past that may or may not be recalled. A differentiator about the tactile marketing medium branded merchandise is how memorable it is. Meta measures ad recall; it doesn’t always hit with your social ads. If you send a great branded item or set of branded items, it’s getting remembered and it’s getting talked about. We see it all the time with onboarding kits. Gifted enthusiasm is just an entirely different breed of enthusiasm - especially when it’s unexpected or a unique practice.More and more as people are more social, that gift is getting posted about, a story is made about it, or it’s going on TikTok. And the thing about a social media post from a friend versus a brand's social media ad is that post is more trusted by the person consuming it.
For event marketers, the key is identifying who you could send a little something to. Make a creative branded box filled with goodies. Make it so that each branded item means something. In the case of the Big Blue Box I received, each item stands for something related to the show. Each item is a quality branded item. Anyone planning or attending a trade show knows you need certain things to keep you going. I’m not spoiling the full box here, head to the Branded by Williams Advertising socials to see what item was!
Circling back to this idea of timing. We’re sharing all of this in August on our socials. That gives prospective attendees plenty of time to book flights, schedule time out of office, and realistically plan for attending this trade show in October. The promotional products found inside the box took time to select, the branded items had thoughtfulness going in to each design which took time, and then the physical act of receiving & fulfilling the boxes took time. Then, everything was drop-shipped to each recipient, which took transit time. This is not as simple as popping up a quick social media ad, I'll give you that. But it’s certainly a grassroots marketing effort to try, if you’re aiming to reach new event attendees.
We all expect to receive some sort of swag when we attend an event, but how often are we receiving a gift in anticipation of the event? Another way of doing a pre-show send with a similar effect would be to run a time-sensitive promotion, creating a sense of urgency. The first X number of people registering by X date (give yourself time!) Will receive a swag box full of goodies to use at the trade show. This is a great way to show event sponsors some extra love, entice early registrations, and to get people excited much in the same ways as the influencer campaign did.
What the Big Blue Box has done is activate a whole host of promotional products industry folks. On our Branded & Williams Advertising channels, we’re followed by many of our (friendly) competitors. We often will post a product or share a tip for our customers on our socials, and we’ll get a DM asking how our peers in the industry can also find that product, or ask how we did something. I suspect by activating a good size group of industry people with a similar social media audience, the SAAGNY show will have an awareness unlike any other regional promotional products show.
Could this work for your next event?
Branded by Williams Advertising creates branded merchandise that allows companies to show appreciation and build brand loyalty. Our capabilities include everything from ideation to production of promotional products. We simplify your life by handling everything from creative through fulfillment for all custom items. If you need help developing your event strategy to include branded merchandise, or you’re otherwise interested in showing appreciation using creative branded merchandise, please reach out & we’ll build personalized promotional products recommendations for your brand.