Talk about an audacious headline! I was asked by CEMA: The Corporate Event Marketing Association, to host a panel discussion on this daunting topic at our Interop Exhibition and Conference in Las Vegas this week. My panelists; Travis Goodrich: Advertising Manager at HP’s ProCurve, Lorna Pierno: Director of Marketing Programs at Xirrus and Steve Garrison: VP of Marketing at Force 10 Networks and I led a discussion with a group of corporate marketing executives about the future of live media. Here are a few of my takeaways from the discussion:
- Next Generation Digital Media in a Traditional Media Wrapper: The definition of live media is evolving rapidly. It now encompasses both face to face and virtual events. Not all attendees had participated in a virtual event. Those that had were fans and saw virtual events as good additional marketing vehicles. Some that hadn’t, expressed trepidation about virtual events. It’s clear that live events have become multi-media platforms, with marketers organizing marketing programs around events, with extensions in digital, online, print and social media. One executive from a large technology company noted that they view specific events today as “marketing platforms”. They develop strategic marketing campaigns; organizing product introductions, public relations, online advertising, print advertising and analyst briefings, around these “marketing platforms”.
- Branded Response: Marketers view live media as an opportunity to brand their company, products and services and drive their sales pipelines. Attendees articulated that live media provides a platform for marketers to present a strong, contextual narrative to customers, as well as create an environment for engagement and discussion. In real time. Marketers are increasingly extending customer engagements from live events-nurturing the lead if you will-via integrated digital, online and print programs, that support the messaging from the live event. There were also several discussions about the challenge of managing the expectations of developing the “sales pipeline” at a live event, within their company.
- The Use of Social Media: While most every event marketer attending was using social media in concert with their live event marketing, metrics continue to be illusive. One panelist said that they are using twitter, facebook, blogs and other social media applications to enhance their live event marketing. However they consider the metrics they gather to be “soft metrics”. There was also an interesting discussion about the use of social media by employees in support of live event marketing. Tweeting and posting to support the marketing appeared to be encouraged by most of the companies in attendance. But these same companies have yet to set strict guidelines for usage.
- Marketing Mix: A rough estimate would suggest that live events represent 50% of the overall marketing budgets of those attending. Most felt live events would stay at this percentage for 2011. Several panelists and attendees mentioned a stronger focus around “core” or “tier 1″events and putting more marketing efforts into those events. Marketers also shared their challenges in dealing with silo-ed marketing budgets within their companies that makes developing and managing integrated campaigns difficult.
The consensus from the panelists and attendees? The future of live media is bright. New technologies and new marketing concepts are driving innovation and to an extent redefining what live media is. In some respects there appears to be a rediscovery of the power of live media. Perhaps a feeling that in an increasingly fragmented media world the value of engaging with communities of high demographic buyers in a live format is going up. My thanks to my panelists, the folks from CEMA and to the attendees. It was a great discussion and we look forward to keeping this dialogue going.