Consumer Trends for Event Marketers

Author: Renee Goldstein       

marketing trends

mdg’s Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes (from left) moderates a CEIR Predict panel featuring Michelle Mason, Don Pazour, and John Gerzema.

On the first day of CEIR Predict, John Gerzema, CEO of Harris Insights & Analytics/The Harris Poll, spotlighted major consumer trends gleaned from The Harris Poll in a panel session with Michelle Mason, CAE, FASAE, president and CEO of Association Forum, and Don Pazour, CEO of Access Intelligence. Topping his list was hyper-personalization, which means that consumers now want products and experiences that are tailored not just to their demographic, but specifically to them. For example, diets can be based on blood type, supplements are tailored based on lifestyle, and even music play-lists can be created based on DNA.

Mason noted that this level of customization is particularly important when marketing events to underrepresented groups, like people of color. “We now need to learn and understand more about them,” she said. “It’s not just [taking] a survey anymore, it’s getting into their environments and truly understanding their behaviors and what their needs are.”

A big trend in business — which Gerzema highlighted as an opportunity to engage Generation Z and millennials — is design thinking. “Young people want access,” he said. “Are we as an industry bringing younger people to do the design thinking on events [and] what kind of events would they create?”

Marketers also need to pay attention to baby boomers and Generation Xers, who are remaining in the workforce longer, Gerzema said, and therefore seeking training and new skills.

The Need to Connect

“Short-selling” — essentially, getting what you want delivered to your door, and instantly — is another consumer trend Gerzema discussed. How does that relate to face-to-face events?

“The good news is, people like coming together and connecting,” Pazour said. The need for instant, home-delivered gratification can be met by creating “snackable” content marketing pieces that engage our audiences year-round, not just at the annual event, allowing them to taste the experience before ever stepping foot onto the floor.

“If you have [content] year-round, and you give those little bits and pieces and you allow little tribes to form, it can make the central event bigger,” Pazour said.

Mason added that the real value of face-to-face events is in the “intimacy” of making connections at events of any size and finding value in quality over quantity.

“We find that that’s our can’t-miss experience — when I can put you in the room and you can connect with three quality people versus 30 individuals,” she said. “That is something we need to be thinking more about.”

Renee Goldstein is the copy director at mdg, a full-service marketing and public relations firm specializing in B2B events.

Pulse Check

Kicking off CEIR Predict, held Sept. 16–17, 2019, at MGM National Harbor, was the organization’s vice president of research, Nancy Drapeau, who provided an exhibition industry health check. “Last year was a point where we finally left the recovery phase from the economic collapse of 2008,” she said. “We’ve passed the last high peak of performance and we’re in expansion mode, which is exciting.”

That growth is going to be marginal, however, as the economy slows to 1.1 percent next year, followed by an estimated rate of 0.8 percent in 2021, Drapeau said.

What does that mean for event marketing? It would seem that our marketing initiatives will have to work harder to keep the momentum moving forward for events.