Digiday+ Research: The 2024 brand guide to events

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

01
Introduction

Brands have used events as a way to generate consumer interest in their products for years. From temporary shop-in-a-shop concepts to large tentpole events, marketers now have a wide assortment of event-focused tools at their disposal. As new event strategies continue to emerge, Digiday+ Research looked at the current events landscape by conducting a survey of 174 marketing professionals and by collecting data on influencers’ social media posts about brand events.

Digiday found that publisher-hosted events are becoming a particularly useful marketing opportunity for brands since many publications plan to build their events businesses in 2024.  Events took a hit during the height of the pandemic when stay-at-home orders eliminated publishers’ ability to host large, in-person gatherings. However, in the first quarter of 2024, slightly more than half of publisher respondents (52%) told Digiday they would focus at least a little on growing their events business in the next six months.

“Pre-pandemic we had a massive events business,” said The Atlantic’s CEO Nicholas Thompson. “Obviously, we reduced that, to bring it back up again. It’s unlikely in the next five years, we will be the size that we were prior to the pandemic, but we’re expanding the number of events … and the amount of revenue we bring in is expanding. So, it is an important part of our strategy, both for brand awareness and our business model.”

Influencer partnerships also emerged in our research as another key strategy that gives brands additional touch points for customer engagement.

02
Post-Covid, publisher events return as a brand tactic

Publisher events ground to a halt during the height of Covid-19 pandemic, stalling the revenue stream, and publishers were initially hesitant to invest a lot in the strategy as the world opened back up post-pandemic. However, in the beginning of 2024, some publishers have seen success in events. With some publishers seeing the benefits of events, brands have been able to find opportunities to collaborate or sponsor publishers’ events as part of their overall business strategies.

A particularly effective strategy focuses specifically on promoting brands themselves. In 2022, Gallery Media Group, a subsidiary of VaynerX that publishes PureWow and ONE37pm, started a new strategy through its semi-permanent experiences “Gallery Houses.” The event franchises take up residence in locations like Miami, New York City or the Hamptons for weeks or months at a time, allowing multiple sponsors to come and go. The Gallery Houses create a space where brands can come in and feature themselves in collaboration with an editorial brand. For example, its upcoming Beach House experience includes brand partners like Patron and Origins, which will provide products and experiences for guests during the August event. This strategy boosts awareness for both the brands and the publisher, while giving consumers an immersive experience. One particular strength of this specific partnership is that the brands don’t need to handle leasing and logistics for the space.

Gallery’s CRO Chris Anthony and chief brand officer Mary Kate McGrath are trying to stretch the value of event sponsorships even further in 2024, which is especially important given the fact that nearly every client call they have revolves around events. “I cannot get over how many people are [asking], ‘What is your experiential strategy? How are you gathering your community?’ It’s every call,” McGrath said in the fall.

In addition to its publishing operations, Gallery Media Group has an influencer marketing business with talent it can tap into for events — stay tuned for more on influencer-specific strategies in the next sections. These events that feature influencers are consumer facing and focused on generating buzz both for Gallery Media Group and its sponsors’ products — an effective strategy to attract B2C brands and advertisers.

“We have influencers here, the products here, this beautiful venue here and we already have all of the best in class [photographers] and editors. … Let’s not just get one piece of content [that’s meant to create] FOMO from a consumer who doesn’t really care. Let’s instead give you months of content by shooting [a sponsor’s product] in 16 different ways,” McGrath said.

Media company Apartment Therapy utilizes a similar event experience through its Small/Cool home decor pop-ups. The pop-ups incorporate more shopping opportunities in an effort to drive revenue, according to company president Riva Syrop. Unlike some other events that focus on generating buzz and brand recognition, Apartment Therapy features affiliate links and QR codes through the pop-up to stimulate sales. Sales made through the affiliate links cost brands 10% to 20% of purchases, which is on par with Apartment Therapy’s standard commission rates.

While both of these publisher event examples allow brands to promote their products through sponsorships and collaborations, they do have different goals of generating buzz versus driving sales.

03
Brands tap influencers to amplify event activations

As more brands invest in experiential marketing events to build a stronger brand narrative, marketers are discovering that combining influencer marketing and event marketing can help boost an event’s exposure and create a lasting impression with an extended audience. Partnering with influencers who align with a brand’s values can create positive buzz among new and existing customers.

Influencers, too, have noted that brand event collaborations provide a unique consumer experience during which brands can provide shoppers with product education. They also provide an opportunity for influencers to meet with colleagues. “I get to network. I get to connect with people who love beauty as much as I do, and we’re all there for the same reason,” said beauty influencer Stephanie Valentine. For influencers who work independently at home, these events serve as important professional experiences.

Glossy’s 2024 Influencer Index found that last year, 10 out of the 15 influencers included in the index posted about brand events on their Instagram accounts. On YouTube, three out of the 11 influencers with active YouTube channels posted videos about brand events in 2023. Posts featuring influencers getting ready for a brand event or posts made from the brand events themselves garnered significant attention from their audiences. On average, posts about brand events on Instagram had a higher engagement rate than all other types of sponsored posts — at 5.6% versus the average at 4.0%. The same results occurred on YouTube, where videos about brand events had a higher average engagement rate than other types of sponsored videos.

Influencers have also noticed that their audiences respond well to posts about brand events. “I like when I get to post the actual event and what happens at the event because it takes [your audience] with you,” said beauty influencer Mikayla Noguiera. “That’s something I like to do with my audience, really immerse them and take them with me. I love doing it. I think it’s worth it.”

Most brands don’t expect influencers to post from their events, but most influencers do make event-centered posts, according to Noguiera. “I’ve talked to so many brands and asked them why they do brand trips. The No. 1 thing they say is to build relationships with the influencers,” said Noguiera. “They don’t expect you to post. It’s not a requirement, and they’re not trying to get you to sell the products. They’re just trying to build a stronger relationship with you in the hopes that they can work with you in the future.”

The built-in opportunities for content creation at brand events, such as creative product displays and photo booths, provide natural moments for influencers to film and post during the events. This makes attendance mutually beneficial for influencers — who get to use interesting and unique backdrops for their social posts which will live online forever — and brands — whose social presences are strengthened by the influencers’ posts.

On average, influencer Katie Fang’s brand event-focused Instagram posts had a 33.8% engagement rate — the highest rate among the observed group of influencers. Fang attended two Fenty Beauty events and a Rare Beauty event last year and accumulated over 253,000 likes on her posts about the events.

Fang’s audience responded well to these brand partnerships, commenting things like “oh my goodness this is so cool!!!!” and “insane?” on her posts about the events. Overall, Fenty Beauty and Rare Beauty align well with Fang’s personal brand and are aspirational brands for her audience, making these partnerships very effective for her in particular.

04
Tech brands get the biggest boost from influencers’ event posts

Influencers’ posts about technology companies’ brand events received the highest engagement among the event categories included in Glossy’s index. These included brand events hosted by Amazon, TikTok and Google. Because audiences respond well to these posts, which, in turn, helps elevate the marketing impact of these events, technology companies are starting to lean further into event collaborations with influencers.

According to experience agency Innovate Marketing Group, technology companies are mastering influencer events by providing influencers with new events opportunities, rather than just collaborating with them on one-off sponsored posts or campaigns. TikTok is building its creator programs by giving influencer partners the opportunity to host pop-up events across the country. Amazon developed the Amazon Creator Summit to connect with influencers and provide them with professional development opportunities that feature keynote speakers and panels with successful Amazon creators. This kind of symbiotic relationship between tech firms and influencers is becoming more important for brands of all types to build in order to encourage influencers to attend their events.

“I like brands that do a mix of things — an education section where they’re actually sitting down educating you about the product, the chemistry of the product, why they created the product, the meaning of the product — and then [they] show you how to use the product,” said Noguiera, when asked about her preferred brand event format. “I like trips that have [an] interactive [section] and get you to be involved with the other influencers invited, so you can get to know them. I think that is so critical, every brand having a brand trip needs to do that.”

https://digiday.com/?p=545789

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