Slack shifts brand marketing efforts from ‘always on’ paid media to tentpole events like SXSW and Dreamforce

Slack is retooling its brand marketing efforts this year to focus on tentpole events like South by Southwest and Dreamforce. By doing so, the workplace messaging app wants to reach its target audience of software decision makers and small business owners more efficiently, explained Colin McRae, head of brand and creative at Slack.

“This year represents a very different approach to our brand marketing strategy,” said McRae. “Historically, we’ve really tried to drive aided awareness through the top of the funnel. To do that, we’ve had an always-on approach. This year, with the economic headwinds and everything happening in tech, we wanted to be much more considered in how we go to market with our brand marketing efforts.” 

By focusing on tentpole moments like SXSW, Frontiers and Dreamforce, Slack wants to “not only drive top of funnel metrics but also drive down funnel performance,” per McRae. “We’re trying to align with our enterprise and self-serve teams to make sure we’ve got a real full funnel, end to end customer journey that’s not only driving awareness but results. For us, these events have proven to be an excellent way for us to speak to both audiences in one breath.”

With this shift to focus brand marketing efforts on events, Slack is planning to reduce how much it spends on broadcast, connected TV, digital video and paid social where it had previously run its “always on” traditional paid media approach. It’s unclear how much the company will reduce its spending on those channels as McRae declined to share budget specifics. However, Slack still plans to use traditional paid efforts, like out-of-home, when these tentpole events take place.

“The 30-second spot that we loved to run last year — that’s not going to be our workhorse,” said McRae. “We’re looking to run more earned media and drive a more immediate connection and drive consideration among audiences we’re reaching.”

Slack spent $6.6 million on digital paid media efforts last year and has spent $2.2 million on digital paid media efforts so far this year, according to ad spending data from Pathmatics by Sensor Tower. Last year, Slack was spending 33% of its monthly ad budget on Facebook, 26% on desktop video, 21% on streaming, 7% on Twitter, 7% on desktop display, 4% on Instagram and 2% on mobile display, according to those figures. This year, the data showed that Slack is spending 59% of its daily ad budget on YouTube, 39% on desktop display, 1% on mobile display and 1% on streaming. 

Last year, the company blanketed Washington, D.C. with out-of-home efforts as the company focused on the public sector with field marketing events. Doing so helped the company’s sales team as it’s “much easier for account execs to go into meetings with CTOs and sing the sales song and dance where CTO is already aware of Slack,” said McRae, adding that the shift to events focus will help the brand marketing team to be in “lock step with other programs.”

As Mat Zucker, senior partner, co-lead of marketing and sales at brand consultancy Prophet called it — “events and out-of-home are hot again.”

“People are returning to events. There’s a lot of energy so this could be a good strategy to try right now. There can be a lot of impact on focusing [on events].,” Zucker continued.

While Zucker sees upside for the strategy, particularly with attribution as it may be clearer with the focus on particular tentpole events, he did note that the company may lose out on efficiencies, targeting and optimization that comes with more evergreen ad spending. “You lose out on the advantages of the algorithm and the power of time,” said Zucker. “The cost-per-acquisition may be higher but hopefully it’s far more effective.”

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