Campaign Strategies: Marketing Lessons From Spotlight Winners And Finalists

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March 20, 2012

While the presidential hopefuls continue to battle it out, the event industry's biggest election came to an exciting end on February 28 at the Spotlight Awards in Las Vegas, when the winners were announced in 15 different categories.

Many of the finalists created marketing campaigns to win votes in the "people's choice" aspect of the awards - which this year counted for a percentage along with a merit vote by the magazine's Advisory Board. These campaigns were built on solid platforms that reflected the brand and message of each company or individual, and they hold many lessons in how to use an award nomination as a marketing tool.

An Opportunity to Rebrand
In Miami, A Joy Wallace Catering and Production Design Team used the nomination of their sales and marketing manager, Sabdy Pacheco as Rising Star, to not only introduce her to the marketplace but to also roll out new corporate colors and identity.

The company's in-house graphic designer, Ryan Oswald, designed an ad campaign look that meshed the black-and-white motif of the Spotlight Award logo with the company's new teal accent and elements from fashion that branded the piece with Pacheco's personal style. The addition of candid photos by Roy Llera Photography added more personality and recapped the story of this star's "rise."

The ad was first marketed to the company's internal contact and client database. Following that it was posted on the company's Facebook wall, as well as on personal Facebook walls by fellow employees and supporters, and sent out via Twitter. The campaign paid off; Pacheco was the winner in what was the closest of the Spotlight battles.

The campaign was successful on other levels as well. The personal branding concept led to the redesign of the company's business cards. They now feature a black-and-white photo of each salesperson and executive member, accompanied by a one line "pitch" as to why they are an expert in their field. "Lastly," Pacheco adds, "Our efforts resulted in several business leads as we created a buzz around the company, award nomination and the conference itself."

A Joy Wallace Catering and Event Production Design Team

Building Visibility and Buzz
"Winning awards is fun," says Tricia Schmitt, director of marketing at AFR Event Furnishing in Pennsuaken, New Jersey. "But they hold the most value when we integrate them with our marketing strategy." Schmitt, the Spotlight winner for Marketing Professional of the Year, continues, "The Event Solutions Spotlight Awards give us a plethora of choices to communicate and relationship-build with our clients in a very playful, yet meaningful way. It's assertive marketing, but totally acceptable when done appropriately."

In addition to Schmitt's award, AFR was a finalist in two other categories - Event Supplier of the Year (which they won) and Rising Star Female. The company took advantage of the nominations to showcase the company, improve visibility and highlight individuals in the team by creating a totally realized campaign, complete with a custom Rock the Vote logo, a "debate" e-blast that gave viewers more information on the candidates and company, web page banner, email signature, campaign buttons, postcard, breaking news items that were released on Facebook and Twitter and a last-minute reminder to vote.

The campaign also included post-award pieces. "To share our news, show our gratitude and celebrate with everyone who supported our effort, we sent out an e-blast saying thank you and included a coupon for a discount on their next order," Schmitt says.

"The countless touch points and return on investment that we created by utilizing the awards process as an opportunity for marketing is still rolling in. The positive feedback from the campaign has been phenomenal. The true power of the campaign came when AFR won and followers tweeted, "AFR Rocked the Vote." Message complete.

AFR Event Furnishings

A Social Media Campaign
At Warner Bros. Studios, the winner of Event Site of the Year, Caroline Lett, marketing and event administrator, worked with Hillary Harris, executive director of special events, on a campaign that was centered around an event photo that had been on the cover of Event Solutions. "Since this was the magazine's award, we wanted to begin our campaign by attracting readers who had seen it previously," Lett says. "Plus it lent itself to the 60s theme we wanted to go with as the colors are so on trend for spring. And, we wanted to play off traditional election campaign themes such as world peace." In fact, people clicked on a hand making the peace sign to cast their vote. "Who wouldn't want to vote for world peace?" Lett says with a smile.

The nuts and bolts of the campaign included Facebook - beefing up the postings and posting on the walls of others in the industry , Twitter - at least one tweet a day about the award, the blog, - dedicated posts to the vote as well as footers each time Harris posted, LinkedIn and finally, several e-blasts through Constant Contact.

"We built up more public awareness of the studio," Lett says, "But the campaign also helped us jump start a larger campaign for this year. And it forced us to really focus on and grow our client base. In 30 days we built our client contact base to more than 1,000 which we will use throughout the year and continue to maintain. We built up our Twitter followers fast, as well as our friends on Facebook. These are all excellent sources of possible business for us."

Warner Bros. Studios

The Personal Approach
It was a close race this year in many categories but none as close as Rising Star Female. Giving Sabdy Pacheco a run for her money was Jackie Ross from Table 6 Productions, a national event design and planning firm. Ross is based in its Miami office. Her strategy was to eschew social media and approach the challenge one-on-one.

"I sent a personal email to every vendor with whom I have a relationship. It took weeks," she recalls. "Then, when a mass email was sent, I didn't just ask for the vote. I asked them to take the time to read my profile and hoped they felt a vote was warranted. For example, I sent an email to the attendees of a high-end wedding conference I attended and used my LinkedIn contacts. I was actually surprised by the responses I received."

She also looked beyond the industry, reaching out to the workplaces of her husband and her child's school, allowing her to reach consumers and do what every good marketing campaign should do - reach out beyond your base and find new clients in a non-sales, non-threatening and positive manner.

Schmitt said it best - if done correctly, using a popular vote type of award (and there are many others besides the Spotlights out there), can be a perfect way to gain market share, visibility and loyalty with your base and beyond.

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