Inspire your event strategy with these event marketing examples from leading brands including Apple, Glassdoor, and SpaceX.
Events are more than just stuffy meetings and crowded exhibition halls. But how do you take the idea of bringing people together and turn it into an essential marketing channel?
The short answer is to create a compelling event marketing plan.
The long answer includes incorporating feedback from your attendees, closely measuring event ROI, and learning from other successful examples of real-life B2B event marketing ideas to inspire your own. While event marketing software can handle the more technical aspects of bringing your event to life, it’s up to you, the event organizer, to bring ingenuity to the whole experience.
In this article, we’ll explore different examples of event marketing and how you can incorporate them into your marketing strategy to bring your events to life.
What is event marketing?
Event marketing is a direct way of forming new connections, providing learning opportunities, and creating memorable experiences for prospects and customers. Although there are many ways to successfully market a product or service through digital means, there is still no replacing the experience of face-to-face interactions.
Some event marketing strategies use traditional event types like conferences and networking events, while other strategies may incorporate experiential activations. No matter what kind of event you plan, event marketing remains the best way to sell out tickets and boost ROI. Here are successful examples of event marketing that can inspire your promotion ideas:
1. User Conference: Oracle Code One (JavaOne)
User conferences are a formal gathering of thought leaders, industry influencers, and industry titans. They often revolve around one or two themes within an industry. Attendees should expect activities like special guest lecturers and breakout networking sessions.
At Oracle Code One (formerly known as JavaOne and called CloudWorld in 2022), programmers from all over the world participated in this environmentally conscious event. As part of its “green” initiative, Code One added a plant-conscious menu, carbon footprint reduction lessons, and the option for attendees to donate food to charity. As you can see, conferences can perform double duty to promote brand values in exciting and engaging ways.
2. Experiential Activation: Audible Beach at SDCC
Experiential activations are ongoing installations that allow viewers to participate in or observe an activity that represents a brand. This type of event often involves a shocking or extremely memorable image like the one you’ll see in our example.
At 2022 Comic-Con International (aka San Diego Comic-Con or SDCC), Audible brought Impact Winter and The Sandman to life alongside the launch of Moriarty: The Devil’s Game, working with Civic Entertainment Group to build massive sand sculptures from 150 tons of compacted sand. Fans sat on the beach, sampled Audible Originals, took photos with the sculptures, and recharged in Audible-branded beach chairs.
Photo credit: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Audible
3. Networking Event: Lean Startup’s Networking Event
Networking events bring groups of people together for assisted opportunities to form connections. Events can be as formal or informal as they reflect the host’s brand. Face-to-face meetings have become increasingly sought after in our growing digital world, making this type of event more and more popular.
At Lean Startup’s most recent conference, they offered inspiring networking events (like an evening at Mob Museum) to promote higher-quality guest interactions. Lean Startup’s immersive networking opportunities used the global community as its central theme. They also offered a frequently updated public guest list to prove that attendees would find like-minded individuals when they arrived.
Source: Lean Startup
4. Publisher Conference: Content Marketing Institute’s Sales Acceleration Event
Whereas user conferences focus on engaging customers, nurturing prospects, and building thought leadership — publisher conferences are revenue drivers for media companies. They often bring together a wide community of readers, provide vast educational sessions, and are bolstered by partnerships.
Content Marketing Institute’s annual publisher conference, Content Marketing World, has a different theme each year. Because this event type is critical to brand perception among potential customers, CMI made sure to run their theme ideas by the PR team, operations department, and the entire events team to make sure they aligned with their goals. Themes can be quirky if they make sense with the event’s purpose.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
5. Virtual Event: Google I/O
At Google I/O, organizers used a 360-degree camera to record keynote speeches so virtual attendees could watch live from all over the world. They even hosted the videos on YouTube, making the whole experience free and easy to access. While the conference was a living, breathing in-person event, the option to attend virtually provided those unable to attend with a taste of the experience.
6. Seminar: SQLBits
Seminars are educational events or focused training sessions given on a specific topic. These are often hosted by industry thought leaders (or those looking to secure their status as such).
At SQLBits, data platforms reigned supreme, and attendees were eager to deepen their knowledge of cutting-edge technologies they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Their highlights include a guarantee of over 10 hours of training per attendee with more than 150 specialist sessions that provide a deep dive into the material. Any hands-on or experiential product launch would also work nicely for this event type.
7. Internal Company Meeting: Plum Organics’ Coloring Book Meetings
Internal company meetings are informational updates or check-in sessions amongst company employees. They can involve the entire staff or select teams. Topics range from weekly check-ins to project work groups.
In keeping with their child-friendly branding, Plum Organics inspires the kid in all of their employees by encouraging them to color with crayons and markers during their internal company meetings. During these creative brainstorming sessions, staff members get a chance to color, talk, and decompress. This example proves that company meetings can be entertaining just by adding a simple activity to mix things up.
Source: Plum Organics
8. Trade Show: CNET’s Computex
Trade shows are an opportunity for exhibitors to showcase their products and services. They are usually hosted under a single industry theme. Usually, attendees are contractually obligated to spend a certain amount of money on products and services at the conference — providing an incentive for organizations to brave the price of exhibiting.
At Computex, CNET gave companies like Intel the chance to demonstrate their latest hologram project during a keynote speech. High-profile guests with products farther along in their fields make excellent headliners for this event type. Even if your company is not involved in technology, trade shows can be used to display what’s currently trending in your industry.
9. Industry Roundtable: ISFA’s Austin Industry Roundtable
Industry roundtables are a get-together for knowledge sharing between professionals on a given topic. Most of the activities presented at this kind of event include discussion sessions and expert panels.
At the Austin Industry Roundtable, ISFA brought Surfacing professionals together for education and networking. In addition to their thoughtful conversations about industry predictions, ISFA added sponsored dinners and tours highlighting their unique event location’s best offerings.
10. Fundraising Gala: The Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Ball
Fundraising events are crucial to non-profits, but not all fundraising events are the same.
Fundraising galas are a more formal take on garden variety philanthropic events. Attendees at this type of event include former donors, corporate sponsors, leaders within the community, board members, and perhaps a celebrity or two.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Ball exemplifies the level of class required for a successful fundraising gala. They added live jazz music and invited guests to wear masks to add an extra element of fun to the evening. If you’re interested in hosting a fundraising gala, make sure to invest heavily in decor, entertainment, and general atmosphere-building elements.
Source: Canadian Cancer Society
11. Product Launch: Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference
Product launches are events used to build sales momentum for one or more new products that are not yet available on the market. In Apple’s case, their product launch focused on showcasing a newer version of a product they already offer, but this type of event also works well for first-time creators.
At WWDC, Apple follows through on its promise to connect technology and creativity. Every year they host talented minds that speak on the greater concepts which powered their innovative processes, leading to the product’s creation. Activities include sessions, hands-on labs, consultations, and get-togethers.
12. Recruiting Events: Spotify’s Diversify
Recruiting events allow young and diverse talent to meet company representatives. These potential job candidates are given the chance to ask questions and get to know the businesses while talent scouts get a feel for which participants might be a good match for their team.
For Diversify, Spotify focused its recruiting event on groups of candidates who are otherwise marginalized within the industry. They used word of mouth to gather names of female participants, resulting in a 50/50 divide between men and women. Using a recruiting event to promote social causes is a great way to provide proof of your company’s dedication to leading your industry into the future.
13. Team Building: Glassdoor’s Board Game Tournament
Team building events are meant to bring employees together to collaborate and form relationships they otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to on a day-to-day basis. They’re often fun and motivational, focusing on particular skill building activities like the one in this example.
At Glassdoor’s Board Game Tournament, attendees interacted with people they’d never met while playing games like Jenga and Boggle. Prizes were awarded, and friendly competition created new ways for coworkers to bond. Even if you don’t have a collection of board games available, any form of entertainment that encourages teamwork (like trivia or improv) will do.
14. Hackathon: Microsoft’s Building the Future
Hackathons are an event dedicated to computer programming, usually spanning several days. Teams enter challenges and win awards (like funding for their future projects).
At Microsoft’s Building the Future hackathon, teams were challenged to develop innovative solutions for electric mobility. The hackathon combined technology, leadership, and education to empower people and organizations through a 100% digital experience.
15. Holiday Parties: SpaceX’s Yearly Holiday Party
Holiday parties are events celebrating one or more traditional yearly events (religious or otherwise). These can be centered around large holiday seasons (like the ones that take place in Winter) or lesser-known ones that are important to your company and brand (national ice cream day, anyone?).
SpaceX is famous for its holiday party extravaganzas. From renting out a large, multi-level warehouse in a secret location to creating more than a dozen themed spaces, SpaceX provides an example of an event worth looking forward to all year. Even if you don’t have Elon Musk’s budget, holiday parties are an excellent way for employees to (responsibly) let loose and celebrate their achievements.
16. Executive Retreats: CommonWell Health Alliance’s Spring Technology Retreat
Executive retreats are offsite events for upper management that involve creative brainstorming sessions and collaboration on a handful of specific goals. They usually take place over a long weekend.
At their Spring Technology Retreat, CommonWell Health Alliance gathered members from select technology committees to share knowledge and formwork sessions on various critical subjects. Their experience reinforced their shared mission and cultural values as a company. There are many exciting and luxurious accommodations available for overnight retreats, so choose one that fosters collaboration and enjoyment.
Source: CommonWell Health Alliance
17. Appreciation Events: Piktochart’s Hopeful Awards
Appreciation events are any occasion companies take time to celebrate and be thankful for employees, customers, or both. These can involve small events spread out over time or large, yearly affairs like the one thrown in this example.
Piktochart invites its employees to an all-expenses paid trip to the Maldives to participate in the Hopeful Awards. The Hopeful Awards represent both the company’s mission and its reward system, giving out points to employees who demonstrate leadership skills, positive attitudes, or any other desirable trait that contributes to the team’s success. The main idea here is that public recognition for achievement is always appreciated, even if tropical locations are outside of your resources.
Wrapping Up: Event Marketing Example Takeaways
Just to review the big picture, here are some common threads between these great event marketing examples that you can apply to your next gathering.
- Throw an event based on your audience’s interests. No need to guess. With modern event software, data can be collected, analyzed, and assessed to help provide clues as to what event you should consider hosting for clients and prospects.
- Have a clear “why.” Even if your entire goal is to provide a fun and memorable experience, take a page from the examples above and make sure you have a specific focus.
- Incorporate your brand’s mission and values into every event you throw. As we’ve seen with multiple types of events, most of the companies in this article used their own company messaging for inspiration to create truly unique experiences.
Now, go make something wonderful happen.