[markets]. We were just at a conference in Tunica, MS, and they took us to this famous little cafe that serves fried pickles, and we heard a steel-guitar band. People are looking for that experience of, ‘How can we find out more about the community we’re in?’”
Furthermore, attendees will embrace the physical and cultural characteristics of event venues. Steven Hacker, the outgoing president of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) asks, “If you’re taking a group to a location in Arizona, why not take them out to the desert to do almost a scientific, ecological tour to learn about the different plants and wildlife, the history of the place, and Indian cultures. That’s what people [attendees] seem to really crave these days—a learning experience. Much more so than just another golf tournament.”
As with most things it is rarely the “what or why” that make things happen. More often it is the “how” that turns good ideas into successful marketing campaigns.
As we consider how to go about increasing commerce surrounding events, we face a short list of simple geo-temporal challenges—what to deliver and when. We are also confronted with some widely recognized realities—not only are attendees demanding hyper-local opportunities, they are redefining the pushes and pulls or directionalities of their commercial activities. An appreciation of these directionalities determines the success or failure of marketing initiatives when it comes to supporting highly personalized, hyper-local destination markets.
When considering pushes and pulls in destination markets, the variables that need to be addressed are geographic scale and opportunity windows—be they real or perceived. If these variables are acted upon, technology will be called upon to facilitate movements to and from multiple activity centers at a variety of geographic scales simultaneously in real time.
Let’s look at Connolly’s pickle problem. Fried pickles need to be brought to pickle lovers at the exact same time that pickle lovers need to be brought to pickles. This is the time-honored push/pull of commerce at all levels.
Added to the forces of push and pull are the aforementioned geo-temporal considerations. Dynamic equilibriums between supplies and demands must not only accommodate the pushes and pulls in the marketplace, they must do so in increasingly dynamic local activity spaces: defined by constantly changing user preferences and the evolving circumstances of time and opportunity.
To be sure, we’ve reached a state in which consumers not only have highly individualized preferences. They expect or need to be accommodated on equally individualized schedules. In the emerging hyper-personal marketplace, the consumer not only wants a pickle, but she wants it at any time of the day or night.
At the same time there is a reality associated with freedom. While pickle cravings may be unlimited and demands boundless, time and activity spaces are not. This gap between boundlessness and limitations constitutes a geo-temporal reality that marketers need to understand before throwing bandwidth and print at problems based on 30 year-old understandings of market dynamics.
To succeed, event marketers, planners, and technologists need to work within the confines imposed by time and distance from a circumstantial or fixed geographic hub—the event venue or the schedule of activities to which the attendee has committed. While there will always be attendees boarding buses to break loose on daily excursions in horizontal directions, the majority of commercial activities will always be greatest at the local scale—within walking distance or a short taxi ride. Therefore, when it comes to events, commercial growth will rely on using technology to increase opportunity awareness within the confines imposed by distance and circumstance. It will not rely on widening the outward search perimeter or geographic scale.
Additionally, Troy Thompson, of the Travel 2.0 Consulting Group, reminds us in a conversation on tnooz.com that, “Destinations are in the inspiration business.” With this in mind, I might add that hyper-local marketing will reach its promise when content strategists micro-inspire. Since commerce surrounding events is highly local, strategies that inspire on a larger, regional level—those that succeeded in bringing events and visitors to town in the first place—need to be nuanced to help attendees that walk outside venues in search of a pint.
I know this seems like no-brainer good sense, but its not. Bordering the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia is one of the best Chinatowns outside San Francisco. Yet, I recently spoke to a Chinese business owner who complained that Chinese restaurants haven’t benefited as much as they might have given the numbers of nearby attendees. The only explanation that I can come up with is that the Chinese Business Association isn’t using technology or micro-inspiration to pull business based on its obvious geo-temporal advantages. Let’s face it. Something is amiss. Restaurants are 100 feet down the road, the food is delicious, and attendees can swing in between sessions. The only thing that is missing is the mechanism and/or motivation to bring customers through the door.
To my way of thinking, true hyper-local activities and commerce result from informed spontaneity. The attendee of 2012 and beyond won’t be wandering like a lost child into the hinterlands that surround convention venues. They will be empowered by technologies that will provide spur of the moment answers to real time questions like, “I’m exhausted, where can I get a drink.” Or, “Wow, I haven’t seen you in years. Let’s get some Italian food and catch-up.”
As technology provides these answers through point of purchase, mobile marketing, extemporaneous adventures will add value to event experiences and bring dollars to destinations as businesses and points of interests suddenly appear on the contemporary radar screen—the mobile device.