Where are all the people?

Events are always a tricky one. And I say this as a convener of wine events, and having been the host of one which failed miserably, disappointing all involved.

There’s always quite a lot going on in any city, and Adelaide is no exception. Sport, music, comedy, food festivals, beverage festivals of EVERY kind.

But the question has always been attendance – spruiking, marketing, reminders, selling actual tickets. And how to achieve the numbers to make it viable the next time. And these days? Where to actually promote its a key point of contention.

Wine event this last few days. Some great names, wines and people involved. An awesome space.

Friday? Attendees barely outnumbered exhibitors. Saturday was better, but still not exactly life changing.

So many of the actual attendees were opportunistic – walking past, saw the sign, wandered in. A few were the die-hard wine event attendees. A handful had planned the whole day with a group.

Most? Asked me where it was advertised. They had been invited by a friend but had seen nothing in the media about the event at all.

So I asked them where they might see such advertising now, using my own world as an example.

  • Get up.
  • Gym – read stuff that I’ve bookmarked over the last day or so on my phone whilst en treadmill.
  • Home, work from my computer. Which I’ve got set to limit as much advertising as it’s humanly possible. Read across the Guardian, NYT, WaPo, The Fin and a couple of others.
  • Out on the road, kinda focused. Work until stupid o’clock.
  • Go home, stream something if I’m in a watching mood. Read books if not. Watch sbs and abc news if I’m home in time.
  • Regular social media across the day.

Where am I realistically going to see advertising for local events other than my bookface stream?

The punters to whom I posed this event enigma mostly thought about this and agreed that their lives were pretty similar. Many of them are not big social media users (a generational gap, for the most part), and often rely on a way-more-interesting friend to drag them along to things.

Which is a failing on their part. They cannot expect to be reliably entertained in their world unless they make an effort.

But perhaps it is also a disconnect between marketing tropes and well worn advertising techniques and where the world currently sits.

I would argue that we need at any time a dual stream marketing campaign. It’s well and good to advertise the loud, fun, slightly manic events, but these events also need those attendees who appreciate a chance to engage and develop a relationship with a brand. Both are valid. Both have cash burning a hole in their pockets. Both want to have a great day and try some awesome vino. And hopefully to buy some and come back next year. To join wine clubs and mailing lists. To get to know the person making this wine they have just discovered and now adore.

The last two events I’ve done have had music so loud that it actively disrupts and often stops the conversations we are there to conduct. After one, I was bleeding from my eardrum due to the insanely loud set up. The noise issue had many people leaving, or promising that they were done, and would never be attending such events again. Exhibitors trying to do battle with a DJ helps no one.

Vibe? Maybe. Ambience? Nope.

A certain appeal, and that age old music-and-wine hedonism? ABSOLUTELY. But we still need to be able to talk to people and hear what they have to say.

And yes. We definitely need a vibrancy to our wine and beverage events. We NEED it to be changed up and different and less serious and more interesting.

But if the event is not advertised where people are looking, they won’t even get there. If it is so LOUD in ethos and approach and sound, then a good proportion of the spending public are out. And will never be back.

So where’s the line? Is it a party for punters or an actual sales and marketing opportunity for exhibitors? Can it be both?

And how does the word get out? We as a group of exhibitors and event people need to up the game in terms of communications. Don’t not put the word out to your mailing list because you are scared that they may find another wine they like. Invite them to come and see you and the amazing wineries around you. Maybe offer them something special when they come and see YOU. It makes the room a stronger crowd, enhances your relationship with your group, and is simply more fun.

Social media is your friend. Use it wisely.

And for the organisers? Maybe talk to your exhibitors about how to enhance the promotion and marketing of your event and its brand.

But first? You probably need to work out what that brand you are advertising will be to the consumer. Wine event? Party with DJ? Insane degustation lunch with matched vino? Quiet, staid (but often effective) wine event? Ask people where they are online and in the lives? How do they want to find out about this stuff? Do you create a smart group on the socials that only contacts people when there is an event, with an offer for pre-purchased tickets, before going out to the public? An incentive to invite others to the group. An option to mute notifications for that event as people are getting squillions of alerts each day and we want to not pester them.

But first. What are we advertising? Who is the target? How do we get them in and eager to purchase?

Then maybe there will be a clearer message, and more targeted advertising campaign and more happy people through the door.

And everybody wins.

(And yes. I’m one of those who get grumpy about loud stuff. But in good part because I have clientele and family with minor hearing difficulties. Who want to spend and actively avoid events with a lack of understanding that loud, intrusive noise is often painful and always a difficulty for actual conversation.)

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