19th December 2007

Let’s get this show on the road

Roadshows are becoming an increasingly popular marketing tool as they offer companies the ability to specifically target key parts of their audience and get a message or brand directly into their hands. Pete Roythorne looks at how companies can make sure

Mobile events are becoming an increasingly popular marketing tool as they are seen by many as the best way of getting large numbers of carefully targeted potential customers to meet and engage with a brand. So should you be looking at this for your brands? And if so how do you make sure you get what you need?
Nick Adams of experiential agency Sense, explains the power of this marketing activity. “More and more brands are looking to use roadshows as an effective means to target exactly the right audience with an interactive experience that communicates the true essence of the brand and drives sales,” he says. “Roadshows can be a particularly successful way to achieve that marketing holy grail which is to ‘interrupt’ consumers going about their every day lives. From supermarkets, to shopping malls, high streets, events or train stations, road shows are easily transportable, often self-sufficient and compact, but if executed well, highly successful in connecting with consumers.”

Justin Isles, account director at Event Marketing Solutions (EMS), agrees: “Clients are increasingly looking for more personalised forms of media, which can cut through the marketing noise to deliver a tailored message direct to customers. The roadshow format not only allows you to create a unique experience that is targeted at a particular audience, but it also enables consistent message delivery throughout the campaign. Face-to-face activity helps brands to build a relationship with the consumer, and for time-pressed audiences, the mobile format wins hands-down because it takes the experience right to where the customers are.”

Roadshows have a broad range of marketing appeal and are the perfect vehicle for anything from launching new products or brands to full experiential campaigns, as first impressions and the chance for customers to ‘touch’ a brand are crucial. Essentially they are the best way to maximise face-to-face contact with the end user.

“The marketing applications of roadshows are virtually limitless,” says Robin Carlisle, managing director of Mobile Promotions. “They’re used to build awareness and promote a brand, a product or a message. Roadshows can help to create or change the perception of brands, and allow consumers to experience products in a way that they could not through any other marketing medium. They can see, feel and experience the product. Roadshows are a platform for communication, delivering an important message in the purest form – face to face.”

Isles is quick to add another important advantage to using mobile events. “Mobile units are particularly suitable for clients when the audience is for some reason hard to reach – for example, geographically widespread or very time-pressed,” he says.

So if you want to take your show out and about, how do you get it right? Carlisle points to what he believes are the key areas for consideration. “It’s far too huge a subject to list all the individual factors that could affect a roadshow,” he says, “but essentially I would break it down into travel, weather, budget, time and ensuring it is brand/product related. However, there are clearly other elements to consider, such as the client, personnel, vehicles and getting the whole package right.”

Carlisle adds that it’s extremely important to give the people you’re working with a clear brief and objectives, along with clarity of budget and sufficient time to be able to have really effective plans in place.
“Travel can be affected by many things,” he says, “such as the time of year, even the time of day. It can also be affected by unexpected accidents or adverse traffic. Weather can play a big part, and affect things like staff, choice of uniforms and welfare – and budgets should be planned and controlled. Roadshows are often full of deadlines and can be very time-specific. So beware, the clock doesn’t stop for anyone.”
Of course, you also need to think very carefully about where you want to take your roadshow, when and who you want to reach, so understanding your target audience is critical. You need to know where to find them and what will interest them when you are putting together the concept. You can have a great event, but if you hold it at the wrong time of day for the target audience, for example, the footfall will suffer.

Ben McGannan, managing director of Water (for Work and Home), has some more specific advice. “It is hugely important to raise awareness prior to the events to encourage maximum attendance,” he says. “Once the roadshow is established and in place, make sure it is clearly branded, and have plenty of brochures/samples, etc to hand out. A reliable method of data capture is important, too, so you can keep track of interested parties and useful contacts.”

Choosing the right supplier is probably the most crucial part of the mix, as a good one will be able to guide you through the minefield of mobile events, providing that your brief and objectives are clear. “The most important aspect to consider when choosing suppliers is their credentials,” explains Carlisle. “Talk to people who have dealt with them in the past, or even the media who may have covered their events. Don’t be worried to pick up the phone and do a little digging. If they advertise, an impressive advert may give a true or false impression, so it’s always better to check the supplier out yourself before you decide to work with them. Also, check out their status financially and with their industry association.”
Isles focuses on the practicalities. “It’s important that your supplier can offer a wide choice of vehicle types and layouts,” he says. “Look for companies that are independently accredited – for example, to ISO 9001 or Investors in People standards. This gives you the reassurance that you will receive a quality service.”

However, it’s down to Carlisle for the final words wisdom. “Use a competent, trustworthy, recommended and checked out business,” he says, adding: “Show them respect and loyalty, and they will return that ‘in spades’.”

(Related categories of interest see Mobile Staging)