Driving growth through emotion, events & evangelism


*This is a guest post from Brian Rothenberg, former VP Product Growth at Eventbrite. Follow Brian @bmrothenberg.

In today’s ‘measure everything’ digital world, we tend to rely on the channels and tactics that we can most easily track and show a return on – SEO/SEM, retargeting, display ads, emails, landing pages, conversion optimization, and so on. Yes, many of these channels and tactics have been extremely effective for years, and with that, people have piled into them in droves.

But when everyone’s piling into the same channels, competition increases, the consumer that you’re trying to reach becomes overwhelmed (making your message less likely to stand out), and ultimately your return on your effort/investment goes down.

So how do you stand out and get someone to take a desired action? A Mad Men era ad guru named Herbert Krugman wrote the theory of effective frequency, which stated “It takes 3-5 marketing touches for people to do, think, or feel what you want.” This may be true to an extent, but not all marketing touches are equal. There are fractions and multiples to those touches. A view of a banner ad might be a fraction of a touch, whereas an emotional experience may be worth 10,000x that.

As marketers, how do you create this emotional connection online? One answer to consider: maybe you don’t.

Use events to make a real connection

Maybe you should take your brand offline and connect with your customers through live experiences. Not only is a face-to-face connection a more visceral experience, it can’t be easily replicated by your competitors. If you are able to tap into someone’s emotion and build a real connection with your brand, you stand a better chance to hook them for years, or even turn them into evangelists who shout from the rooftop about your product or service. 

It’s not just in your best interest to have these live interactions, it's also in the interest of your customers because authentic value-added experiences and live connections can actually contribute to their happiness.

As humans, offline experiences make us happier than any online experience can, and as it turns out, they even make us happier than buying things that we want. A Cornell psychology professor recently released a study based on two decades of happiness research. There's a very logical assumption that most people make when spending their money: that because a physical object will last longer, it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-time experience, like a concert or vacation.

It turns out that assumption is completely wrong. According to the research, “Happiness from material purchases diminishes over time, but experiences become an ingrained part of our identity.” You can tap into this phenomenon by creating live events where you can add value or help your prospects/customers grow through unique live experiences.

When many people hear events as a marketing tactic, they immediately think, "But how can you measure and justify the ROI? Events can be high cost, they can be difficult to scale, and it can be difficult to track their success.”

There are aspects of these statements that are true, but they are not the rules. Also, because this is many marketers’ reaction, there tend to be fewer brands leveraging events in their marketing arsenal, which represents an opportunity to stand out. There are creative ways to hold events that have significant impact, and to support that, I’ll give you two examples.

Two brands that see big results from events

Let’s start with energy drinks and flying tacos with the Red Bull Flugtag, which means “flying day” in German. If you’ve never heard of it, the company holds these events around the world where people build homemade flying machines and then launch them off a 28-foot-high flight deck into the frigid waters below. There have been over a hundred of these events, attracting everything from flying tacos to Winnebagos with wings. One of these events alone, can attract 300,000 spectators. Now imagine those 300,000 people sharing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, which they do A LOT. Now those are evangelists amplifying your brand. You can’t buy that. That’s organic and earned.

photo credit: Flugtag Portland 2008 - 019 via photopin (license)


Red Bull is a pretty extreme example of a brand leveraging events to drive evangelism, but there are other companies that are effectively using events on a much smaller scale and really benefiting both their customers and their business.

Redfin, the real estate and technology firm, is one of those. They host a series of home buying classes to educate their current and prospective customers on topics that are of burning interest to them.  The foundation of great events is great customer understanding, and Redfin knows that buying a house for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. They deliver great content and build live connections with people at these events, instilling a sense of confidence in an area that was previously very uncertain for their prospects/customers. 

Ultimately, this becomes lead generation for Redfin, some of which will surely turn into customers, and it also builds incredible goodwill for Redfin’s brand – turning attendees of these events into evangelists. It’s also not that expensive to do.

How to make the most of your own events

To further drive ROI for your events, efficiency should be top of mind from start. Everyone knows events can be expensive and time-intensive but that doesn't mean you can't find efficiencies and bring costs down. Ask yourself, "If this works, how do I scale it?" Here are some ideas:

  • Serialize events -- You can get deals on venues, catering, swag etc. by buying in bulk.
  • Bring on sponsors -- Who would be interested in your audience and has brand messaging similar to yours?
  • Use your assets – Do you have a beautiful space at your disposal? A large user base? A strong design team? Isolate what you've got, who wants it, and what you need. Then start finding partners and allies to fill the gaps.

The live experience also goes beyond just the few hours of the actual event. Once you’ve connected with someone face-to face, you can build on that relationship much more effectively through online channels afterwards. Just be careful, because you don’t want people to feel that by coming to your event they’re now going to receive "spam" from you constantly.

Think about what they might want to hear, not what you want to tell them. During the event, ask questions of your attendees to better understand their interests, and start conversations through social media which you can use to engage your audience after the event. This allows the dialogue to run smoothly, both online and offline, during the event and after. 

Earned media is always better than paid media, especially in boom times when everyone and their third cousin is piling into paid channels. I am absolutely not saying that you shouldn’t do paid acquisition or other ‘growth hacking’ tactics. My team and I still spend much of our time and resources there. But we also make sure that we’re always carving out time and resources to think and do things that are ‘outside the box’, such as live events.


When deciding where to place your bets, it’s okay to do a majority of the stuff that you know works (or can show a return on). I just advocate for carving out some modest percent for the bigger, scarier swings.  Maybe for you it’s events, or maybe not, but try to pick something that makes your stomach churn a bit before you do it (it’s how you’ll know you’re pushing yourself and your brand).

Eventbrite is a global event marketplace that connects people with live experiences. From classes to wine tasting to large festivals and concerts, Eventbrite empowers anyone to create, share, find, and attend events that fuel their passions. To learn some tips and tricks to plan your next event, check out the Eventbrite Event Academy

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