Kashi proves its worth with the 2011 REAL Tour

For the last few years, I’ve been a heavy advocate of social media. However, the last few weeks have begun to show me that traditional event participation can be a useful marketing strategy. This came to mind as I planned for the Wayne County Fair in Palmyra, N.Y., where one of my company’s hospitals will have a booth. I’ve really enjoyed preparing for this booth, although it’s a lot of work. Although I’m somewhat of an introvert, I truly believe the best way to attract clients and build a brand is to get your brand’s “face” in the community through events.

This weekend at Rochester’s Park Avenue Festival, Kashi excelled at this type of marketing through their 2011 REAL (Renew Eating And Living) Tour. Other booths gave out free samples. After all, that’s a major part of any summer festival. However, Kashi excelled at combining face-to-face interaction, modern technology, social networking and event marketing.

Here’s what happened. Using a touch screen computer, festival-goers filled out a quick survey with their name, email, zip code and some other information. Then, the person receives a bracelet with a QR code. The person then goes through three tents. The first contains more than 10 different samples of all kinds of food, from cereal to pita chips to granola fruit bars. Then, the visitor scans his or her bracelet after answering which food was his/her favorite.

The second tent is mainly for educational purposes. Although you could choose other sections of the tents, I went with the ingredient-guessing module. On a large touchscreen that reminded me of a TV or a computer, I selected whether certain ingredients were good (and used in Kashi products) or bad (and, therefore, not used in Kashi products). I would say I got about half correct and half incorrect, and then was able to scan my barcode a second time.

The third tent contained mostly Burt’s Bees products. I got a few free samples of lotions before scanning my bracelet for the third time. I was then ready to check out and receive my goody bag!

I scanned my bracelet to for the fourth and final time. I filled out a brief questionnaire, and they offered me to share my participation with my Facebook friends. However, I declined. While this idea sounds good in theory, I didn’t feel like taking the time to log in and also felt that could be a little dangerous if someone got my login information.

I received my goody bag, which contained a few more samples and some coupons, all in a reusable grocery tote bag that I then carried around the festival.

I was already something of a fan of Kashi, but engaging in this event made me like them even more. Not only did I get to try a cereal of theirs I had never had (and really liked), but I got to learn more about the company and the products. And it was literally all in my front yard!

What experiences have you had with event marketing like this? Do you think it works to build brand awareness and strengthen customer/business relationships?

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What I learned from Rochester’s Eyes on the Future 2011

Five years ago, if you had asked me, “Could you see yourself living in Rochester?” I would have returned a blank stare. But after attending today’s Eyes on the Future Expo and Summit, I have never been more excited to respond to that question with a resounding yes. The following video is just part of the pumping factor from today’s event.

When I decided to go to the conference, I didn’t really know what to expect. I have never been to a regional business summit event like this before, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to get out and learn a little about the city and its business, while perhaps meeting some new people, too.

I gained a ton of insights from the conference and even got to catch up with a friend from St. Bonaventure. One major lesson I learned is how challenging, yet rewarding, it can be to tweet from a live event. Learning how to balance listening with typing words for a tweet and learning how to pick out the best information is tough. Also, you want to communicate with others tweeting at the event, which is a challenge in and of itself.

A few other things I learned include the following.

  • Innovation and collaboration are important for companies, of course, but they’re also important for individuals if Rochester is to continue being a smart city. Panelists suggested average citizens innovate at every opportunity they get. This means whenever possible, look for a better way to do something, whether better means more efficient, more enjoyable, more effective or something else.
  • Education and business must work together in today’s society. Gone are the days of having separate academia. Today we all need to work together to help each other. Universities need businesses to provide research and funding to while businesses need universities for new talent and creativity.
  • People in New York state and in the country often focus on downstate New York, ignoring the various regions we have in upstate New York. We have so much to offer here if we could work together as neighbors while still differentiating each area.
  • All you young professionals will love this quote from Dr. Nancy L. Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York: “Paid internships are critical to retaining our grads.” As a precursor to that, Zimpher and others expressed that retaining graduates is critical to New York’s and Rochester’s success.
  • Education is so important, and not just college education. We need to work with students from early childhood all the way through higher education.
  • Higher education should involve more entrepreneurship because we now realize this is something that can and needs to be taught.

I could go on and on about more that I learned about business in Rochester and upstate New York, and if you’re interested in what myself and others tweeted, check this out. But what do you think? If you attended, what advice or information stands out most prominently in your mind? If you followed via Twitter, what did you think of the tweets? If you were unable to attend, do you have a question for someone who did attend?

Share your thoughts. I’d love to get a discussion going surrounding Rochester business. I really am excited to be relocating there!