Trends in experiential & event marketing — amazing women lead the way

Women, marketing, experiential, events, trends, careers — oh my!

We had an awesome experience attending the Women in Events Week in San Francisco. From the all-woman Power Panel to Jessica Heasley’s Trendwatch, and all of the other topics and sessions sprinkled in between — it was a wonderful opportunity to hear some of the most amazing women in marketing share their experiences and wisdom with us. 

Here’s what we learned at the Women in Events Week in San Francisco. We hope you find it useful!

Top takeaways from the Women in Events Power Panel

Seven fabulous brand-side women in marketing and events shared a wealth of information, stories, and tips about events, experiential marketing, careers, and more.

 liz-brochhausen kim-cottrell laura-lovas 
Liz Brochhausen
Senior Manager-Experiential and Live Production | Pandora
Kim Cottrell
Senior Manager-Experiential &
Content Marketing | 
Laura Lovas
Executive Director, Strategic Partnerships and Events | ABC Entertainment
 meredith-starkey  lindsay-tolles  kristine-yapp-jones
Meredith Starkey
VP, Sponsorships and Events
Lindsay Tolles
Global Experiential Program Manager | Dell Technologies
Kristine Yapp Jones
Global Event Marketing Manager | Twitter

Casey O’Looney
Senior Manager, Global Marketing | Cisco Live Cisco Global Events 


 Purpose-driven brands are winning

  • People want to engage, work, and buy from brands whose purpose aligns with theirs.

  • Companies achieve great success when they have a purpose-driven brand and they build that into all their programs, events, experiences, etc.

What skills make a good experiential marketer?

  • Use your own experiences — Don’t forget that we (people in events) are also consumers and you are also marketing to your own peers.

  • Understand the business — Understand true business and marketing strategies and higher-level business concepts (an MBA can be useful).

  • Know your goal — Always keep the end goal in mind. What is really moving the needle? What outcome are you trying to ultimately achieve?

  • Be adaptable and agile — Must be flexible, nimble, shift on a dime.

Tips for working with others in your company

  • Go out there and ‘sell’ your group inside your own company. Be clear in how you show a direct line into your ROI to the other groups.

  • Define direct and soft attributes and be able to speak about those to other groups you work with or want to work with. Look at multi-touch attribution.

  • Share conversations you’re having at your events with your clients/audience with other groups you work with.

  • Look at other measurement goals that may NOT be attribution: raising brand awareness, NPS (Net Promoter Score), emotional impact, etc. Some groups in marketing that are not connected directly to ROI may find those attributes valuable to hear about. Know/use what’s important to them.

  • Meet with the sales team and ask what is moving the needle for them.

  • Remind people and yourself that what you do may not be a direct line to revenue/sales, but be clear that you want to be involved in the conversation during the entire process.

Event & experiential marketing recommendations 

  • When looking at ideas, look through these filters: Time, Quality, Money. Pick ONLY two, that’s it. You may have 6 ideas but only pick two and make those amazing. Put the other ones to bed for another time.

  • Capture data from the start of your event marketing cycle  during registration, on your web pages, and onsite during the event at various touchpoints. Ensure all collected data goes into your customer relationship management (CRM) tool. When you work with teams to do data assessment, be clear on what that relationship needs to look like to maximize the data.

  • When you work with teams to do data assessment, be clear on what that relationship needs to look like to maximize the data.

  • GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is changing things (of course) and people are much more sensitive about giving out personal information. We need clear opt-ins and sensitivity to GDPR.

  • Future of experiential events: pop-ups, outside of traditional conference event space, socially good platforms required, SXSW, CES — go and tell the story yourself for your company, be the storyteller and own the convo, utilize sponsorships for outside-the-norm locations and pop-ups.

"Marketing is a powerful force: one with the potential to change ideas and create positive action. Use that power thoughtfully." Katie Martell 


Top 10 trends in experiential events

Jessica Heasley
Content Director |
Event Marketer

We could not put our pens down when Event Marketer’s content director Jessica Heasley presented on the latest trends in experiential events. She provided great insights and left us feeling excited and inspired to try out these trending experiences.


1) Esports

Esports (also known as electronic sports, e-sports, or eSports) is a form of competition using video games. Most commonly, esports takes the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players. The most common genres are real-time strategy, first-person shooter, fighting, multiplayer online battle arena, and of course, sports.

Esports demonstrates the evolution of sponsorships for companies — this audience will likely become a consumer of your product / services at some point in their lifetime. There is an up-and-coming female audience and lots of diversity in this space.

Tournaments such as the FIFA eWorld Cup provide live broadcasts of the competition and prize money to competitors. The worldwide open qualifying format allows millions to compete in the initial online stages, and has resulted in the FIWC being recognized as the largest online esports game by Guinness World Records.

Key Takeaways:

  • By 2019, it is estimated that 427 million people worldwide will be watching some form of esports and it’s growing bigger than the NFL

  • Event marketers need to start to understand who this esports segment is and profile their interests, habits, influences, core values, and attitudes

  • This audience will likely become a consumer of your product or services at some point

  • It’s time to begin to strategize how your company can play a role in esports growth

2) Family Friendly B2B

Family friendly events allow companies to continue to embrace the work-life balance and extend their attitude beyond the office walls to events. 

Attending events takes a toll on many families whose parent(s) may have to travel for work for prolonged periods of time. In Silicon Valley for example, there are often two working parents in a household and when one (or both) must travel to attend a conference, child-care logistics can become a challenge.

To make sure that childcare isn’t an obstacle to attending an event, we're seeing more large-scale conferences accommodating working parents. It has given brands the ability to take a stance and demonstrate their views on work-life balance by offering “pop-up” daycare, nursing stations, kid-friendly activities, and game areas. It also provides an opportunity to incorporate family participation as a way of cleverly delivering content as part of the fun. 

Key Takeaways:

  • pop-up daycare and kid-friendly activities such as play stations or game areas allow working parents to attend conferences by eliminating the need for daycare

  • Adding family participation is another way to deliver content as part of the fun

  • Offering working parents the opportunity to bring children to events is another way to show that companies are embracing work-life balance

3) Superfan Influence

Superfans are fanatics about a person or thing – sports superfans often come to mind, but these days we are also seeing reboots and revivals of TV shows, candy, cereal, and others – and it’s because of the power that superfans can wield. They show such an extreme or obsessive admiration for their brand that they can help elevate its popularity and often demand that brands to listen to them.

One such glorious example was a flashback to the tv show Save by the Bell’s iconic restaurant, Saved by the Max, The neon-tinged pop-up eatery was replete with retro diner seats to the Bayside High lockers and colorful high school-themed menus. 

pop-up dining events attract guests who are willing and eager to pay more for a unique dining experience. 

Taco Bell is a brand aimed at attracting the social media-obsessed ad generation with their outrageous menu that is constantly changing with crazy dishes like the Naked Chicken Chalupa, Waffle Tacos, and the Fire Cracker Burrito that come and go in a matter of months. Taco Bell took advantage of the platform to offer loyal fans an opportunity to try never-before-seen items at their corporate kitchen and launched Test Kitchen Tasting Menu Dinners. This limited reservation, intimate tasting menu experience went viral— they were able to garner more than 325 million impressions with $0 spend on media buys! 

Key Takeaways:

  • Consumer brands should be engaging their loyal fan base to elevate their events

  • Superfans demand that brands to listen to them

  • By tapping into to their loyal fanbase, brands are now able to generate millions of social impressions with $0 spend on media buys

4) Ticketed Experiences

Ticketed experiences are events that require attendees to purchase a ticket to attend. They are becoming popular as it has been shown that the process of purchasing a ticket creates value in the mind of the buyer and has even shown a better return on investment than the free events brands have typically hosted in the past.

A good example of this practice are the Propel Water popup fitness events created to hyper-engage its fitness enthusiast. What started in L.A. and New York City morphed into a multi-city popup program punctuated by a festival. This year, the Propel Co: Labs Fitness Festival were ticketed events ($50 per ticket), which allowed Propel to get commitment from attendees and better control and design the experience, according to Laura Barnett, brand director of Propel at PepsiCo.

Key Takeaways:

  • Do away with free take it or leave it experiences - paying for the experience makes the consumer more invested in the brand

  • Charging a fee increases perceived value of a ticket/attendance

  • Ticketed events are especially popular in fitness and beauty industries

5) Generation Z Endorsements

Generation Z endorsements are valuable to brands as Generation Z is a group that influences brands with the power of social media. Demographers and researchers classify generation Z as those born between 1995-2012. Social Media is often referenced when discussing this generation. So why do we need to pay attention? According to Forbes, this generation now makes up nearly 25% of the U.S. population, and by 2020 will account for 40% of all consumers, making them a larger cohort than the Baby Boomers or Millennials.

One way to immerse in real-time conversations with Gen Z is to tap into pop culture events and trends. A fantastic example of this was State Farm’s "Get an agent that gets you" campaign. The stunt targeted NBA fans on All-Star Weekend by letting them get inside James Harden's head, literally.

Key Takeaways:

  • Gen Z are social media influencers and understanding them will be critical to companies that want to succeed in the next decade and beyond

  • One of the  keys to reaching this audience is to deliver an authentic message that is unique

  • Tap into pop culture, tapping into celebrity co-created messages

6) Brand Sanctuaries

Brand Sanctuaries focus on creating a space designed for a personal brand experience allowing brands to connect with customers and engage on a personal level through emotions and senses. These connections are important because of the role emotions play a role in influencing buying decisions and creating brand loyalty. Several studies site that 90-95% of consumer purchases are made subconsciously or by emotion.

Key Takeaways:

  • Brand sanctuaries allow brands to create a "Brand Universe" to engage people through their senses and emotions
  • With space as a premium brands need to literally think outside the box

7) Live Theater

Live Theater allows consumers to experience an interactive journey. Brands are looking for unique ways to deliver engaging experiences and this next trend of immersive sets allows consumers to literally step into a scene which brings this brand to life. While various adult beverage brands like Heineken, Stella Artois, and Sony have been dabbling with this immersive theatre production, it looks like we are likely to see other brands adopt this approach as a new way to share their brand story.

The partnership of Macallan whisky and American Theatre appeared to have the makings of a great start – both brand values aligned, rooted in art and theatre / craftsmanship – but how do you integrate the brand in production without hitting your audience over the head with it? Enter the popup speakeasy, serving custom Macallan cocktails. This ingenious collaboration became an exceptional, well-crafted experience.

Key Takeaways:

  • Helps a consumer to understand the brand story

  • Immersive sets allow the consumer to step in the scene and bring the brand to life

  • Especially good for brands with interesting heritage

8) Passive Event Technology

Passive event technology, such as geolocation and tracking technology, allows you to gain more insight about your attendees and your event. We live in a data driven world and there are new and innovative ways to capture valuable data and engage attendees at events. Whether you are trying to turn passive attendees into active participants or tracking a customer experience while onsite at an event will become easier with passive technology.

Key Takeaways:

  • Event marketers can get more insight about attendees with geolocation and tracking technology (with attendee opt-in)

  • Data tracking becomes easier with RFID, NFC, Beacon, and BLE technologies that allow you to track and monitor attendee behavior throughout your event

  • Data can be translated to reports including heat maps, traffic volume, and more

9) The “X” Partnership

The “X” Partnership  has created new opportunities for businesses to get closer to their customers — and with it, enabling a demand for more personalized experiences in new contexts. The partnering brands are not siloed with those they do business with, allowing both to reach a larger audience. Here are a couple great examples of big-name brands with unlikely mashups:

Calvin Klein x Amazon Fashion: Calvin Klein Inc. is collaborating with Amazon Fashion to bring a digital experience to life in New York’s Flatiron District and on college campuses across the U.S.

Taco Bell x Forever 21: The fast food chain has teamed up with teen outfitter Forever 21 to launch a collection of clothing in hunger-inspiring prints. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Foster strategic collaboration to drive innovation, growth and social impact

  • Mashups and collaborations to create new customer experiences

10) Material Innovations

Material innovations encourage brands to find out-of-the-box ways to drive mass consumer awareness. These innovations include transforming flat ads into unexpected materials to provide consumers with multi-sensory experience. A great example of this is the DOVE for men made a treehouse which featured nature-inspired elements, such as sandalwood, that are found in their skincare products.

Key Takeaways:

  • Visceral & sensory engagement helps drive engagement in unexpected way

  • Think about event environments that lend itself to this


Amazing, right!? We learned so much more than we could possibly share here. One thing’s for certain — experiential and event marketing are both on the rise with some amazing women leading the way.

We’re so grateful to all the wonderful people who presented on stage, those who organized the event, all who talked with us, and everyone else who made the entire experience so valuable.

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One of the best things about working for Crawford Group (besides getting to meet and learn from amazing women in marketing) is helping people to get marketing and event jobs doing work for some of the best companies across the country. Send us your resume. We’d love to help you find your next marketing opportunity. 

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At Crawford Group, we love partnering with our clients to help them get the marketing experts they need. A certified woman-owned business, we’ve been helping marketers for almost 20 years. Reach out today, so we can help!

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