Seasonal place marketing should be strategic, not just another date in the diary

Most marketers have an event calendar sitting proudly on their desktop. It’s a timely reminder to schedule social media posts, design themed web graphics and maybe even write a blog or two about a related topic. And it gets engagement, because consumers are used to being marketed to in this way.

But where does place marketing fit into this? Should a strategy that impacts communities extend to temporary themed events designed to jump on the latest trends?

Yes – if developed effectively, and with the community (in addition to sales or brand awareness) at its heart.

Place marketing’s role in placemaking

Placemaking typically solves a problem for the community. Place marketing, however, aims to sell a solution – ultimately encouraging people to engage with a brand, or spend/use a product or service. Though place marketing also helps to create a great place to live, work or visit, the end goal is a little more commercial.

When it comes to seasonal place marketing the objective is to promote a brand (even if it’s a place brand), and using annual trends forms the campaign’s foundation.

Temporary structures are particularly effective. Not long ago Trinity Leeds installed a giant animatronic T-Rex at the centre of the shopping centre, applying various seasonal features such as an extra-large flat cap to celebrate Yorkshire Day.

Manchester’s Monster Invasion has also been extremely popular with tourists. With different monsters clambering rooftops across the city, the feature gives regular city-dwellers and locals a chance to explore with fresh eyes and also attracts families and fun-seekers who want to see something different. It’s not as impressive as the Liverpool Giants, but it did link in wonderfully with Halloween.

Using seasonal events as part of a wider campaign strategy

Seasonal marketing campaigns use a particular time of year to engage with loyal and new customers. Campaign examples such as an Easter giveaway or a summer-themed office launch (complete with ice cold cocktails) can be executed online or offline.

Temporary or regular events can be a great addition to these seasonal marketing campaigns. Whether wrapped up as part of an overall campaign theme, or run separately on their own, events such as wreath making classes or branded pop-up events helps bring people together. There is a slight element of placemaking to this also – as it encourages a community to celebrate being part of something greater and inspires them to connect with the place.

Think about everything from high-profile music festivals right through to community Bonfire Night firework displays. Note how many people the event attracts. Event success may vary according to the season so it’s important to consider these environmental factors and follow an appropriate events calendar.

The lesson place marketers can learn is to develop events that fundamentally compliment the place and its values, whilst adapting them to fit the seasons. If there’s a large skateboard community why not try to install a temporary snowboarding space? This is likely to be more effective than trying to shoehorn an active community into another space, such as arts and crafts.

REI’s #OptOutside campaign is notable – by encouraging people to boycott Black Friday, the outdoor clothes retailer proved genuinely loyal to its target consumers who preferred to head outside rather than battle the sales. By adding an extra element of place marketing, such as organising outdoor events for customers to participate in, this campaign could grow even further.

Seasonal marketing can contribute to the success of a place

One or two seasonal events will not create a successful place. Yes, it may help generate temporary footfall. Yes, a few events may seem like a big commitment that deserves great reward. But will it help transform local perceptions and boost the economy and community spirit? Not long-term.

A thorough place marketing strategy, complete with a full events calendar, relies on responding to the needs of its community. A Halloween-themed sculpture is likely to cause a stir, but will simmer down again quickly. However, involving local community craft groups and creating a themed parade could be much more effective.

All marketers, particularly place marketing specialists, need to recognise the true impact of creating meaningful change – and how to individually implement this change through effective marketing.

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