The Art of Consumer Engagement (or How to Make Them Notice): Guest

Advertising is everywhere.

From the moment we wake up and turn on the television, check e-mail, commute to work, and make a stop by the 7-Eleven to pick up a sparkling water to enjoy while we thumb through our favorite magazine, we have been exposed to hundreds of different messages. It's easy for people to get overwhelmed or desensitized, so how do businesses break through the clutter and get noticed?

As I am new to NBC Chicago, let's get the introductions out of the way. My name is Jetta Bates-Vasilatos, and it's my job to be innovative, strategic and successfully engage and inform consumers with the goal of increasing visibility. My experience includes servicing global clients like Coca-Cola, Nokia, and Walmart, smaller clients that are boutique businesses or non-profits, as well as serving as on-air talent for various stations, and covering travel and lifestyle for national and international magazines. My years in various forms of communication have taught me this lesson: people remember experiences. An event featuring active engagement with your brand or practical application of your message is what people will respond to. The strategy is to dip your key messages in some fun.

Let's take the CS Interior Chef's Table event presented by Jenn-Air, a swanky affair benefitting DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting Aids) held in Jenn-Air's showroom in the penthouse of the Reid Murdoch building. This event was a great example of how to get your message across without being pushy.

The moment you stepped off the elevator you could smell the fun in the air. The Jenn-Air people were there to greet you and, gasp!, that's it, no brochures in your hand or sales pitches. Only encouragement to have a great time.

Attendees floated from kitchen to kitchen nibbling on grub by gastronomic geniuses such as Chef Joho of Everest and Chef Jackie Shen of Chicago Cut (among others), sipping wine and specialty Hum- and Moet-Ice cocktails, and enjoying diet-crushing delights by several pastry chefs such as Celeste Campise of Table Fifty-Two.

This "party for a purpose" was a perfect storm of environment, service, great cuisine prepared by friendly chefs, and cocktails sure to please a variety of palates. Quality brands like CS and Jenn-Air partnering with other quality brands with similar target markets like Hum, Moet, and the featured chefs/restaurants would almost guarantee that everyone was of like mind and shared the same commitment to brand excellence. Not all brands fit well together; be careful who you partner with as people judge you by the company you keep. Relationships with other brands should always support your message and help you reach your target audience.

As you milled about experiencing the kitchen products in use, it was easy to imagine this being your dinner party, in your Jenn-Air kitchen. After enjoying the great conversation I initiated with one of the Jenn-Air experts about my dream kitchen, I drove home and promptly went online to show the kitchen products to my hubby while sipping on the Hum cocktail made in my (now) old kitchen. Just wanted to keep the party going, I guess.

Five key takeaways:

  1. Consumers notice and recall brands they interact with -- this is a great way to break through the advertising clutter. People remember experiences.
  2. Chuck the aggressive sales tactics when throwing an experiential event -- allow them to "touch", "taste", "feel" your brand in a welcoming environment. Show (don't tell) consumers how your brand can help improve their lives.
  3. When selecting an event partner, only consider like-minded brands that will help you reach your target and support your message.
  4. All event elements are an extension of your brand: the venue, staff, refreshments, flowers, swag bag, etc. Attention to details will help ensure a positive experience and supports your message of quality.
  5. Positive experiences encourage consumers to further interact with your brand and often result in positive word of mouth.

Jetta Bates-Vasilatos is founder of Twist Communications and a life stylist with 10+ years of award-winning consumer engagement/strategic planning experience for luxury and global brands like BMW and Coca-Cola. She also serves as an on-air correspondent and writer with a focus on luxury and experiential tourism, lifestyle, sustainability, and personal finance (how to be chic yet savvy). Jetta has appeared on stations such as WCIU-TV, KBS-TV(Korea), ABC-7, CLTV and KBC-TV (Kenya), writes for national print publications such as Essence, Recommend, Ebony and HomeStyle Design and is the host of the Jettasetting segment on WVON radio.

Visit her website, find realtime tips on her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter: @jettaset.

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