Monday, July 27, 2009

Marketing to Mommmybloggers: Brands That got it Right at BlogHer09

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The swag at BlogHer09 brought a smile to the face of many a blogger. Yet others were displeased by the amount of swag and, more importantly, the fact that free product seemed to take precedence over community. For my part, I cheekily suggested on Twitter that I'm going to create a conference called SwagHer in which there are no workshops, just loads of free stuff. Other have started hashtags like #SponsHer and #getshitforfree.

But as Liz at Mom-101 points out, these discussions are more about the bloggers than the PR and marketing folks. I think many of the brands at BlogHer and the related parties (at least ones to which I was invited or fit into my schedule) got it right.

What does that mean? For me, it may mean anything from a feeling that I truly learned about or was positively engaged by the brand, that my interaction with brand reps felt genuine or maybe even left me with warm fuzzies. Getting it right might be as simple as noting that the brand's swag made it back to my house. I'd hazard a guess that I took home about 1/4 of what I was offered at the various parties and most of what I brought back from the expo (the kiwis were eaten during the conference), but I was quite selective there.

I'm going to share a few instances that stand out in my mind and would love for you to do the same in the comments. Sponsors are necessary evil to keep conference fees affordable*. Let's talk about what they did right.

Lush Cosmetics Apparently I've been living under a rock because I only learned about this brand a few weeks ago. Then again I buy make-up about once a year...often at CVS. From my IRL peeps, I've learned Lush has a passionate consumer base. The Blogalicious crew held a party at the Lush in Macy's on Friday night. Attendees were pampered with refreshing hand, arm and foot rubs with Lush products. Many also received mini-facials and we were treated to a dance performance by the enthusiastic, fun-loving Lush staffers. It was a good time and left me with good feelings about the party and the brand.

Starbucks sponsored a Sunday morning breakfast hosted by AlphaMom that was simply delightful. It was low-key and inclusive. A lovely spread of Starbucks muffins and coffee cakes was rounded out with, yogurt and Starbucks smoothies, all there for the taking (note: I did not see anyone stuffing their purses with snacks for the plane ride or any other rude behavior). Though it was a branded event, it was not an in-your-face affair. Nobody shoved the Starbucks brand in my face. Indeed, the only shoving at this party was done by hungry bloggers eager to get food in their mouths. Or maybe that was just me. With fabulous views of the city and the lake, Sheraton's Presidential Suite was a wonderful place for those final BlogHer good-byes.

I had great talk with Christopher Barger of GM. I can't recall if he's writing a book or just that I think he should do so, but he's a guy who really understands social media. As with many bloggers, he seems to value relationships over one off interactions.

I walked away from the conference with a few sweet swag items, but one of the best is a gift card to Donors Choose. What a fantastic idea--a gift card that helps me help a teacher fund a classroom project. I wonder if they offer branded cards. You know, Acme Widget Co. imprints their logo on a Donor's Choose gift card? Love it!

And I have to admit I'm jazzed about my new Kodak Zi6 video camera, as I've been doing more vlogging lately. I would have loved to talk with the Kodak folks at SocialLuxe, but it was too loud in there for me and felt like every conversation I had was like a shouting match. (Not the brand's fault).

So those are a few of my stand-out examples. What are yours?

*In fact, as suggested on Twitter, if you start budgeting now, perhaps you won't need a sponsor for BlogHer10.


Elisa said...

I don't care what others say, Nikon did a great job. GREAT! it was the best party of the conference. The gourmet tapas were completely awesome. So was the chocolate fountain surrounded by fruit and freshly baked yumminess. So were the cocktails.
They had Carson Kriessly there and organized for everyone to take photos with him.
They had professional hair stylists and makeup artists for makeovers.
They were giving away cameras.
And the swag was adorable.

Picnik did good. Taking photos of people in funny costumes and uploading them on Flickr. Giving away a free 3-month premium membership to all attendees. Adn teh girls on their booth were so fun!

Pepsico did very good. Even I was charmed, and I'm not a fan of soft drinks or packaged goods.

JavaMom said...

I second (if I could quadruple that second, I would) the Lush comment - they were great for all the reasons you mentioned. Suave/Degree was also very good -- they were polite to me, their booth was appropriate to their product, and when I walked up to their booth, they spoke to me. So many of the vendors didn't talk to me when I first walked up to their booths -- I had to ASK why they were there, what their story was. I actually have been thinking about writing this same kind of post (and probably still will) as I have so many thoughts about the marketing at BlogHer. The Suave party was nice, lowkey, and you could actually talk to people instead of fighting over music to be heard. It was a nice break from the frenetic pace of the conference.

Urban Mama said...

I loved the Blogalicious party and think those women and Lush got it right. They opened it to the entire community and only closed it once they reached the site's limit (so not an "invite only" event). The event itself was great, and I was able to have several meaningful conversations (I was the one with the baby in a sling) without yelling over loud music. Plus, there was absolutely no grabbiness about the goody bag, as most people were simply buying whatever Lush stuff they wanted. I couldn't make the Starbucks breakfast, but I also had a great time at Kristen's Mommy Needs a Cocktail shindig, Social Luxe and BowlHer.

Miss_Lori said...

Blogher was overwhelming. I am still sifting through all of the information and swag, but a few people definitely rose to the top for me. I totally echo your sentiment about the Blogalicious party and Lush cosmetics. My facial was to die for. I also really enjoyed meeting Chris Barger and the GM/Chevy crew. I was actually tempted to have an affair with the Chevy Traverse. I am still struggling with that. ;) EA Sports Active and the WiiMoms party got me motivated and now I am embarking on a journey to #ChangeMyShape! Pepsico was great. I took home lots of great products that my children are loving. I am hording the SoBe lifewater for myself. And though I wasn't impressed with their booth I have been wearing my Walmart pedometer ever since I got it this weekend.

Now I want to goto TypeAMom conference and Blogalicious. Gotta get me a sponsor. LOL



Erika Jurney said...

I've already set up a new bank account which I'm depositing to once a month -- no sponsor for me, but I'll be at BlogHer '10!

Paull Young said...

i wish I'd been at this BH conference, I was home in Australia instead but sad to miss it. Primarily for all my friends who are there, but also because as a guy in the brand communications world I'm intrigued to see how corporates are (clumsily) approaching this stuff.

Probably unsurprising that I'm also a huge fan of DonorsChoose.

They do have a great corporate program like you were outlining Kim - check out this great example
they did with Crate and Barrel:

Now that's how you make your brand meaningful.

Marketing Mommy said...

Most of my best conference memories were made in the modest Method suite. There I got to chat with Kristen from Motherhood Uncensored, Whitney and Heather from Rookie Moms, my friend Jeanne, and ANOTHER Alma!

ResourcefulMommy said...

First off - I can't think of a brand that got it wrong. I loved that the reps on the Expo floor were engaging and willing to do more than share their memorized lines. For example...

I used to drink a line of Propel with caffeine as an alternative to the sugar and chemicals in soda (but still a great source of my little drug pick me up!). Then it disappeared from the shelves. I stopped by what can only be described as the Pepsico island and mentioned this to the Propel folks. They had never heard of the line, but asked me to enjoy the Expo floor and stop back. When I returned they had called headquarters and found out that it was discontinued permanently. They also checked to see if there were a few crates lying around somewhere to ship to me! There were not, but what a lovely, lovely thought.

All in all, I was very impressed.

Jean said...

I thought the Mom Central party on Thursday in the Java Bar was nice. It was relaxed, quiet, and a really nice way to hang out with friends. They also offered a card to mark down some board games that they would ship to you. It was unobtrusive, but very generous, and I know that I'll be reviewing the games when they arrive because of that.

MelADramatic Mommy said...

I agree about Starbucks and the Recovery Breakfast. It was a great way to end the party. I also thought WalMart did a good job Their booth was informative and the new products coming out seem like things I'd buy for my family.

(SO good to meet you BTW!)

Christopher said...

Kim - thank you for your very kind comments... as for the book, er, the idea's never occurred to me. ;-)

For what it's worth, from the point of view of a sponsor who never really got to leave the Expo floor, I thought Pepsi did a really good job. I heard lots of good buzz about Lush, but never got the chance to see much of what they did.

The person who impressed me most was Tim Gunn - if for no other reason than that he was only scheduled to do his meet & greet for one hour, and yet when I left he was approaching the 3 hour mark and was still smiling and meeting and obviously had mutual affection for his fans. I appreciated that very much even though I only knew who he was because my colleagues told me. ;-)

Paull - not that I know how to "get it right" by any stretch, but I think those sponsors who do best are the ones who remember that it's supposed to be about enhancing/improving the *community's* experience, not just "getting in front of people" or providing free stuff. Not that people don't dig free stuff, but I've always found that focusing on why the community is there -- and then finding ways to contribute to that -- is the best approach.

Great post as always, Kim.

Donna said...

As you know, I missed this year's BlogHer - but after the 2008 event (which I found pretty overwhelming), I came to the conclusion that BlogHer is what you make of it (I know - that should be self-evident). I love that there is something for everyone, and that as an individual, I can pick and choose what I want to get out of it. The swag and attention from companies is nice when it's something you can relate to. Again, something for everyone. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking to people with baby products and toddler toys... but I would have been all over LUSH (which I've been splurging on for over a decade, thanks to British inlaws). If the swag is the point for some bloggers, that's their prerogative. I love BlogHer for the energy of being in a room with so many geeky women who are share a passion for social media, I love learning new tricks, I love being introduced to new ideas, and I especially love getting to see old friends and make new ones.

Sprite's Keeper said...

Being a first time BlogHer attendee, I was completely unprepared for the Swag, even though I had been warned by others. On Friday, I took a bag from everyone who offered it, on Saturday, I found myself politely saying no.
I thought the MicroSpa was a wonderful idea. They were inobtrusive and Kristina Sauerwein and I found ourselves having a wonderful conversation in a low key, well put together environment.
I did not attend the Nikon or Lush parties and saw some pretty nasty behavior at the Swiffer arena my first night there which gave me a bad taste about the swag issues BlogHer may be dealing with.
Great post, Kim. I am hoping BlogHer will revisit the sessions which is what I was concentrating on, and put more focus into a structured environment.

Leighann of Multi-Minding Mom said...

The majority of my interactions were wonderful. You'll have to read the post I am in the process of writing for my complete thoughts, but here are a few.

I would have loved a Kodak video camera. I did RSVP for the Social Luxe party, but for some reason there wasn't swag to go around. Unfortunately it seemed like everyone grabbed their swag and left because by the time I got there everyone had dispersed. But really, BlogHer is not about the swag bags.

I echo the sentiments that the Nikon party was great. So many of my friends were there, the food was good, and Carson showed me how to take a photo without my double-chin! I really enjoyed the conversations that I had. I however did not enjoy the limo ride back with a gaggle of incredibly loud women (I have no idea who they were or what their blogs are, but they were not very classy ladies). I think Nikon (and their PR) got it right with this swank party. It was a blast and I am so glad that I was offered a spot to attend.

Who I would like to highlight as one of my fave brand interactions was Green Works. Yes, they sent us their new laundry detergent in advance of BlogHer to try out, but they did not even ask us our opinion of it at the lunch. Nope. Just great vegetarian food (yes!) and conversation around the table. A rep sat at each table in case we had questions, but not once were we pitched.

The worst interaction I had was an event that was indirectly related to BlogHer and took place on Thursday. They were late picking us up at the hotel (even though I called to say I was running late and was told that I had better get there on time). The contact abandoned us at a major department store. We were given makeovers and then, get this, they gave us a sales pitch asking us to buy the product! I wish I was kidding. It was from 5:30 to 7:30 and they did not offer us even a morsel to eat. Transportation to return to the hotel was nowhere to be found and several of us took a cab on our own dime. And the bad thing is that it is a brand that I always turn to when I purchase that type of product.

You'll have to stop by my blog in the next week to hear all my thoughts on brands at BlogHer.

Baby Bunching said...

Kim...thanks for this info. I am so sad I didn't make it this year, but this info is good to note. Thanks for posting.

Patti Minglin said...

Kim--this is a wonderful discussion! As someone who often works with marketers and brand executives, I am gaining such great insight from everyone's comments and have already written down several story ideas for M2W and M2Moms E-ssentials.

Can't wait to hear more...

(PS--love, love, love Lush!)

Anne-Marie at This Mama Cooks! said...

The Pork Board, Suave and GreenWorks did a great job at their booths. They discussed the products, handed out recipes and samples, and answered questions. Both the GreenWorks lunch and the Suave event were lovely - yummy food, a chance to network and have quality conversations with other bloggers as well as the compnay experts and the PR staff.

As far as the parties went, the BowlHer party was outstanding - and I don't say that just because I was one of the hostesses. There was crowd control, lots of fun things to do and see (red carpet walk/photo shoot, snacks and drinks, music and bowling). The venue allowed you to interact with the sponsors, chat with friends or meet new people. I talked about everything from blogging to spray glitter.

The swag wasn't given out until late and they had everyone get a wrist band which was checked off so everyone would only get 1 swag bag each. Also, people weren't knocking each other down to get stuff since you had to stand in line. As a hostess, I was encouraged to help direct/help people, start conversations, get people bowling - and had lots of opportunities to connect with bloggers and companies. There was even fundraising for Autism Speaks. The venue was great as was the staff.

Hats off to the organizers who had a small amount of time to pull off a great party.

Naomi said...

I was so sad to miss Blogalicious- I thought I had missed their RSVP window but apparently not. Oops. Would have been nice for a mixed ethnicity girl to mingle at. Not to mention my long-standing Lush crush. (Awesome that you're speaking at their ATL conference, though. Wish I could figure a way to get there.)

I actually interacted with way fewer PR reps than I expected I would but the ones I did meet were really great to talk to. They were very engaged with both their brands and with blogs and it was obvious.

Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said...

I had great interactions with brands at this conference. The EA Sports Active people were great- including throwing a great party. Whrrl- I saw that friendly guy everywhere and he remembered my name every time (even sans name tag)- go John! The Swiffer booth at the Social Luxe Lounge was ingenious! I just think that the companies went above and beyond to engage us and I really appreciate that.
Some of my fellow "mommybloggers" not so much.

MBB Founder and Editor Denene Millner said...

This was my first time to BlogHer, and thought it was a bit overwhelming, I got out of it exactly what I wanted: I met my online friends in person, made a few new ones, and learned a bit about how I could make my blog better. I really enjoyed the Blogalicious party (those Lush products were new to me and I purchased a lot of them because they were absolutely delish!) and the Nikon party was cool not because of the drinks, snacks or hair styling, but because there was a lady there named Kris who showed me how to actually use my Nikon D-50. She was the highlight of that party, I tell you. I didn't care about Carson or back massages. Show me how to use my camera and you've done it for me!

I also appreciated the folks in the expo, who were willing to show me how stuff works. The free stuff was cute and all, but who needed all that junk cluttering up my kitchen counter when I got home?

One that disappointed, I have to say, is the folks repping the Strawberry Shortcake movie. There's a little African American character in the movie and I wanted to know her name (I was planning on writing about her on MyBrownBaby; she didn't exist back in the 70s, when Strawberry Shortcake debuted and my mom refused to buy her for me because she wasn't brown). When I asked the PR rep what the character's name was, SHE DIDN'T KNOW IT!!! I'm sorry, but if you're going to be selling something to me, or trying to gain my influence, I'm going to need you to know about your product. The folks at Tide were able to explain to me EXACTLY how that new stain remover works when you pop it in the wash, and exactly how that new Bounce bar will soften my clothes just as good as the dryer sheets.

That's to say that companies that were able to EXPLAIN to me why I should use their products and talk about them to my folks get my vote every time—period.

It was SO nice meeting you there, Kim. I absolutely adore you!

Caroline, staff to Romeo the Cat said...

Thanks for this discussion! I was highly inmpressed with the mix of vendors and interaction. I loved the Energizer party! Bunnytinis? Delish.

Overall, it was great. Next year, would love to see some pet brands. After all, who buys the dog and cat food? WE DO! :)

Alyssa said...

I was at BlogHer as a hybrid PR person/blogger, and I have to say my favorite promotions were experiences rather than swag. I was embarrassingly excited to get my picture taken with the Michelin Man and Mrs. Potato Head.
I also thought Oscar Mayer did a great job, and riding the Wienermobile was definitely the highlight of the conference for me. I had seen it but didn't know they were actually offering rides until I twittered about it and they responded, saying to come by for a ride! The brand folks were so nice and fun and answered all my questions about the giant hot dog car.
In terms of swag, I really only brought home a very small number of items, including a wiener whistle (of course!) and the Eucerin lotion, which is a product I actually use. The majority, I left for the hotel maids. I didn't want to lug all of that home!

Alyssa said...

Gahhh, I just tried to leave a superlong comment and it got deleted! Cry.
I was there as a hybrid PR person/blogger. Basically, my favorite brand that got it right was Oscar Mayer. They gave me a ride on the Wienermobile (which they let me know about via Twitter) and were great about answering all my questions. I also loved taking a picture with the Michelin Man and Mrs. Potato Head. I think the best brand presences were experiential.
I didn't take home much swag, other than a wiener whistle (of course!) and some Eucerin lotion, which I actually use. I didn't want to lug all that other stuff home, so I left it for the hotel maids. Also, USB drives should be banned. Anyone who's ever been to any conference has about 400 of them!

Kristina said...

I was a first time BlogHer participant and had no idea that there would be so much swag. I was told, but I thought the swag would maybe be a bag of keychains, plastic water bottles and drink cozies. My mind was blown by the amount of swag & I was not invited to the exclusive parties that were doling out video cameras and such.

That said, I thought all the brands at the Expo got it right. I wasn't bombarded with sales and I felt like the brands were trying to connect with me as a mom.

My fear is that all this up-in-arms stuff about swag will scare brands away from connecting with us.

If you don't want the swag don't take it. That's my motto. I'd rather have the costs of the conference down with sponsors than pay out of pocket. It was very expensive for me to attend this on my own. Not everyone had corporate sponsors paying their hotel rooms and registration (although my plane was paid for by Sara Lee because I went to the company's blogger outreach the day before BlogHer).

I hope next year the brands take an interest in BlogHer again, and I hope by that time I can make some serious connections with the brands.

Oh, and I agree with Sprite's Keeper...we had a great time in the MicroSpa.

And Kim, I agree with you re the Blogaliscious party. It was one of my favorites ... and I had never heard of Lush either. Love the brand now based on my experience.

Jennifer James said...

Kim -- I am SO glad I was able to see and talk to you at least for a little while. Can't wait to see you again.

I helped plan a STOKKE event at the Land of Nod and I think we got it right. From what I've heard from the moms in person and from what they've been telling their friends, I'm pleased that they really enjoyed our off-site event and that they got real value out of it. Plus, I got the opportunity to meet 13 other mom bloggers I probably would not have had the opportunity otherwise. It was great.

I think the brands that worked with SocialLuxe were great and I also loved the Method Suite.

Maris said...

Kim, I'm glad you enjoyed the Starbucks breakfast. I had a great time also, as a PR representative for Starbucks AND as a blogger. I'm sorry we didn't get to meet in person, next time!

I think that a lot of brands did a nice job at the conference. I had fun at every party and event that I attended. My one complaint? I kept forgetting which floor I was on during sessions :o)

Isabel Kallman @AlphaMom said...

Kim, thank you so much for the shout-out of the Recovery Breakfast, sponsored by Starbucks.

I think Method did a lovely job with their low-key suite. They had Danny Seo, the eco-lifestyle guru there, and of course all the appetizers served were organic.

Cara said...

I loved the photo try-out lens tour from LensBaby and the ShutterSuite. What a great way to get people out of the hotel and let them try out a cool lens.

Amy from Occupation: Mommy said...

I enjoyed our chat on Saturday night about gifted ed. Looking forward to more discussions.

As far as brands go, I will second the vote for Oscar Meyer. Their two reps were friendly and it was so much fun taking a ride in the Weinermobile!

I also thought Amanda from Scholastic did a great job. She had some Twitter contests going on throughout the weekend, but unless asked specifically about her company or her job, she did not try to pitch anything. She was extremely professional and genuine. I loved getting to know her and I loved learning more about her company.

selfmademom said...

I think at the next BlogHer I'm going to follow you around. You always seem to get it just right. It was good at least stalking you at the Socialluxe party, however.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

First timer here, following links about blogher. Chicago is a long way from Hawaii and not affordable on a teacher's salary.

Enjoyed your take. I'm interested in the balance of keeping the blog creative and real and yet looking for ways for it to provide income and perks.

aileen said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Condo Blues said...

I think Michelin got it right. The Michelin Man drew people into the booth. Explaining tire performance through different types of shoes was brillant. It didn't talk down to women as the auto industry often does and when I started getting geeky about cars and tires the rep didn't patronize me and switched to talking to me about her product on a more technical level. The swag was useful a flash drive. By taking the time and talking to them, I learned that If I checked the files on that flash drive, that I might be one of 5 people who won a set of tires. Even better I saw the rep in a session the following day and she remembered talking to me - a connection just what I wanted!