Over the last nine years on the road we have worked with countless clients, taken exhibits to 48 states, and been exposed to a diversity of industries. While no two tours are the same, there are some national events that tend to draw in our customers each year. You can always count on at least one program visiting the Minnesota State Fair, one of the Maker Fairs, and the National FFA Convention. In those nine years we have been to them all, finally.
In my youth I was an active member of both 4-H and FFA. These organizations shaped who I am and gave me not just skills and experience but the confidence to reach for some large goals. I know that attending the National FFA Convention as a high school student broadened my view of the world and the opportunities in it. You see I’m from a very small town and it can be hard to leave that comfort for what adventures may be found. Sixteen year old me certainly didn’t envision a life where I get to help companies create a message and sell it.
So it is only fitting that the last show we do after nine years is at this same event. LAST SHOW, WHAT?? Yes, Josh and I have made the decision to set down some roots, in Portland Oregon. We are also making some moves in our careers that will take us off the road. This was the first time we have taken a program to any FFA event, not going to lie I brought my jacket. It was actually useful, one of the other event sponsors had a scavenger hunt challenging students to find poelpe who fit into a number of categories (Like a former FFA member). It is things like this that make FFA a great club, give members challenge to go interact with professionals and they will rise to the task.
There was one group of young leaders in particular that I was hoping to meet, the members of the Brown County FFA Chapter. I happen to be a very proud Alumni and having these exceptional students come by my exhibit will forever remain a career highlight. They were able to stay for a bit and talk to me about the chapter along with what they are each doing in the club. I’m inspired. The chapter is in the rebuilding process and as part of that alumni are coming together to support that organization. I was already excited to take part but now I can’t wait to be a help. There are so many ways to give back to a community, I feel lucky to now have a way to repay a group that gave me a solid foundation for success.
Josh was able to find a group attending that were all former students of his mother, this was truly a special event.
We often make references to “Living the Brand”, which covers not just how you present yourself but also how you approach working on a new project. To create and maintain dynamic programing you will want to “know the brand” throughly and also have some insight into the industry. While we did extensive research about our German Headquartered client’s unique attributes, it was also essential to understand their American competitors. Had we developed the program with a narrow view there would definitely have been small elements we would missed that participants expect.
It is rare that you will be given the opportunity to reach new consumers who have zero exposure to your client’s segment. Whether they know your brand already, or at least some part of it, there are going to be expectations. Understanding how the competition approaches their marketing and programing allows you to not miss out on any triggers. But how do you find this info? The best place I have found to not only gather industry info but also what those top companies are doing is via a website called PR Newswire. This is a clearing house for organizations, PR Reps, and marketing firms to share press releases. There are also a number of research and statistical groups that contribute.
For example my firm has partnered with Target in the past to showcase products from specific brands via a “sampling” truck. While Target is a unique brand with some very distinct attributes it was necessary to also merge that with special features of the other brands. Not only was it key to see what the other product lines in the segment were doing that summer but what sampling events had been done at the specific location the new program planned to visit. Guests don’t get the full effect of a program if they don’t understand what is going on or how they are supposed to participate. By doing a little research we could shape the experience in a way that consumers would be excited to enter and hopefully come out with a full enriched impression.
With a jumping off point it’s easy to get started and also figure out what questions you should be asking. Checking this site or one like it should become a habit, knowing what is going on around your client puts you in the position to give them solutions before there is a problem. Keeping a program fresh sets you apart as a vendor, keeping the client happy.
Years ago we worked on a project called Reflections: The American Funeral, this tour was a multi-year undertaking took us across the country to both small and large communities. People often balked at the thought of a funeral tour but enter any museum and what do you find? The funerary artifacts of a culture. We study their lives from how they honored the dead. While at the Nelson Atkins a year ago, what was most striking in a special exhibit on Saudi Arabia were archeological finds from tombs.
There was once a reporter who, after learning about our work with this project called it one of our less glamorous assignment. I beg to differ, this was actually a very glamorous project. We were special guests in communities, attended conventions with well known public figures, met governors, and had access to countless media resources. Getting this truck noticed was much easier than many others. It makes me thankful that I was involved with it. By taking part in Reflections I gained exposure and experience in many avenues of the event marketing industry. The owner at the time Harry, was wonderful in his faith that we could manage and represent a project he closely advocated to see created. I gained a trusted relationship with future mentor, made contacts that I would be lost without, and friendships I cherish. Working on Reflections was everything glamorous. The value from this less conventional project was immeasurable.
If you have been following us for a while or have read the About Page you might know that Josh and I work for a firm called MRA. With so many new followers I thought it was a good time to share a bit about the company. What we do for a living is unconventional so I figured it was time to run a few posts about our job. I’ll start with MRA.
We have been working for this Michigan based firm for going on seven years, all of that as field staff. MRA is a premier provider of experiential tour operations and equipment. They give clients with many options for self-contained marketing vehicles. They provide these services for a wide array of industries and uses. We usually work with educational based projects, which include many traveling museum exhibit project but also our current tour, which is a mobile classroom for a German firm. That is just us; the amount of industries MRA touches sometimes amazes me. I’m still not really explaining it.
There are really two things we provide; help with brand issues and the equipment to get right in front on a consumer. Well what the heck does that mean? First of all we build, design and maintain self-contained marketing vehicles. MRA specializes in a double-expanding trailer with nearly 1000 sq ft of usable space. These are pulled by a custom semi-truck that has its own generator.
This is what Josh and I are with 99% of the time. This is the bulk of the fleet but my firm is innovative and now has a variety of units that serve the needs of customers that want something smaller but will create an impact.
MRA provides design, staff, logistics and well all kinds of other untold services to aid their clients in creating an impactful marketing tour.
That is where the second element comes in, branding help. We are here to help our clients with their brand issue, which means everything for correction to awareness. When we were on Library of Congress our job was to inform people of that massive available resources they had free access to. The LOC struggles with people not realizing how much they can get from the digital archives. Our current project is really fun for two marketing people like us; we get to help create a brand image. Rohde & Schwarz has not reached the point within the US where all of their potential consumers have an understanding of the products and services they provide, we get to help make that initial impact. For us that is exactly what we love doing. Fixing a brand image is what most folks like us do, but creating one is what we thrive on.
There are many firms that provide one or more services in the event marketing field but no one does it all and certainly not as well as MRA.
Some of you have been waiting very patiently for us to reveal our new client/tour. I wish that there was some exciting reason for waiting but I had to get approval to put it out there. We are excited to be working with Rohde & Schwarz a German based test and measurements company. This is a huge departure from our usual assignments in the pubic forum.
The trailer is a double expandable, the usual, but it is set up as a classroom. Well a very chic and clean classroom. The use is for local Rohde & Schwarz reps, tech and engineers to be able to host seminars covering topics covering a variety of relevant topics, yep this stuff is way over my head.
We will be traveling the entire country with this one! So that means I will get to see many of you, maybe not this first run but defiantly this year. This is a great opportunity to learn a new style of tour.
Back in the days when I was still working product promotions in Minneapolis I would have killed to do an event for Target Beauty! But alas I’ve grown up and get “stuck” on the museum tours. Thankfully I can live vicariously through Traci and crash her events. Lucky for me last week she was just one town over with her tour for Target Beauty. This is truly a unique contraption, MRA has converted a shipping container into beauty salon! It amazes me the things we are able to do in creating unique mobiles for our clients. They work with an inventive marketing firm on this project; helping to make their imagination reality.
I couldn’t help but act like a giddy teenager around the “can”, this thing is way cool. You can see Target guests getting a Makeover from the Maybelline stylists. How fun would it be to get all dolled up by these gals?