Parades as a marketing medium

Pride TorontoParades are part of a child’s experience. Defined as an organized public procession on a festive or ceremonial occasion. My parade memories include balloons, candies, stilt walkers, roasted corn, clowns, surrounded by friends and lots of people. Parades have, for the most part, have not changed through the years.What has changed for me growing up is the theme of the parade. There seemed to be more parades as I was growing up. Not just the Cinco de Mayo’s and the religious based parades but we now have political and social parades amongst others. The Pride Parade in Toronto is one of the largest in the world according to their website.

Hairspray inspired @ the Starbucks boothFrom New York City’s St Patrick’s Parade,London’s New Year’s Day Parade, Florence’s Nativity of the Virgin Mary, San Francisco’s Pistahan Filipino Cultural Festival , Paris’ Trocadero Festival, Sydney’s Mardi Gras, to Martinique’s Bananniversaire at Musée de la Banane in Sainte-Marie, Western New York’s Puerto Rican Parade, Wellington Florida’s Winter Equestrian Festival; we never run out of parades.

Do you set aside marketing dollars for parades? Starbucks does it. Motorola even localizes their efforts by enabling models to fit the event’s theme. Nokia and many others have their presence as well. Even the police uses this not just for marketing and branding opportunities but as an HR medium as well; they’re hiring!

Sunglasses and SpeedosFrom the Pride Toronto events, a good example of new presence (for me at least) is Great Glasses. I have not heard of them until today but because they are everywhere giving away a schwag of eye glass cleaner, fabric, and information about their company, I now know (as I clean my glasses with goodies I just received from them).

Ontario Province PoliceSome of the schwag from the paradeWhen determining if you’d like to allot dollars for a parade, here are my thoughts on the matter:
1. Is the parade’s theme aligned with your corporate theme?
2. Even if it is not aligned, is it a worthy cause not just by your organisation’s perception but that of your clients and all other stakeholders?
3. Even if not aligned but everyone in your industry is participating, shouldn’t you participate lest you’d like to be known as the outsider? Or is not participating a stand on what your organisation believe in? And on the opposite of that thought, even if no one from your industry is participating but you know that this is important to you, wouldn’t you allot dollars?
4. Will your presence be viewed as a cause or will the audience be gagging by your presence? You need to know the audience. Some may view this as the corporate world taking over their tradition. Maybe the marketing approach need to be more subtle or none at all. Other parade organisations and audiences may not care and just want to have a good time, then participating as an organisation is not a problem.
Motorola Booth5. Have you considered taking a booth? being in the parade? both? which one would be more important to you? If you have funds for both, I’d go for it. If you need to make a choice due to budgetary reasons, then go for the most presence. The parade would attract more than a booth because not everyone can pass by your area. But as an alternative to just sitting in your booth, you can employ people to walk around and have them shop or just walk through the parade events area while promoting your company – this is what TD Visa, OLG and Motorola did with their speedo wearing models walking around handing flyers and pointing peopl back to their booths.

For an upcoming parade near you, would you consider being part of it as a participant? Or just part of the audience?

3 comments to Parades as a marketing medium

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  • That is a great key to success Ian. The client who is willing to be try new approaches and increases their base in the process. Thanks for your note.

  • Ian

    Thanks for the kind note about the booth we helped execute for Motorola. I’ve included a link to last year’s efforts.

    The key to standing out as a sponsor at this event is to be bold in your thinking and integrate your brand into the actual event. Like you say, it’s about participating.

    I find some companies are content with submitting their logo and not tailoring it to the audience (I’m sure you witnessed a few of these in the marketplace). It’s unfortunate they aren’t willing to take the time to understand the audience, interact with them and make a lasting impression.

    We’re lucky to work with fantastic clients who get it.