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The Great Marketing Get-Together

Posted on Aug 21st, 2019
Written by Lane Ellis
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    State fair season brings tasty new foods-on-a-stick and a grandstand full of marketing lessons for those willing to walk the midway.

    State fair season brings tasty new foods-on-a-stick and a grandstand full of marketing lessons for those willing to walk the midway.

    The Minnesota State Fair, known affectionately as the Great Minnesota Get-Together, begins tomorrow, and we’ll explore some of the wild new food concoctions on offer this year, and dig in to a bucket-of-cookies-size list of surprising things it can teach us about marketing.

    The fair, which began all the way back in 1859, is one of the largest in the U.S., now often topping the 2 million attendee mark each 12-day season and offering fair-goers 322 acres of summer fun in the form of amusement rides, live music from at least four stages, art, animals, parades and more.

    Marketers can gain plenty of insight from the spectacle of the Minnesota State Fair, so let’s take a food-centric look at some of the marketing lessons we can learn from the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

    The Power of Anticipation On A Stick

    Spiral potatoes on a stick image.

    Each year fair-goers eagerly anticipate the list of new foods being released, followed by a period of speculation about how each new food will taste before the event begins, including some who even place odds on each new fair food.

    Marketers have long built anticipation into campaigns, especially for organizations with popular products and services with many dedicated fans such as top car manufacturers and video game makers.

    Getting your audience excited, whether it’s by building anticipation through social media, search marketing, or influencer marketing, is a time-tested tactic in many successful campaigns, and we’ll see how the sometimes over-the-top foods of the fair parallel these methods.

    In our age of instant gratification and always-on answers, anticipation is sometimes overlooked as a powerful marketing element.

    “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.” — Andy Warhol Click To Tweet

    If your organization is lucky enough to already have throngs of hard-core fans, keeping them happy through clear communication about upcoming releases, teaser previews, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and other fan-pleasing methods is likely to build continued success.

    “Anticipation is sometimes more exciting than actual events.” — Ana Monnar Click To Tweet

    FOMO & The Power of Ever-New Fair Food

    Two women with cotton candy image.

    Over 30 all-new foods will premier tomorrow at The Minnesota State Fair for 2019, including:

    • Bada Bing Sandwich
    • Blueberry Key Lime Pie
    • Cheesy Sriracha Funnel Cake Bites
    • Pebbles & Bam Bam Nordic Waffles
    • Peaches n’ Cream Nachos

    Whether it’s one of these or the new Wingwalker Donut Flight with user-injectable flavor filling syringes, each year state fairs do an admirable job of getting mouths watering — or perplexing us with unusual concoctions — ultimately driving interest in a way that even B2B marketers can emulate and achieve success with.

    Reading the list of new fair foods induces a super-size dose of Fear of Missing Out (FOMA), an emotion that marketers can play on and work to include in our own campaigns, even if they may not include chocolate coatings, tornado potatoes and other deep-fried delights.

    Try not to let FOMA detract from either your marketing or your personal life, however.

    “Joy comes to us in moments — ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.” — Brené Brown @BreneBrown Click To Tweet

    State fairs thrive by augmenting each year’s wild new foods with tried-and-true standby favorites such as corn-on-the-cob, cheese curds, and corndogs, which fair-goers have come to expect, just as many midway thrill-seekers still expect to enjoy a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl — a 1926 Minnesota invention.

    Tilt-a-Whirl Carnival Ride Image

    Knowing when to retire a food requires walking that fine line between getting rid of a slow seller and possibly removing mom’s favorite fair treat.

    Marketers too need to consider their audiences before dropping an old marketing tactic or channel in favor of a shiny new selling method.

    Conducting audience surveys can help you find out how your customers would feel if you removed an element from your organization’s systems, whether it’s a chatbot virtual assistant, an online form, or even support for a particular social media platform.

    Understanding your audience’s needs and desires goes a long way towards building strong customer relationships, and one way to gain these types of insight is through researching the questions that your audience is asking, as I wrote about recently in “10 Smart Question Research Tools for B2B Marketers.”

    “Finding trends in what your current customers need can help you answer questions that your prospective customers might be asking, too.” — Jessica Best @bestofjess Click To Tweet

    Corn Dogs & Classic Social Media Marketing

    Corn dog image.

    These days social media marketing is a classic tactic, a comforting corn dog of the marketing world. The specific platforms we use come and go, and their features change as frequently as the fair-goers riding the SkyRide or Octopus, yet many social tactics are bedrocks of marketing.

    A sizable part of a successful social media marketing campaign is keeping track of performance benchmarks, as Joshua Nite, our Content Marketing Manager explored in detail in “Social Media Marketing Benchmarks: What Works & Where to Focus,” which was our most popular social media marketing post of 2018.

    “We should approach evolving our social media with the same data-driven, strategic rigor that applies to everything else we do.” — Joshua Nite @NiteWrites Click To Tweet

    Over the past 15 years we’ve written a midway-full of additional helpful articles about how you can best incorporate social media marketing into your own campaigns, and some of the top recent ones are listed here, with no midway ticket coupons even required…

    Blooming Onions & Podcast Marketing

    Blooming onion image.

    Podcasting has been among the biggest blooming marketing trends in recent years, with forecasts predicting that ad spending in the podcasting industry will top $1 billion by 2021, equal to more state fair blooming onions than you could shake a corn-dog stick at.

    As one of today’s most promising marketing opportunities, podcasting has found a new way to take the simple commodity of people talking and turn it into a highly desirable and profitable digital asset, much the same as how state fair vendors take an ordinary onion and transform it into a showy explosion of deep-fried rooty tentacles.

    “Stay closer to top-of-funnel with your podcast ideas. It’s far better to educate, inspire, and entertain your audience than to try and sell them something.” — Joshua Nite @NiteWrites Click To Tweet

    As podcasting has bloomed over the past several years, our team at TopRank Marketing has explored its’ relevant use in B2B marketing, including the following recent articles:

    Deep-Fried Candy Bars & The Promise of VR/AR Interactive Marketing

    Fried oreo image.

    Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have also taken marketing by storm, similar to how deep-fried candy bars have given many the promise of a bold new future of state fair indulgences.

    Dip your marketing Snickers and advertising Milky-Ways into a batter of VR and dunk them into the fryer, and read up on how interactive elements will play a bigger role in our future marketing efforts, with our recent articles here:

    Cheese Curds & Search Marketing

    Cheese curds image

    Cheese has been around a lot longer than search engines, yet both are modern staples for most marketers and many fair-goers.

    As with social media marketing, the specific tactics needed to achieve success in search and SEO are highly-specialized.

    Get to the cheesy, gooey center of your search marketing learning by grabbing a bit bite of our recent posts on the subject here:

    The Full Food Court of Influencer Marketing

    Minnesota State Fair aerial image.

    Influencer marketing is hard to pair with any single state fair delicacy, as the many benefits it offers when executed smartly are more akin to the virtually unlimited smorgasbord of flavors available in the state fair’s main food court.

    Influencer marketing spending in the U.S. and Canada has seen 83 percent year-over-year growth, accompanied by second-quarter spending of $442 million, according to recent research.

    Recent data also shows that micro and niche-influencers are forging stronger target audience connections and boosting long-term loyalty, and over the next 12 months, 65 percent of multinational brands plan to increase influencer marketing spending, according to the World Federation of Advertisers.

    “Whether you’re tired of or wired for “influencer marketing”, make no mistake: The growth of influence on individual and organizational effectiveness in the B2B marketing world will continue for years to come.” @LeeOdden Click To Tweet

    In Minnesota our State Fair is considered our state’s Greatest Show on Earth, a similar theme we recently pursued as we partnered with the Content Marketing Institute to showcase the powerful and entertaining combination of influencer marketing and interactive digital assets, which you can experience here:

    If you’ve never had the opportunity to experience the splendors of a state fair, we hope you’ll someday be able to visit one, and if you’re near Minnesota be sure to take in our Great Minnesota Get-Together.

    I’ll leave you with a photo of this author preparing to tackle a mountain of spiral potatoes at the Minnesota State Fair in 2014.

    Lane R. Ellis eating spiral potatoes at the Minnesota State Fair in 2014.